How Ukrainian Army rejection failed to stop volunteer defending his homeland

War in the Donbas

Despite being rejected from official recruitment offices, many of Ukraine’s most determined fighters find new ways to serve their country — sometimes on the frontline itself. Vasyl Danchuk, who goes by the nom de guerre “movie”, works in the movie industry, where he manages a lighting crew on film sets. He took an active part in the Euromaidan Revolution, and when Russia’s war in eastern Ukraine began more than three years ago. He was called to serve.

“They took Crimea, and the war started. I naturally got the draft letter. I rode up to the drafting center in my BMW Z3, and just said, “I’m ready to serve! Send me out!” It was pretty emotional,” says Vasyl.

He received another letter calling him to serve in Ukraine’s Armed forces in the winter of 2015:

“After New Year, I came back to the drafting center with my second letter. I was going through the checkup, and a surgeon wanted to reject me because of a gland problem. I was there for two days. I ran, jumped, but the problem with my glands was still an issue. They told me they couldn’t take people with gland problems. They told me I wasn’t good enough.”

Vasyl’s third attempt to serve also ended in failure, but he preserved. Vasyl decided to follow an easier route by joining a volunteer battalion:

“I called the guy, and you could hear the shooting in the background. I told him that I was given his number. He was a nice guy. He told me, come on down to the base.”

Vasyl was at the base in less than a month, where he went through intense training. He was then sent directly to the frontline in the Donetsk region:

“The first day while I was coming up to my position, the separatists noticed we were driving, and I started firing. I was sitting in the car thinking, “***! This is it!” I was thinking I wouldn’t get to my position because of those fanatics. I was just sitting on my legs, and I could feel the shockwaves through the doors.”

Vasyl ended up staying in the conflict zone for a year and a half. Being on the front line, he often came under attack from the Russian-led forces:

“It was like a movie. I would hear things like “we’re going to shoot you”. I saw things too. I could see the road into Donetsk. I would tell my guys like, “okay you’re about to see a car. As soon as you do, fire.” and then I’d hear an explosion.”

After receiving a concussion, Vasyl went straight to a hospital. As soon as he got better he returned to the frontline:

“The Russians are coming in large numbers, and now, in my opinion, there are a lot of professionally trained Russian soldiers there. They pay them pretty well too.”

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