Trumbull firefighter gathers fire gear for his native Ukraine

TRUMBULL — Konstantin Tartakovsky knows he’s no soldier.

The 36-year-old Trumbull resident is a native of Ukraine. Like many Americans from that war-torn country, he’s watched the Russian invasion of Ukraine anxiously, and stayed in regular contact with family members who are still living there.

Tartakovsky said he wanted to help, but knows that, as someone with no military experience, fighting in the conflict was out of the question.

“They weren’t looking for people like me,” he said. “They were looking for soldiers.”

Tartakovsky isn’t a soldier, but he is a firefighter. He volunteers with the Trumbull Center Fire District and is a paid lieutenant with the Meriden Fire Department. He started wondering how he could use his position as a firefighter to help Ukrainians.

At some point, Tartakovsky began hearing about efforts to donate used fire gear to firefighters in Ukraine. He knew fire departments replace much of their equipment every few years, and that the discarded equipment is often still usable.

“I figured that we could donate (the old items) to the Ukrainian fire service,” he said.

About a month ago, Tartakovsky took to Facebook and Instagram and began asking fire departments and other first responders to donate used, but still functional, items that he could send overseas. To date, he said, that simple request has resulted in donations of what he estimates is a few tons worth of equipment from 13 departments.

That includes more than 100 sets of coats and pants used in firefighting, 30 pairs of boots, 30 pairs of gloves, roughly a dozen “jaws of life” extrication tools and many other items. On Thursday morning, representatives from Trumbull Emergency Medical Services showed up to drop off some more donations, including pressure bandages, back boards and medical bags.

“He reached out to us and I was more than happy to donate stuff we’re not able to use any more,” said Christopher Simoni, EMS supervisor.

Kate Bannon, also with EMS, came with Simoni to drop off the items and said Tartakovsky’s efforts are impressive.

“I think it’s amazing that one person can get all this stuff,” she said.

The donations fill an entire side of the two-car garage at Tartakovsky’s home. He’s looking to ship them to Ukraine using Velox International Shipping, a New Jersey-based company that has shipped roughly 436,000 pounds in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Tartakovsky said he plans to send out his first shipment on June 29. He said he would like it to be the first of many shipments. “I plan to keep doing this as long as I continue to get the support of other departments,” he said.

Tartakovsky was born in Kremenchuk, an industrial city in Ukraine, and moved to the United States when he was 11. He has aunts and cousins who still live there. Just this week, there was a missile strike at a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.

Tartakovsky said none of his family members have been hurt, but at least one family member has sent their children out of Ukraine “because it wasn’t safe for them to keep going down to the bomb shelter three times a day.”

His hope is that these donations will help firefighters in Ukraine to stay safe and more effectively help others. “My hope is that this will help at least one more firefighter do his job properly and save at least one more life,” Tartakovsky said.

Those interested in donating fire gear to Tartakovsky can contact him at