Ukrainian expats travel back home to join fight against Russia: 'It's our country'

Woman holding Ukrainian flag.
(Image credit: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainians sprawled across the European continent have begun returning home to aid their countrymen in the former Soviet nation's fight against Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports Monday.

In general, the male and female volunteers — who likely emigrated in search of work and wealth in "Europe's wealthier countries" — have zero combat experience, little training, and largely no weapons of their own, writes the Journal. Upon arrival, they will take up arms alongside the civilian volunteers who've already pledged to fight.

"It's our home, it's our country, and I don't have a different one," Dmytro, a returning Ukrainian, told the Journal.

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"I would love not to fight, and be alive, but this is the time where if I want to be able to look myself in the mirror, I have to, have to go," added Nikita Azarkhin, a Ukrainian tattoo artist who had been living in Berlin.

"I wouldn't be able to sit with my family at the table if I didn't join the fight," Oleg Lamaha, who had been residing in Poland, continued, as he walked toward the border. "I've never been a fighter…It took me six hours to decide: When the fighting starts, you just have to go."

Non-Ukrainians are entering the fray, as well, notes the Journal.

In one instance, a group of Belarusians living in Poland wrote in a volunteer-rallying Facebook group that they had left for Kyiv to fight. In another, residents of the Czech Republic on Saturday donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a weapons purchasing fundraising campaign begun by Ukraine's embassy in the country; within a day, even, "about seven foreign embassies had reached out to help," the Journal writes.

"It's increasing every minute," said Czech Deputy Defense Minister Tomas Kopecny. "It's not only individuals, it's also government institutions."

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Brigid Kennedy

Brigid is a staff writer at The Week and a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her passions include improv comedy, David Fincher films, and breakfast food. She lives in New York.