A Ukrainian student is selling the opportunity to write personalized messages on artillery shells that Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian troops.
Anton Sokolenko, a 22-year-old computer science student based in Cherkasy, central Ukraine, told Insider he has raised thousands of dollars to support local troops through the $40 per shell deal. .
His ads, on social media platforms like Reddit, resulted in messages like “Happy Father’s Day” and “From Albania, with love” written on seashells before they were used.
“You have a chance to kill orcs with your text on an 82mm artillery grenade that will be fired at Russian soldiers,” reads one of Sokolenko’s promotional posts. (Orc is a common Ukrainian slur for Russian soldiers.)
“You will receive a photo of your signed grenade.”
Sokolenko told Insider it was an informal arrangement and not endorsed by senior Ukrainian military commanders. The footage, he said, is unlikely to reveal the identity and location of the soldiers.
Sokolenko said he takes orders online, including through his Telegram channel, and works with a local NGO to get the shells registered. Then he sends the photos back and passes the $40 to the NGO.
The NGO, Center for Assistance to the Army, Veterans and Their Families, has independently confirmed to Insider that Sokolenko is a registered volunteer who has sent him over $18,000.
It provides tactical equipment and goods to neighboring battalions.
Sokolenko said the money collected so far has been used to buy two Starlink systems, a pickup truck and a thermal sight. The NGO also provides radios, medicine, food and sleeping bags.
“I’m not brave enough to participate in war, so I try to do my best to help soldiers stay alive and kill enemies,” he said. “At the start of the war, I was doing nothing and it bothered me.”
Instead, he decides to devote himself to fundraising, starting a telegram channel who re-shared viral military videos, gaining around 12,000 subscribers in the process.
His second donation was $500, from an American woman, he said. It “clearly showed that I was on the right track”.
Then, in May, he had the idea for the project of messages on shells, when he saw that soldiers wrote messages there to avenge their fallen colleagues.
Other orders arrived from all over the world, sending “love” from countries like Belgium, Germany, Albania and Australia. Others seized on it as an unusual way to say “happy birthday” to their friends and loved ones. The approach of Father’s Day resulted in about 30 orders, Sokolenko said.
Asked about the ethics of the edgy project which can be seen as shedding light on the victims of war, Sokolenko said:
“It’s a bit of a provocative question, but as a Ukrainian as for any Ukrainian, I can say that I am happy to know that as many Russian soldiers as possible have been killed.”