Whilst scrolling through Instagram recently, I saw a post by Cossack Gundi, a British volunteer who fought in the war in Ukraine. The caption ”Activia, proud sponsor of the War in Ukraine” accompanied a photo of Cossack Gundi in a helmet and plate carrier holding up a bottle of Activia Yogurt.

If you’ve ever been to Ukraine, whether it’s to the frontline or to the relatively stable regions west of Donetsk and Lugansk, you probably know about Activia yogurt. It comes in a massive variety of flavors and is arguably the most popular yogurt brands in Ukraine. It’s stocked at almost every gas station and mini-mart in Ukraine and it’s damn good stuff.

Activia

It’s full of protein and probiotics meaning its great for digestion and is kind of like a meal in a bottle, which is perfect for people doing long road trips through Ukraine or those who need a quick drink and meal in one when on the go. In the War in Ukraine, Activia yogurt takes on a far more serious and appreciated role. As a result, it’s one of the lesser covered modern warfare characters around today.

The first time I went to cover the frontline of the War in Ukraine was towards the end of 2015. I was traveling with two people who had been there through the thick of it since the fighting erupted in 2014. ”This is the last point of civilization. Load up!” one of them said as we stopped at a town located a few clicks behind the frontline of Donetsk.

The War in Ukraine

Dressed in a Woobie jacket and low profile plate carrier, I pulled into a supermarket to load up on supplies for our time at the front, I watched my two friends pillage the nearby cooler for Activia yogurt in various flavors. As they’d been here before, I learned from the best and promptly did the same and we stuffed countless Activia bottles in a cooler bag. A prime example of cultural appreciation meets education.

Activia yogurt, providing healthy bacteria for your gut before it’s hanging out after an attack.

– Cossack Gundi, a foreign volunteer in the War in Ukraine.

When we reached the front, I realized after a few days that their choice of beverage wasn’t unique. We approached Donetsk airport which was once Ukraine’s former sleek welcome to the city of roses, but which was now a lethal Killzone. The thin exterior of the airport failed to withstand the unexpected onslaught of Soviet-era weapons. It’s now been turned into a mangled mess that resembles a mix of aged Swiss cheese and fibreglass.

Amongst the shrapnel, mutilated steel, and spent rounds that littered the ground, I noticed various discarded bottles of Activia Yogurt that had been drunk by Ukrainian soldiers keen to take advantage of the yogurt benefits.

There are a few reasons that Activia is drunk in such large amounts on the frontline of the War in Ukraine. The first is rather simple. When you’re operating in a warzone your body goes through drastic changes in physical activity, environment, diet, and sleep patterns. Changes like this can massively affect your health and the diversity of microbiome in the gut.

The War in Ukraine

As a result, it’s very easy to pick up a stomach bug in warzones like Eastern Ukraine. This is something you really don’t want when in active combat. Activia yogurt benefits your stomach with various antibodies to help combat this. Of course, probiotic tablets contain way more of a potent probiotic quantity than Activia, which is not the healthiest yogurt by any means but it is a multipurpose yogurt drink.

Another reason for its popularity is that Activia fills a role as an aid to digestion. As you’re probably aware, there are few five-star restaurants in global warzones, although I have found some, so food is on a take what you can get basis and sometimes you’re forced to resort to MRE.

Activia MRE

You may be familiar with the term MRE. If you’re not, lucky you. MRE stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat, and is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging used by various fighting forces during combat or field conditions where organized food facilities are not available.

MRE, and foreign MRE in particular, are infamous for their low dietary fiber content and the ability to cause crippling constipation, or the exact opposite when you least expect it. This led to the MRE being nicknamed “Meals Requiring Enemas”, “Meals Refusing to Exit” or “Massive Rectal Expulsions”. All of which can leave you bad tempered like a hooked knitting craft.

If you’re not chasing these bad boys with bottles of Activia and copious amounts of water, you’re gonna have a bad time! Activia is high in fiber and contains pieces of fruit that your gut needs on the frontline, especially since bringing perishable and easily damaged foodstuffs like fruit and vegetables is a waste of time.

Whilst I’d much rather be sipping a Cuban cocktail of white rum and lime choice whilst enjoying some Caribbean food on a beach in the Bahamas, life is not perfect. So in the meantime, blessed be the yogurt diet!

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Our thanks to Cossack Gundi for supplying the photo of the Activia in use on the frontlines of Ukraine and reminding me of the benefits of yogurt through this humble Activia drink. I highly suggest you check out Cossack Gundi on Instagram to follow him across various conflict zones around the world.

*Disclaimer – Activia and Danone do not officially support or represent any aspect of the conflict in Ukraine. Activia has simply become a prominent feature of the conflict due to its health benefits.*