Conflicts & War

Ukraine’s youth train to fight Russian troops

By Carles Grau Sivera

Kyiv, Apr 17 (EFE).- Before the Russian invasion began, young Ukrainians used to have a normal life. But since the war, they have switched school books for military uniforms and weapons to learn how to defend their country.

It is the case of a group of some 50 youngsters aged between 18 and 29, some of them recently enrolled in college and others graduated years ago.

“Glory to Ukraine,” “Glory to heroes,” and “Putin is miserable,” are among the slogans they shout while heading to class.

At one of the thousands of schools in Kyiv that remain empty due to the war, these 50 young people gather in the auditorium and carefully observe their teacher, a war veteran, who teaches them how to hold an AK-47 rifle, how to breathe before shooting and what to do while fighting in a building.

When the war broke out in late February, Bohdan swapped his camera for a Kalashnikov.

The 23-year-old was one of the first to join the “Revenge” battalion, a unit that consists of hundreds of young men who are choosing to fight against Russia.

Despite having no prior military training, Bohdan was among those deployed on the Kyiv front to prevent Russian troops from advancing.

“A friend was really scared because he didn’t have his helmet, so I gave him mine and just then I felt a bullet graze my head. At that moment I understood that I could die at any moment,” he tells Efe as he holds his assault rifle.

The battalion is not only made up of Ukrainians. People from other neighboring countries are also taking part, such as Marta and Michael: two Poles aged 23 and 20 who told their parents that they had been given a scholarship to go to work abroad a month ago.

“I want to go to the front. That’s why I’m here,” says Marta, adding that when the large-scale attack on Ukraine started, the first thing she thought about was joining “the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom.”

This young Polish woman arrived in Ukraine a little over a month ago. She claims to have “trained hard every day” and now she wants to “go as quickly as possible to the east or south,” where the two main battlefronts are located.

Michael, however, has already had his first experience on the frontline after just three weeks of training and now feels “more prepared” and ready to go reinforce the front in Mariupol, the Russian-besieged city in southern Ukraine.

Among those attending the class is Father Yaroslav, a 29-year-old Orthodox priest dedicated to officiating military masses.

“I think it’s a spiritual war, it’s more than something political with Russia… it’s a war against the forces of evil,” says the priest, stressing that “prayer is as important as combat.”

Felix, a code name of a Donbas war veteran who was wounded in 2016 and had to leave the battlefront, now teaches “thousands of boys” who have volunteered to stop the Russian advance.

“I don’t think there is anything like it in the world,” he says.

Since the war began, he has trained these young men who had never held a weapon in their life in order to send them to the front within weeks, something that can be “terrifying” for some, he says.

He is aware that many of his students may lose their lives in this war because of the little training they receive, but he points out that “these people are committed and passionate.”

“And that’s the most important thing because we don’t have much time,” he says. EFE

Related Articles

Back to top button