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Volunteering for the Ukrainian Army

Serge AApr 15, 2022 (0)

Volunteering for the army is definitely not a new concept in the world. We had volunteers throughout world history especially when it came down to armed conflicts. Many have referred to volunteer work as the backbone of the rear. The term rear came about representing supply lines for the fighting front. Production of goods and logistic lines supplying the soldiers always played an important role in wars and was usually organized by the government, understanding the strategic and tactical needs of the national defense. 


Conceptually, Ukrainian volunteers are different in their traditions and motives, they do not wait for the government to aid the armed forces. So, where are the fundamental differences in the traditions and concepts of the volunteer movement?

Women cooking meals for soldiers.

Ready hot meals go straight out to the block posts.

The inscription says “We will win”.


The rear was conventionally organized by the government at war that participates at the front line and the rear, whereas Ukrainians in general have a tradition to fight together, if Ukrainian wellbeing is in harm's way. That being said, the current war - defending against Russian attack reflects this voice of unity. Ukrainians generally feel that withstanding this challenge is a matter of mass responsibility and fighting back is not an option. What makes a person willing to participate in forgoing his own comfort, money and time to aid the army? The answer lies in the unity that we all feel for defending our families, homes and loved ones. In other words, the concept is not to let the responsible parties exercise their own fields of expertise but to find a way to be useful on a tactical level. Demand nourishes the supply in a way. The art of being a Ukrainian volunteer is to self organize and recognize the bottlenecks that the national resistance is experiencing. This is a national fundamental concept that Ukrainians exhibit in their daily life too. A friend will in fact enjoy helping another friend if they feel they can be helpful under the condition that the one who is helping is confident that the other has a firm understanding of the concept of fairness. Yes, please note this concept of fairness. Ukrainians, although not directly stated by lawmakers and judges, incorporate this concept of fairness into their everyday life. 


 Along comes our war with Russia. The Ukrainian armed forces offer their resistance. These are professional soldiers, I mind you. Ukraine has a longstanding conflict with Russia A.K.A. separatists, who have been attacking Ukrainian sovereignty for over eight years at this point. Soldiers who professionally do their job, constantly do their rounds at the front lines, go back home to civilian life only to come back again for another mission in a month or so. And, please don't take the word mission as John Rambo taking on an army of local police. Missions include gathering information, recognizance work as well as investigations in anticipation of provocations and attacks. A simple fact - ninety percent of snipers' regular duty is to gather information even if it means being behind enemy lines, meticulously documenting it, reporting it and using it for their own advantage when and if the time comes. The Ukrainian government through the need of defending themselves developed a tradition of military men who are incorporated into society. By constantly involving soldiers in their active duties while giving them the opportunity to live a regular life gave the rise to self sustained soldiers whose army status was an attribute, which deserved individual unprecedented attention. Simply put, a soldier knows what he needs and why he needs it and will try to do everything to obtain what he needs in between his tours, often with help from friends.

 A little girl selling flowers on the street. Her sign says “Buy flowers and I will buy a bulletproof vest for our soldier”.

Along with self sustained professional soldiers there were people involved in other lines of work and as a matter of fact a soldier could very well run a small business, which allowed them to intersect with the civilian population just because away from the front lines they were very well incorporated in the day-to-day of the world around them. An acquaintance of mine, Sergiy, a store owner selling flooring, has a partner installer who is a soldier. Between tours he installs and restores floors, but for the week or two of his tour at the front line there are no questions asked. Work will be planned for when he gets back. 


 This way the Ukrainians formed a personal union with the military. The military was no longer an institution, it had a face and a name. There are memories of good times over beers, birthdays and personal achievements embedded into the history of lives with people actively participating in the protection of sovereignty of Ukraine. Now, should a good floor salesman become a bad soldier - of course not. That's nonsense. But, what should that floor salesman do when he knows that his buddy is out there literally putting his life on the line for their country, for their joint future, for the wellbeing of their collective families, cities and wellbeing?

Stacked boxes of food and medicine going out to the front lines.



Here is where the aforementioned idea of fairness comes into play. Collective goals for peace and security bring people to share the responsibility as well. The floor salesman doesn't think twice about asking his friend what exactly he needs, where does he need help? And here is the kicker. For most, the following will sound unusual. On average, the answer of a soldier with an AK-74 in his hand is “nothing, I need nothing”. The truth is soldiers, real soldiers seldom ask for something. Either because they are busy, tired or wishing for these atrocities to stop as soon as possible or because while being in the state of fight one rarely thinks about themselves.

In formerly occupied zones, volunteers are fast to distribute food, which was provided by other volunteers.


Next, comes the concept of responsibility. It is this precise responsibility towards a close one that comes into play. The floor salesman starts looking for bottlenecks. He recognizes that his friend's boots are worn out, as a matter of fact his whole platoon has boots, which beg to be replaced. The floor salesman will not think that it is not his business what boots his friend wears. He'll just go out and buy new ones. And, not just a pair, but enough for the whole platoon. They are all brothers in arms. The floor salesman, the soldier floor installer and his brothers in the trenches with him. 


Will the government provide for its own army - of course, but the question is when. During war time the government has many things to deal with and therefore prioritization is in order. Where in that prioritization list would you see new boots for a platoon member at the front line who rarely thinks about his own feet not even mentioning shoes - not very high up. But, in a matter of a day the platoon, despite not even realizing their own needs will be sporting new footwear. 


The floor salesman understands the situation because he makes himself involved. He can drive to the front line to see his friends and observe bottlenecks - the war is here, at home. Next time he comes back with something useful before the government gets the chance to find out about individual needs.

A field kitchen is bought and delivered by volunteers for army use.



It should be mentioned that this particular look at volunteering reflects individual Ukrainian efforts. It reflects the motives behind a single person to help the soldiers they know. There are however organized group volunteer efforts, which allow people who want to help their army in this struggle, but do not know anyone in particular. These organizations can use all hands on deck or donations. 


This sort of relationship became a true Ukrainian tradition. No Ukrainian I know is afraid of soldiers. A man in uniform with our colors is automatically a friend. I must repeat myself, I have yet to see a civilian fearing their military. 


We are all extremely thankful to our brothers, people just like us, but with guns and ammo, rockets and launchers defending our freedom and right to live the way we want to live. We will always support their every need no matter what it takes. 

Serge A is of Ukrainian descent, grew up in Brooklyn and is volunteering in Ukraine as a legally armed member of a Territorial Defense Group. He was a columnist for the newspaper at Pace University which he attended as an undergrad. 


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