AP PHOTOS: Ukraine volunteer fighters come from near and far

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — They are old, young, local, foreign, often new to war. Thousands of people have volunteered to join Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces and resist Russia’s invasion. The Associated Press this week spent time with some of them.

A 30-year-old actor, Sergiy Volosovets, now commands a unit of 11 men and oversees the military training of other volunteers at a base northeast of the capital, Kyiv, just a few kilometers from the front line. After their training, they might join the fight or guard checkpoints.

“They never thought that they would have a gun in their hands,” Volosovets said. But “this desire just brought all of them here.”

At the beginning of the war, he said, fighters were sent to the front line after just two days of hurried training. Now instruction is more thorough. “We need self-conscious people who know what they’re doing,” he said.

Among the volunteer fighters is 24-year-old sound engineer Kostyantyn Kovalenko. “As a sound engineer, I listen to the sounds of war I can hear, I think, a bit differently,” he said. He is bothered by the sounds like anyone else, but studies them and tries to identify the weapons. “I only regret that I don’t have my recorder to record the sounds and use them for a patriotic track,” he said.

A husband and wife, Anton Grom and Valya Gromovytsya, both in their late 30s, have joined the fighters, leaving their 11-year-old son with his grandmother. “I want to defend Kyiv and kick the Russians out,” Gromovytsya said.

One foreigner who has joined the volunteer fighters is 21-year-old Jraven Gerber from Seattle. He first tried to enter Ukraine’s International Legion, but he said they kept saying “Tomorrow, tomorrow.” Impatient, he decided to look elsewhere for action and connected with the Territorial Defense Forces.

“I believe it’s best to fight when you’re young,” he said. Among his fellow fighters are people younger than him, 18 or 19, and “if they’re fighting, why shouldn’t I?”

Francisco Floro, a 30-year-old from Spain, works in security back home and, like Gerber, saw defending Ukraine as a just cause.

“I believe that all the West has a responsibility toward Ukraine,” said Floro. “We have to participate in this and tell the world what’s happening here.”

He found his way to the Territorial Defense Forces after speaking with the Ukrainian embassy back home. Despite the drama of war, Floro said the life he eventually wants is a pretty tranquil one. “I don’t aspire to more than that,” he said.

Like many of the volunteer fighters, 29-year-old local entrepreneur Vadym Kovalyov never expected to go to war. “These people, my brothers, they are in the right place,” he said. “They made the right choice not to go abroad. They stayed with the people and on our land to defend it.”

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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