Woman who left UK few weeks ago now making petrol bombs in Ukraine to defend home

A Ukrainian woman who was living in the UK only a few weeks ago is now back in her home nation making petrol bombs with family as they prepare to defend their country.

According to the UN, more than 800,000 civilians have now fled the Ukraine amidst the Russian invasion, with over 450,000 crossing the border into Poland.

However many more are staying put, making rudimentary weapons using glass bottles and chemicals, and barricading bomb shelters with metal sheets in scenes not witnessed in Europe since the Second World War.

WalesOnline managed to track down Sabina Jenkins, who is staying with mother Oksana and her grandmother Larysa in their home village just a few hours south of Kyiv.

Sabina Jenkins’ grandmother Larysa holding a petrol bomb

At Sabina’s request, her exact location is not being disclosed. She is terrified they will be next, but she insists she has not considered leaving her homeland.

A matter of weeks ago Sabina was in Llanelli with her husband, soldier and engineer Michael Jenkins – originally from Ringland in Newport – who she met while he was stationed in Ukraine with the marines as a machine-gunner.

“We lived 50 meters from the sea in Llanelli,” Michael said. “We don’t like the busy city life so it was great there.

“An opportunity came up in the US for us to move out there and start a new life for ourselves with fewer visa complications.

I went out there to get things moving and Sabina went to Ukraine to sort paperwork. Then Russia invaded.”

Now Sabina, her mother, and most of all her grandmother, are among the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across Ukraine ready to defend their country.

In a video call they show us their remarkably homely bunker with a log fire, beds and jars of essentials.

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“It’s my granny’s basement, but we’ve made it into a shelter,” Sabina explains.

Minutes before Sabina took us outside in the calm village where she showed us her grandmother’s self-made petrol bombs.

The glass bottles with rope attached to them and film wrapped tightly around the top explode on impact. This is by no unusual means now.

She thinks every household is doing the same, and Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has even issued graphics explaining how to launch them at approaching tanks.

“My grandmother has made these before,” she says, picking one up from the covered box to give us a closer look. “But I have never made these in my life. I never thought I would need to make them.”

Asked whether she thinks she’ll need to use them, she responded: “Yes I do think I will use them. We have been told we must be ready, we must be ready for anything. We must be ready for the worst case scenario.”

They had the chance to leave the country and still do, but Sabina says her grandmother has spent her life in Ukraine and wants to defend it. Sabina insists she will stay with her.

Sabina's family making petrol bombs in their home in Ukraine.
Sabina’s family making petrol bombs in their home in Ukraine

“I can’t imagine leaving like this, no,” she said. “No, it’s my family. My great is here and I grew up here as a kid. If I leave, then what?

“Of course, I don’t feel safe. Who feels safe in a war? But we will stay here and stand up for our land.”

Michael, a 39-year-old former Newport Hartridge School pupil, is due to arrive back in Ukraine in the next week and says he has not given up convincing the family to move to a safer place, even if that is in Ukraine.

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On his return he says his priority is ensuring the safety of his family, before turning his attention to fighting the Russians as a voluntary soldier.

Military service is in his blood. He’s fought around the world and was in the British army until 2005, before enlisting again in 2016 as a reserve.

He’s fought in Ukraine against Russia for much of the time since, but he says this time is different.

“This could be a huge war,” he told Wales Online from his current base in Buffalo, New York. “The worst one I think I’ll experience by far. Ukraine is going to fight until the end and Russia has made it very clear of their intentions.

“I think when the worst does come NATO can’t stand by and let that happen. And where does that leave us?

“My major concern and worry now is that I’m going to get to Ukraine too late for Sabina and her family.

“I need to get there and make sure they are safe, and then I’ll fight with the voluntary battalion for as long as I’m needed.

“I have very bad anxiety, like something churning in my stomach. It’s not so much anger but pure worry that I am here and they are there.”

Michael Jenkins is trained in military combat but has warned others about going to Ukraine to join the fighting.
Michael Jenkins is trained in military combat but has warned others about going to Ukraine to join the fighting

Michael says he’s been taken aback by the generosity he’s seen across western Europe and the US. For him personally he’s managed to get enough money via an online fundraiser to help his family from him and fly back to Ukraine.

“I came here and spent all the savings I had building this new life for us,” he said. “I just felt completely helpless because I’ve been trying to get to Ukraine but couldn’t.

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“I have had people sending me money from all over the world who I don’t even know.

“It’s not just me, seeing the clothes and donations being sent from the UK too makes me really proud of my country right now.

“I just want to say a massive thank you to anyone who has helped my family financially or emotionally.”

He is worried to hear stories of army surplus shops being inundated with orders, and says he’s had a few hundred calls from people asking him whether they should join the Ukraine war effort on the front line.

“I am really concerned,” he said. “It is not a good idea to go there with little to no combat experience. I would highly suggest staying at home or doing something logistically to contribute, which would really help.

“I am not joking when I say I must have had 500 people come to me over the last few days saying they’re thinking about fighting. 80% of them have no experience of war. There is no glory or romance about this.”

Sabina said she cannot comprehend the “hate between Ukraine and Russia” now.

“None of us expected this,” she said. “Maybe in Donbas or Luhansk, but not here. We never expected Putin would do this to the ordinary people. Ukraine and Russia were brothers, now people have so much hate for each other. I have no words for it.

“A lot of people are dying and Russian people are being told on TV that people in Ukraine are happy to see them (Russian soldiers). It is totally wrong and not true.”

At a time of utter desperation Sabina’s small village community has emboldened her family’s resolve to fight for it.


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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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