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"I can tell you that it's nowhere near as cold over here as there."

The trader spending weekends delivering generators to Ukraine

Jeffrey Hartman is on his bike. In the freezing London temperatures of the weeks preceding Christmas, he's cycling back from his office, where he works as a portfolio manager focused on renewable energy. "I'm very well wrapped up," he says, before admitting that his hands are a bit cold and he might need some better gloves. "It's the hands that get cold first."

Hartman has developed an empirical understanding of the need to stay warm. Two weekends previously, he was in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. "It was minus six," he says. "But it felt much colder in the wind. I'm freezing on my cycle ride, but I can tell you that it's nowhere near as cold over here as there, and in London I'm going from one centrally heated place to another."

In Ukraine, it's not only colder, but central heating has become less common as a result of Russian attacks on the country's energy grid. Cities in the south and east of the country, where fighting has been most intense, have "no water, no heat and no power," says Hartman. Metropolitan areas less impacted by the fighting are suffering too: "In Kyiv, the power goes out daily. Even middle class people don't have the ability to do anything about it." 

Hartman is trying to help. His wife Natasha, an investor relations professional, is Ukrainian, and together the two run Ukrainian Action, a charity that started life supplying humanitarian aid and pick-up trucks to Ukraine when war broke out, but which has evolved into supplying generators to help Ukranians live through winter. "We shipped some generators and then everyone started requesting them," says Hartman. "We were somewhat fortunate to be a step ahead." They've already delivered 55 generators; another 10-15 are being delivered the coming weekend. 

Hartman and Natasha run Ukrainian Action alongside their day jobs. "It takes up all our spare time," he says. "We're very much all-in on it, there's not much time for anything else." Working with an army of volunteers in both London and Poland, many of whom also work in financial services, they've made 27 trips in nine months and raised £1.5m ($1.8m). Much of that money has also come from finance professionals in the UK and from Hartman's native America (he grew up in Toledo, Ohio). 

Ukrainians are adapting. "There are enterprising groups who've been welding metal stoves so that you have a compartment for wood and can cook on it," says Hartman. "People are living differently, but they're still trying to live."

After a last trip of the year on December 18th Hartman plans to take time off for Christmas. The whole team is tired. "They've been doing this for nine months and are now doing it pressured by cold, darkness and snowy roads. It's one thing if a tire ruptures and it's 25 degrees and sunny outside, but it's another if it's minus six and the snow is piling on the road and your hands are frozen. Everyone is exhausted." 

He'll be back at it in 2023, though. "I am either in my London office or in a truck, driving, driving, driving," he says. People in London don't understand how close the war is: "It's not that far away. You can drive to the front and back in a weekend." 

Ukrainian Action accepts donations of time and money. Click here to find out more. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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