Deep in the forests of Ukraine, citizens are taking their futures into their own hands. Training with Kalashnikovs and dummy hand grenades made of soda cans, they’re preparing to fight a war for freedom against any possible Russian invasion. Politico Magazine reports here on the growing trend among Ukranians who want to be free.
What is clear is that the idea of partisan war has taken hold among the people. In the bars of Kyiv, men talk to me about going to east to fight a guerrilla war, while a senior advisor close to Kyiv’s security establishment assures me that Moscow will face widespread partisan resistance if it continues its aggression. This is perhaps unsurprising. Ukraine has a long, albeit controversial, tradition of partisan warfare that dates back to 1942 with the establishment of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army—a nationalist, paramilitary group that fought for an independent Ukraine against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II. Led by the controversial Stepan Bandera, the partisans fought in Western Ukraine against the Soviets and Poles (whom they ethnically cleansed at Volhynia and East Galicia) long after the war’s end. It took until 1949 for Moscow to finally defeat them, by which time the Ukrainian partisans had inflicted a higher mortality rate against their troops than the USSR would suffer in its invasion of Afghanistan almost 40 years later.
The “students” here are certainly reflective of the population: ordinary citizens, young and middle-aged, split almost equally between men and women, dressed in a mix of camouflage and jeans. A group of about fifteen people arrives for lunch from the forest where they have just completed a war game. Several young, twenty-something girls, march in step, swinging their hips as the AMK-47 machine guns slung across their backs bounce in time. In this sense alone they remind me of the many Israeli soldiers I have seen.
“We want to build something like the Swiss or Israeli army—a people’s army. That’s the long term goal,” says Tanya. “And we have to be creative—we cannot fight the Russians head-on. This type of warfare may be the only chance we have.”