AP PHOTOS: Volunteer fighters from Ukraine come from near and far

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – They are old, young, local, foreign and often new to the war. Thousands of people have volunteered to join the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces and resist the Russian invasion. The Associated Press spent time with some of them this week.

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 lines. After their training, they can join the fight or guard checkpoints.

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

At the start of the war, he said, fighters were sent to the front after just two days of rushed training. Now the lesson is more thorough. “We need confident people who know what they’re doing,” he said.

Among the volunteer fighters is 24-year-old sound engineer Kostyantyn Kovalenko. “As an audio engineer, I hear the sounds of war that I can hear a little differently,” he said. He’s bothered by the sounds like everyone else, but studies them and tries to identify the guns. “My only regret is that I don’t have a recorder to record the noise and use it for a patriotic track,” he said.

A married couple, 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 out the Russians,” Gromovytsya said.

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

“I think 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 fight, why shouldn’t I?”

Francisco Floro, a 30-year-old Spaniard who works at home in security, like Gerber saw the defense of Ukraine as a just cause.

“I believe that the entire West has a responsibility towards Ukraine,” Floro said. “We have to get involved and tell the world what’s happening here.”

He found his way to the Territorial Defense Forces after speaking to the Ukrainian embassy back home. Despite the drama of the war, Floro said the life he eventually wants is a fairly quiet one. “I’m not striving for more,” 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. “You made the right decision not to go abroad. They stayed with the people and on our land to defend it.”

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

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