Vladimir Pavluk approaches the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine as if he was taking a Sunday stroll.
The 26-year-old from Odesa, who labored in Poland as a taxi driver, carries a big rucksack and enjoys the final rays of Polish solar. His girlfriend tightly holds his hand.
“It’s a horrible feeling after they bomb your property,” he says with a peaceful voice. “The battle began and we’ve to return. I fought between 2015 and 2019 so I do know what to do. My girlfriend will keep right here.”
A brief brunette in a black hoodie bursts into tears. They stroll away.
For the reason that starting of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a whole bunch of Ukrainians within the conscription age have been crossing the border to hitch the military again residence.
Males from completely different angles of life, completely different ages and ranges of army coaching have determined to depart the protection of the European Union and assist Ukraine towards the Russian invasion.
Within the Russian official narrative, those that combat towards the aggression are labelled as Nazis who hate Russia, the Russian tradition and the Russian language.
“We don’t take into consideration that, we all know it’s a lie,” solutions Vitaly, 27, from Zaporozhe in central Ukraine, in impeccable Russian.
“We all know our nation, we all know our authorities, we all know our folks and ourselves. We communicate each Russian and Ukrainian. We don’t have an issue with the language.”
Vitaly got here to the Polish border all the best way from Estonia. He has not been in a position to contact his household for the previous 16 hours. He wish to go to his hometown first however he says he’ll go wherever the military wants him most. This shall be his first battle.
“I’ve by no means fought in my life. I went by way of a army coaching a very long time in the past, however this isn’t stopping me. There aren’t any phrases to explain how I really feel,” he says.
“We’ve by no means needed to combat, we haven’t invaded anybody, we’re going to defend ourselves. There are sanctions towards Russia however we perceive that there are lots of issues that our and your leaders don’t say. All we are able to do is mobilise.”
Vitaly is just not alone. Three of his Ukrainian mates from Estonia are standing subsequent to him in a queue. They aren’t new to the combat and are able to assist their inexperienced good friend.
Alexander, 38, fought alongside the Ukrainian military towards Donbas separatists. He’s calm. He is aware of he has no selection however to return to combat.
“I anticipated this to occur. When the embassies acquired evacuated I understood that the battle would start. I used to be not stunned,” he tells Al Jazeera. “I’m going again to defend my nation, my household, my land.”
They cross by way of the border amid encouraging chants: Slava Ukrainie! Geroyom Slava! [Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!]
Most of these crossing again to Ukraine are of their twenties and thirties. However not Yaroslav. His gray hair and lengthy gray moustache make him seem like the opposite troopers’ grandfather.
His black beret with a pin bearing the Ukrainian flag give his look an aura of unique eccentricity.
Yaroslav is 59, which suggests he’s in his ultimate yr of necessary conscription.
“I’m speeding again residence as a result of that is the final name to assist the defence effort. I’ve labored in Poland as a driver for six years. Now I’ve determined to return to assist my military,” he says passionately.
“After I heard in regards to the battle increasing I felt that I’ve to return residence. I by no means fought in any battle. I used to be within the military again within the Soviet occasions so I keep in mind the way to use the gun.”
Most people gathered on the border admire the braveness and patriotism of the women and men crossing again into Ukraine. Apart from Nikolai. The 59-year previous, in contrast to Yaroslav, doesn’t assume he’s suited to battle. He watches the conscripts passing by and tears fill his eyes.
He holds a banner that claims “Warsaw”. He provides a free trip to the Polish capital Warsaw to Ukrainians who, like him, determined to flee their homeland. He’s additionally awaiting the arrival of his aged mom who’s the final certainly one of his kin to reach into security.
Nikolai was fortunate. He determined to evacuate his household, together with his son and nephews, from Poltava, not removed from the Russian border, simply earlier than the federal government banned males within the conscription age from leaving the nation.
“America has failed us. So I made a decision to take my children from Ukraine and provides them the chance to reside right here, in order that they don’t should combat towards tanks and missiles,” he says.
“Younger folks go to Ukraine as cannon fodder. They go there to combat towards planes and tanks. They’ll be killed by missiles. And in the event that they conceal within the cellars with weapons, what’s the purpose of all that?”
He believes that Ukraine can win the battle. However not in case its troopers are confronted by planes and tanks. The previous dentist doesn’t know but what he’ll do in Poland. However he’s sure his shall be a greater destiny than those that return. On twenty third February, the day earlier than the battle started, his son’s spouse gave delivery in a Polish hospital.
“I inform to all of the boys going again what they’re signing up for,” Nikolai says. “No one will be capable to defend them.”
However over the previous days, the Ukrainian military has been profitable in deterring Russian forces attacking its fundamental cities. In response to stories, purposes from people who find themselves eager about becoming a member of the combat are processed slowly. There are sufficient troopers resisting the enemy.
“Since 2014 we’ve seen a rebirth of patriotism in Ukraine, folks opened their eyes,” says Alexander, the 38-year-old who lived in Estonia. “We’ve realised that Russia is just not white and fluffy. It may solely deliver destruction.”