A Ukrainan man who returned to his homeland from the UK for a family holiday is now facing being drafted for military service after being warned he cannot leave the country under martial law.
Tim Dmitrenko flew to Ukraine with his wife and two children on February 18 where they planned to enjoy a skiing holiday before returning to their home in the UK on February 28.
However, the family arrived in the country moments before US President Biden made a speech in the White House warning Russia was attempting to “set up a false justification to act against Ukraine.”
Sadly the young family, who live in Leeds, were still on Ukrainian soil when Putin’s troops invaded the country on February 24.
Tim Dmitrenko said: “I woke up at 5am that day and I checked my phone and saw the urgent news saying Putin had invaded.
“I was shocked. I knew the war had started and I did not know what to do.
“Someone was already coming to pick us up – but he came to pick us up sooner. He told us there was no way we could get to Lviv.”
The driver agreed to take Tim and his family further west, where he had arranged for them to board a bus to Budapest, according to Leeds Live.
“The journey was unpleasant to say the least,” he said. “It took us four hours to queue for fuel.”
Eight hours later, the family reached a bus stop described by Tim as being “in the middle of nowhere”. They waited in the cold, but the bus never arrived.
Luckily, the 39-year-old was able to get hold of a friend from nearby Mukachevo – a city in western Ukraine near the Slovakian border – who came to pick the family up.
Tim’s wife, 11-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter have since crossed the border to Slovakia, but, as Tim is a male Ukrainian national, he is unable to leave the country under martial law and remains in Mukachevo.
“It was the worst experience of my life (being separated),” said Tim as he broke down in tears.
“They left on February 25 when I put them on a bus. It was horrible. We all believed. My boy is a special character and he never cries. When I told him they needed to flee, he started crying.
“He asked for my hat and I put it on his head. Every time they have called, he has been wearing it. The main thing is they are safe now. I just hope this will finish (soon).”
The dad-of-two took up the option to partake in military training at university in Ukraine and studied the BUK-M1 air defense system. It means the army now considers him as being the equivalent of a ‘reserve’ troop with expertise in that area.
“It is not real – you do not do it ‘in the field’,” he told Yorkshire Live. “Twenty years have passed since then. I know nothing.
“I am not trained to shoot and I do not know how to hold a gun.”
During a recent visit to a nearby military registration office, Tim was told that the army does not yet require someone with his “skill-set”.
He has been told to return on March 5 when he will be notified if he is to be sent off to war.
“They might send me back or they might tell me they need me now,” he said.
Tim said all civilian army recruits are sent to undertake a short period of training before being sent to bases across Ukraine. “I am trying to understand this new situation,” he said. “I am quite nervous.
“Putin is bombing a peaceful country. He is shelling the large cities and forcing people to flee – but he did not expect the resistance. Our army is one of the strongest in the world. What they are doing is amazing.”
Tim revealed his parents are currently living near Kyiv. “They have been shelled,” he said. “They hear planes and jets flying overhead.”
The 39-year-old called on NATO to do more to help Ukraine following Russian’s invasion.
“We keep asking NATO to help us. Russia says this is a special operation – but they are killing civilians. We are asking NATO to at least close the airspace. We can do the rest. I am a bit frustrated (that hasn’t happened) but I am not a politician.
“The war is happening now. Ukraine is your neighbour. Russia fights against the whole world – and we fight on behalf of the whole world.”
Tim is currently spending his days helping volunteers working to equip fighting civilians with equipment and other essentials.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.