Last month, Valentyna Kostyantynovska heard the drum from the building towards The Russian invasion of Ukraine and decided to join the defense forces. She figured that the only way her homeland stood a chance against such an overwhelming force was for everyone to participate.
And by everyone, she meant everyone.
Even someone like her, a 79-year-old woman from Mariupol, located along the Sea of Azov which is connected to the Black Sea.
“I can’t do much” Kostyantynovska told Reuters. “I can help the injured. …I know they’re going to kill me. And it should be so, so that fewer young people die.
On a small island in the Black Sea this week, 13 Ukrainian soldiers, fixing the Russian Navy and with the choice of death or surrender, allegedly barked into a radio, “Russian warship, fuck you.” They were quickly killed, Ukrainian government officials said.
In Kiev, two former multimillionaire heavyweights boxing champions, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, each with the fame and resources to have long since fled to safety, remained, vowing to take up arms and fight the Russians in the streets, whatever the consequences. As top targets, their fate could be sealed.
“I have no other choice,” Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv and son of a former general in the former Soviet air force, told ‘Good Morning Britain’.
“I have to do that.”
Just a week ago, many Americans knew little or nothing about Ukraine or the Ukrainian people. Many couldn’t have found it on a map, just another jigsaw piece among the geography of Eastern Europe.
There were the Klitschkos, a few NHL and NBA players, a few actresses, and plenty of murky political scandals that occasionally put the country in the news, but with little context.
Few, however, have understood who these people are, what this country believes in, and the measure of courage available to defend itself against a crushing invasion.
They do now. Boy, do we all know.
The stories of individual heroism, defiance, courage and conviction displayed by Ukrainians since Russia invaded the country have moved the world.
It’s an almost impossible fight. Ukrainians mostly alone against one of the greatest armies on the planet, led by one of its most ruthless men.
Ukraine’s plan was never to realistically stop the Russians in their tracks, hold the border or force an immediate retreat. It was about making every step on Ukrainian soil as difficult as possible. It is about sustained resistance, citizens taking up weapons and homemade explosives, refusing to bow to the occupiers. It’s about inflicting as many casualties as possible and simply surviving the aggressors until support for this war collapses in Russia.
“Ukrainians are showing their true heroism,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video posted on Friday. “Like our ancestors before, they are going into battle. Russia continues to expect our forces to tire, but we will not tire.
Where are the Russian forces surrounding Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.
In 2014, Russia overtook the Crimea region of Ukraine without firing a shot. This time it’s about making things difficult. Hard Ukrainian.
“The enemy wants to bring the capital to its knees and destroy us,” Vladimir Klitschko said in a statement on Friday. “Anyone who can defend the city should join and help our soldiers.”
It’s David versus Goliath.
Except there’s apparently no shortage of David.
These are the grandfathers and grandmothers, who lived under Soviet rule, enlisting to do whatever they can. It’s a pensioner in his 60s, Dmytro Bellykov, who told Reuters he joins because he’s still a good shot and if not, he’s good at fixing things.
“I can repair weapons,” he said.
It is Private Vitaliy Skakun Volodymrovych, who the Ukrainian government says was laying mines along a bridge when Russian forces arrived before he was finished and cleared. Rather than flee and let them pass, he blew himself up and the bridge.
It was the group of fighters outside Kherson who lost a critical bridge to the Russians but, by CNN report, refused to retreat. Instead, they fought to take it back, at least temporarily.
That’s all. And everyone. The Ministry of Defense has now encouraged Ukrainians to “inform us of troop movements, make Molotov cocktails and neutralize the enemy” by almost any means necessary.
This is why every act is celebrated. Old men. Old women. Citizens. Convicted soldiers.
Everything from firebombs to harsh rhetoric that makes it clear that the Russian military is not welcome or wanted there, regardless of the propaganda in Moscow.
Some would rather die than be captured, make a final statement than silently succumb.
These are the Ukrainians; desperate but defiant, one act at a time, a people the world has learned quickly and clearly exactly who they are and what they are about.