A single mother trains to fight in western Ukraine

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It is 04:45 in the morning when the emergency sirens sound. The whole building wakes up and after a while the footsteps of the neighbors who live on the upper floors can be heard hurrying down the stairs. The Russian army this morning has again bombed the Ivano Frankivsk airport. It is the second time in 16 days of conflict that the inhabitants of this city in western Ukraine have heard the missile impact.

Every night they sleep soundly, but the cold that penetrates to the bones in the morning wakes anyone up. The city slowly wakes up. Looking out the window is one of the first gestures at dawn. Make sure that everything is fine, while the landscape does not hide the thin layer of snow that covers it.

Groups of volunteers train with weapons before the Russian offensive

Life has taken a 180 degree turn since February 24. The story of Romana is an example of this.. She has traded the pots and pans in the kitchen of the restaurant where she worked for the rifles. Every morning, since the war began, she goes to the theater converted into a military training center: “I train to defend myself and my son.”he assures.

She is a single mother of a young child and does not want to leave the country. “I have my house here,” he repeats, as so many other people have told us these days that they have no intention of leaving Ukraine. Unlike the people who accompany her in training, she does not have a patriotic speech, she only aspires to defend herself. “I have always stood on my own two feet and I want to remain independent,” she says.

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Romana trains with another group of civilians with wooden weapons to defend Ukraine from Russian troops. RTVE

This is the motto that has guided her whole life: “I only count on myself”, he insists. He tells us that she feels a lot of uncertainty, she doesn’t know what could happen. He gives him security knowing that he can defend himself if the invasion reaches this westernmost part of the country. “I feel safer and it calms me to be here and all of us here have no military trainingbut we want to learn and many want to defend the country,” she says. And it shudders to imagine what the day-to-day life of this determined-looking woman was like before life in Ukraine was blown up.


The resistance of the western cities

They prepare for war, while longing for times of peace. The passing of the days is weighing on hope in a population that watches how the Russian offensive advances and devastates other cities in Ukraine such as Kiev, Kharkov or Mariúpol. From this last city, which has been under siege for nine days and is being the hardest hit by the bombing of the Russian army, Terrifying images arrive of corpses being buried in mass graves.

Therefore, the cities of western Ukraine have become a country within another. Here we see how the population welcomes the internally displaced, while mobilizing and preparing to defend the country. They are points of moral resistance and a fence to the advance of the offensive.






A group of Ukrainians train to face the Russian Army. RTVE

Romana has not been caught by surprise by the conflict. Remember that what is happening now has its origin in 2014 with the war in Donbas. Since then “I always knew we had to be forewarned”, assures this mother. She had not ruled out the escalation of the war in the same way that she does rule out leaving the country. “We can’t all leave,” she ditches her.






A volunteer in the civil defense brigades in Ivano Frankvist. RTVE

A society committed to supporting the military

It is interesting to see how An entire society has turned to support the military. In this theater they collect blankets, warm clothes and medicines for the army. Almost all men wear military suits, we also see women receiving and giving military training. They don’t want to be left behind.

The coordinator of all this local movement was a theater director who now also wears military green: “To do theater we need imagination and right now it has ceased to exist and there is no room for imagination,” he adds.

The passing of days is weighing on hope in a population that observes how the Russian offensive advances in other cities of Ukraine. They live between life and death. There is no gaze set on the horizon or tomorrow and desperation leads to doing anything to defend themselves. “We are playing a lot,” says Romana. “I’m not doing it for the country but for myself.” She is not the only woman who has decided to learn to use weaponsmany were already training to support the Ukrainian army.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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