'Will you fight Russia, Dad': In Ukraine, war becomes a family concern

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By Orlando Crowcroft
eople fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine arrive to Przemysl train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.
eople fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine arrive to Przemysl train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.   -   Copyright  Petr David Josek/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Alex, 38, was heading west from Kyiv by car on Friday to find somewhere safe for his wife, son and daughter. Once he had, Alex was heading back to the capital to join the fight against Russia.

As a native of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, this is the second time that Alex has found his home city under attack. Last time, the battle was lost. This time would be different.

“We have no fear. We are not afraid. We see how we are beating the Russians,” he told Euronews over the phone from somewhere in western Ukraine.

“Maybe the Russians have more soldiers but they don’t know what they are fighting for. They were just ordered by Putin to fight. We are defending our land, our cities, our families, our homes.”

For weeks, Alex said, Ukrainians have been preparing for the war that many predicted would come as Russia massed troops on the border and backed the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.

His children, 11 and six, had spent time drawing up evacuation plans with instructions as to which parent should bring the medicine (their mother) and which should bring the food (Alex). On the day of the invasion, his 11-year-old daughter was furiously WhatsApping her school friends.

She looked up from her phone, he recalled, and said: “A lot of my friends, their fathers are fighting back: will you?”

“Of course it is frightening but they’re not scared. They know what needs to be done,” he said.

Russia claimed on Friday that it had taken a major airport seven kilometres northwest of Kyiv and destroyed dozens of military institutions, tanks, drones and aeroplanes. Moscow said that 200 Ukrainian special forces soldiers were killed and that Russia suffered no losses in the attack.

Ukraine has claimed that over 1,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, and Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitscho, said that Russian forces were already in Kyiv.

"Ukrainian military neutralises Russian sabotage groups. The enemy is already in Kyiv. We must keep the capital that the enemy wants to bring to its knees and destroy," he added. He called on residents "to report suspicious objects and marks planted by saboteurs to adjust enemy fire."

Ukraine’s government has been distributing rifles to civilians and sending out instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a call to European civilians to join the fight.

"If you are in Europe and you have military experience and can't look at the indecisiveness of your politicians, then you can come to our country and defend Europe with us, where it's really important now,” he said.

Alex’s family had always spoken both Russian and Ukrainian at home but as of Thursday they made the decision to only speak Ukrainian. “This is what Putin is doing to us,” he said.

Alex says that the European reaction to the crisis does not go far enough, and has called for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. That, he said, is all the Ukrainians will need to beat the Russians and win by force the independence they were granted in 1991.

“Close the skies - and we will do the rest,” he said.