“We are a huge amount of ants”: the united front of Ukrainian volunteers | Ukraine

JThousands of Ukrainians have volunteered to defend their country and fight against the Russian invasion, with recruits including computer scientists and builders undergoing basic training before going into battle.

The volunteer center in Lviv was crowded on Wednesday with new soldiers who had signed up to join territorial defense units. Some wore military uniforms, others wore civilian clothes and baseball caps and carried shiny backpacks.

They lined up for the first time on a street on Taras Shevchenko Avenue, named after the Ukrainian national poet. “Raise your hand if you have a car,” barked their new commander. The recruits divided into groups and introduced themselves. Around them, the snow was falling.

“History is happening right now. I don’t want to be on the sidelines,” said Vitali, the 35-year-old boss of a Lviv startup, speaking at a rally point. write the story. Finally, the world should know what is wrong and what is right. We have support from all over the world.

Vitali, who declined to give his last name, added: “The main reason why we are going to win is because of the people.” What was his message for Vladimir Putin? “I don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said. “He will die soon. His whole diet will fall.

Vitali said he and his company’s 15 employees began weapons training five days before the Russian attack. He had volunteered on the day of the invasion. The recruits would learn combat first aid and other skills at an undisclosed location outside the city, he said.

As Kharkiv and Kiev come under brutal bombardment and the Ukrainian army is surrounded in the city of Mariupol, volunteers from western Ukraine are brought in as reinforcements. Some fought in 2014 against Russian-armed separatists in the eastern region of Donbass, when Putin annexed Crimea.

Others were still in school at the time. “Today there are young people of 17 and 18 who are ready to give their lives for Ukraine. They say: ‘We will die for Lviv,'” said 22-year-old Bogdan Matsuk. I was born here…I think all Russians will be killed,” he added.

Matsuk was one of many volunteers with international connections. He spent his childhood in Texas before returning to Lviv at the age of 14. Were his parents, who are in the United States, worried? “No. They’re happy for me. They say, ‘It’s your decision,'” he replied. He added, “Putin thought Ukraine was weak. He talks bullshit.”

Throughout Ukraine, citizens have contributed to the war effort in many ways. Grandmothers cook borscht and give it to refugees fleeing west in Poland, creative people make molotov cocktails in Lviv’s basements and lounges, and wealthy businessmen buy drones and Kevlar vests.

Alex Riabchyn, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament and adviser to the CEO of state-owned gas company Naftogaz, said volunteers played a crucial role in the nation’s fight for survival. “We have a series of strong horizontal links. We are good at self-organization,” he explained.

He continued: “Russia has vertical ties and strong institutions. Putin says something; The Russians obey. In Ukraine, the institutions are weak. We are not used to obeying. The state killed people in the Holocaust and the gulags. People here rely on their family and friends.

Riabchyn said civil society is living through an unprecedented moment, with collaborative networks formed on Telegram and WhatsApp. The spirit and “comradeship” of the Maidan – the 2014 uprising against Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s corrupt pro-Russian president – had spread across the country, he said.

“We are a huge amount of ants,” he added, saying Ukrainians were united like never before. “Before, we had differences. There are no divisions,” he said.

The country’s President, Volodymr Zelenskiy, made the same point about unity in a video address on Wednesday. But could Ukraine prevail against a ruthless enemy? “We are ready for a long siege. It is impossible to surrender. You can decapitate the government or the president, but you cannot defeat the nation. Russia miscalculated.

The volunteer commander gave a rousing speech mentioning anti-tank missiles and stingers, supplied by the UK, US and other Western countries. He called the enemy Moskali – a derogatory Ukrainian term for Russians. “Glory to Ukraine!” He shouted. “To the heroes, glory!” yelled the recruits.

They got into cars and left in a convoy to a secret destination. Vitali’s Nissan SUV had a wooden pole sticking out of the front window adorned with a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

One person left behind at the Volunteers HQ was Alex, a 24-year-old builder who declined to give his last name. Some soldiers had to stay in the city, the sixth largest in Ukraine, he said, in case the Russians tried to sneak attack. Alex said he spent six years working and living in Wrocław, western Poland. He returned as soon as the Russian assault began.

“We are a strong country. And we have outside help. Putin united us,” he said, adding that expatriate Ukrainians were returning in droves to defend their country. His superior officer waved him away. Could the officer speak? “Sorry, no time,” he replied.

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