What Were They Expecting?

The Ukrainian Foreign Volunteers learn that war is not a picnic.

Today a video was circulated on Twitter that appears to be from Snapchat that appears to be from an American foreign volunteer fighting in Ukraine describing the terrible conditions him and his fellow fighters faced when they made it to their detachment.

The video is linked above but I will summarize it here as well.

He begins by explaining that his base and the base next to them were “fucked up” and resulted in the death of many American and British volunteers who were being counted as Ukrainian soldiers by the Ukrainian state. Despite this, his unit is told their being sent to Kiev despite only a handful of them being given weapons and those weapons only hold about ten rounds. His group says their not going, the Ukrainian military responds by saying they have to leave or “…they’ll shoot us in the back.” The volunteer then hides in the back of an ambulance to escape to the border. At the border, anyone with weapons or kit are immediately sent back to the front. They’re passports are also taken and destroyed. This would’ve been the fate our storyteller but he, along with two other guys, were taken aside by a humanitarian group and were told what’s going on. He ends the video with this message:

People need to stop coming here. It’s a trap and they’re not letting people fucking leave.

The video is disturbing, and if this volunteer is to be believed it shows that the Ukrainians are not just losing but are also lying to avoid media backlash. But what did these volunteers expect?

In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell writes about his time in the Lenin Barracks and how everything was jury rigged, rushed, and chaotic. Similar to our American volunteer, Orwell also writes about how weaponry was scarce and the weapons people did were old and with limited ammo. And this was back in the 1930s, the general public has known about what it’s like to serve as a foreign volunteer for a while now and yet people keep going to Ukraine.

So what were these guys expecting? The media everyday shows glimpses into the hell that is the Russo-Ukraine War. We’ve seen hospitals bombed, schools bombed, we’ve seen reports of Ukrainian Neo-Nazis fire upon unarmed citizens and yet they still went. Even shooter games like Call of Duty show that urban war zones are terrible to fight in, especially if you’re on the losing side.

Obviously no one can know the reason each volunteer had for joining or why they expected better treatment. But I believe part of the reason comes from the fact that the US, Canada, Britain, etc. are usually the ones with the technology, the manpower, support, and superiority over land, sea, and air. This affects the perception men in those countries have about what it’s like to be a soldier. You get to have Burger King on the base! But that’s not the case for Ukraine. Ukraine has none of the advantages the global superpowers have. In this war it’s the Russians who hold all the advantages. But that didn’t click to our volunteers. I honestly believed they thought they would be sent to a boot camp and receive months of training and leave with a full kit to some secure combat post. They were not thinking about the actual conditions of war, but the fantasy of war.

We’ve seen this attitude before. During the first months of the First World War, nations tried to entice young men to the front with the idea that war is a character building experience, like scout camp but you get to kill your fellow man. This is expressed quite well in the opening scenes of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Those men would soon learn the hard way that life doesn’t care about your romantic aspirations, it’ll tell you that’s bullshit with a bullet through your comrades head.

Let us hope that our volunteer’s message will make the rounds, and that people will wake up and understand that war isn’t an adventure, it’s war; and war is hell.

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