19-year-old Oles Yarema was on the barricades during the Revolution of Dignity, and he has been undergoing military training for the past five weeks to go to the ATO zone. The young man is from Ternopil oblast, however he cannot remain on the peaceful territory of Western Ukraine: he believes that he will be more useful to the state as part of the Ukrainian volunteer corps Right Sector.
“They teach us the essentials: how to master weapons, tactics in theory and practice, physical education, characteristics of various types of weapons, but most importantly, they teach us the spirit of fraternity, that is to say, that the entire group is responsible for each other,” he shares.
Everyone chipped in to buy military equipment together. Friends, family members and students from Oles’ university bought all the necessary things for him. According to the young man, such patriotism and camaraderie are very characteristic of Western Ukraine.
Volunteer: national consciousness is very developed in the West of Ukraine
“The people in the West are the most patriotic, their national consciousness is developed more than in other regions of Ukraine. And they want to fight for Ukrainian unity, independence and integrity like nobody else,” says Oles.
He says that the events in Maidan made him volunteer in the east, despite the fact that ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘anti-Banderite’ views are prevalent in the East. According to him, the motto East and West together now has an ambiguous meaning. He says the West accepts the East and does not want to separate. But it is disputable just how much the East wants to be together with Ukraine, says Oles.
“The ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ syndrome may remain in some eastern parts of Ukraine, where people partially support it. However, in time it will remain a territorial integral country,” thinks young warrior Oles.
Volunteer: “I am against going a second time”
Another volunteer from Western Ukraine, Dmytro Dakhno, as opposed to Oles, has been disappointed by war. He recently returned from his seven months at the front line within the Lviv brigade number 80. He says that other fighters and himself defended the territories of Luhansk oblasts, as well as Donetsk airport, back when it was a conflict hotspot.
He says he fought not to hand over land to the occupants. He emphasizes that we cannot flee our own soil, it should be defended, and Ukrainian territorial integrity should be preserved regardless of whether one is from the West or East.
Dmytro Dakhno says that when he went to Donbas, he did not imagine that combat would be this intense. He is now worn-out by war, and says that Russian mercenaries will continue to advance to not only preserve the east but take new territories.
“I am against going a second time, because, like many others, I heard that our 80th brigade was sent to the worst place, a big number of our fighters died. It is a war between politicians, it is not our war,” Dmytro shares his experience.
Lviv soldiers fed locals in Donbas
He says that when he was in the east, the Lviv fighters fed the locals numerous times when they lacked food – they tried to defeat “zombifying and Russian propaganda.” He says that humanity somewhat altered the pro-Russian separatists’ attitudes towards people from the west.
“They thought at first that we were Banderites, but when they met us, the understood that we are normal people, that we are not shooting anybody. But they still believe that they will live better in Russia, they don’t want to be part of Ukraine,” he adds.
Expert: Russia has fueled the conflict throughout the past decade
According to social psychologist Oleg Pokalchuk, the arbitrary division between the east and west existed long before the war, however it was more geographical than mental in its nature. However, Pokalchuk adds, Russia acted as the catalyst of this conflict for the past 10-12 years.
“Now this division is normal, as people from Eastern Ukraine fight for Ukraine, for it European future, for our homes and for us, there are people who want to stay in the past, they want to go back to the Soviet Union, they fight against us, they come from Russia and they are the fifth estate both in Central and Western Ukraine all the same,” Pokalchuk adds.
Overall among the dead in the ATO zone, there were most casualties from Dniptropetrovsk, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Donetsk oblast, Slovo and Dilo concluded based on official data.