Russian Invasion Met With Heroic Bravery

Dictionaries around the nation need to replace the definition of the word “courage” with a picture of a middle-aged Ukrainian woman holding an AK-47. Or an audio clip of the 13 guardsmen stationed on Snake Island; a young man in a hoodie holding an assault rifle and standing guard by the side of the highway; or President Volodymyr Zelensky standing in front of his nation’s capital building wearing street clothes and telling Vladmir Putin he isn’t going anywhere, that he still stay and defend his country.

Ukraine has been independent yet largely impoverished since it achieved sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1989. Russian leader Putin apparently thought he would send military forces to topple neighboring Ukraine’s government and retake the entire country as part of his empire in less than a day. But he gravely underestimated the citizens of this poverty-stricken nation.

When Russia launched a full-fledged invasion on Ukraine on February 24, it attacked by air, land, and sea. The Ukrainians had known such an invasion was possible for a few weeks and their military responded immediately. Civilians fled if they had the means and ability to get through the miles-long traffic jams and crowded train stations. When escape became too dangerous, moms hid with their kids in bomb shelters and subway stations while all able-bodied men were instructed to stay in the country. 

A government order for men aged 18-60 to stay and fight seemed unnecessary, though. Many Ukrainian men saw their families to safety outside of the greater Kyiv area, the capital city that saw the brunt of the initial attack, then returned to fight. Some of these men (and women) were trained members of the civilian militia, but many were not. The government issued 18,000 rifles to people showing proof of Ukrainian citizenship, then gave them a crash-course in operating the high-powered rifles if necessary.

It’s hard to imagine the courage it requires to take on the Russian army, with its highly trained troops, tanks, bombs, rockets, and stocks of ammunition while wearing a sweatshirt and holding a rifle you’re not quite sure how to operate. Many of the Ukrainians taking up arms and fighting to prevent falling under Russian control remember what life was like when their country was part of the Soviet Union. They would do anything to prevent returning to that way of life and save their children from a lifetime of oppression under Soviet rule. 

These people would rather live free or die. 13 Ukrainian guardsmen stationed on Snake Island proved this when they were approached by a Russian warship early in the invasion and told that if they laid down their weapons, their lives would be spared. In a now-viral video clip, one of the guardsmen immediately replied, “Go f—- yourself.” The Russians bombed the island and all 13 guardsmen were killed. They will be issued the title Hero of Ukraine posthumously. 

Ukrainian President Zelensky posted a video to Twitter on the first night of the ongoing attack on Kyiv where he said he wasn’t going anywhere, even though he was Target Number One for Russian forces. He was elected by a democratic vote and will not desert his countrymen in their time of dire need. Other countries offered him a chance to escape, and he replied that he didn’t need a ride, he needed ammunition. 

After three days of fighting, Russia still had not toppled the Ukrainian government or succeeded in taking a major population center. The fighting will of the entire Ukrainian population is a testament to the importance of democracy and the lengths that good people are willing to go to prevent evil from taking over their way of life.

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