Before 2022, Valentyna, a mother of two, worked as a cosmetologist and physician assistant. Since the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion, she has stepped up to save lives. Volodymyr (the name was changed) had worked for a well-known energy company before he volunteered to defend Ukraine in 2022. Not all of his loved ones are even aware that he’s a member of a special operations force fighting on the frontline. These are just two stories of Ukrainian volunteer fighters who stand up for our safety and freedom.
Each year since 2017, on March 14, Ukraine celebrates Ukrainian Volunteer Day. On this day in 2014, nearly 500 members of the Maidan Self-Defense arrived at the training area to form the first volunteer battalion of the National Guard.
In the last two years, the holiday has become increasingly talked about. The number of volunteer fighters multiplied after the full-scale Russian invasion. These are not only brave Ukrainians fighting for their own land but also thousands of foreign volunteers (20,000 applications were reported last spring) who know where the right side of the battle is and are willing to risk their lives for our victory.
Today, Ukraine is recruiting volunteers for assault brigades. According to the Ministry of Interior, 28,000 people have already applied.
Today, we need to thank all the brave people whose hearts called them to stand up and defend our lives. spoke with two of them.
Valentyna (Rybka): people at the frontline are all different
Valentyna is 27. She took her nom de guerre, Rybka (Fishie), from her zodiac sign, Pisces. It’s always been of great importance to her mother, that’s why the girl wears a fish pendant, which she believes protects her. A mother herself, she has two little kids: a son and a daughter.
Before February 24, 2022, the girl had a stable career, working as a cosmetologist and a physician assistant at the Emergency Medical Service in her hometown of Brusyliv, in the Zhytomyr region.
The full-fledged Russian invasion caught her in the middle of a strenuous work shift, making it even more complicated. The Kyiv-Chop highway runs near her town, and many road accidents happened in the morning of February 24, when thousands of Ukrainians rushed to safety.
Tiredness aside, Rybka and her crew did everything they could to promptly arrive at the site and save people. Continuous shelling didn’t stop them from evacuating wounded soldiers near Makariv, a town on the route to Kyiv, despite enemy tanks roaming nearby.
Valentyna first became a volunteer at the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (FVMH) in winter 2022 because she couldn’t stand aside. Although she had some experience working under wartime conditions before, Rybka admits that she was afraid, fearing that she wouldn’t fit in with the crew. But everything turned out well, and Rybka set off for the frontline.
"It’s an entirely different life there, and so are the people. Everyone is sincere and friendly there, like a family," Valentyna said.
As part of the FVMH team, Valentyna worked on an evacuation crew and at a stabilization station. The girl recalls that the operations there are very well organized and run like clockwork, so that the staff can act quickly and confidently.
Their patients included critically wounded people who needed transportation in emergency ambulance vehicles. And, most importantly, all the patients arrived at their destinations alive.
Of course, the girl's family members were very worried and tried to persuade her to stay, but they put up with her choice over time.
"It’s a tremendous experience. It was a very important period in my life, which changes you and the way you see life and people around you. I will certainly go back at the first opportunity. And all those who can help, who know how to do it — please don’t be afraid! Together, and only together, is how we can win."
Volodymyr: fighting a war is not a choice but a necessity
Volodymyr (the name was changed), aged 26, had worked for a well-known energy company up until February 24, 2022. When Russia started a full-fledged war in Ukraine, he understood it was high time to stand up and defend our country.
His military career started in the 206th Territorial Defense Battalion, but it wasn’t the last unit Volodymyr served in: he later enlisted in the National Guard and then transferred to a special operations force.
"The frontline is nothing like they show you in the movies. It’s much more scary. Romantic attitudes evaporate in a day when you face the reality of war and the loss of close friends," says Volodymyr of his combat experiences.
The Ukrainian military doesn't lose morale even in the tough warfare conditions they’re exposed to. Despite the risk of being wounded or killed, they get used to working in severe weather and with extreme sleep deprivation.
As fighting in a war obviously entails many risks, not all of the man’s friends and family members reacted positively to his decision to become a volunteer fighter.
Volodymyr confesses that some of his loved ones have no idea about his service in the Ukrainian army (as a true commando, he’s been successfully keeping it secret for a whole year!). Nevertheless, he remains steadfast in his chosen path.
"Fighting a war is not a choice but a necessity. A necessity to fight, overriding your fear and your moral principles."