Ukraine: The Russian army against a bunch of grandmothers

This feels less to me like a war of one country against another than of the Russian army versus a bunch of defenseless grandmothers…

This message from a friend who is volunteering as a medic in Ukraine showed up in my Inbox the other day…

Yes, I’ve been in Ukraine since the beginning of May. I’m a medic, as I was in the Navy. You asked about my safety. “Safe” is a very relative concept… When I’m not in the field, my morning routine consists of making a cup of coffee, grabbing a pack of cigarettes, and then sitting on the balcony to watch the morning rocket attack on my entirely residential neighborhood. I say “morning rocket attack” because there has been one almost every day since I got here. Probably sounds horrifying, but since the only people carrying guns around here are soldiers, I actually feel safer in the city than I do in the US.  When I’m in the field, it’s a different story. I mostly do evacuations of civilians from the front. The Russians enthusiastically shell refugee collection points and clearly marked emergency vehicles, and evacuating civilians from the front means going to refugee collection points in clearly marked emergency vehicles. As it happens, I have a relatively high tolerance for danger, so although it’s certainly not “safe,” that’s fine. What’s not OK is that because the Russians hit those places and vehicles so hard, and by this point a large proportion of the people who have not yet left the front are old folks, this feels less to me like a war of one country against another than of the Russian army versus a bunch of defenseless grandmothers…

English notes

in the field: In a military context, this means being out doing whatever it is that you do. Examples:

  • Your service member is headed out into the field and it looks like the entire military gear issuing office is located in your living room. No matter what their training mission might be, they will want to prepare and pack a few things for the field that will make things a little bit easier while they are “work camping.” These are things that have been suggested by actual service members who have been in the field for countless hours, days, weeks, and even months. Source: 35 things every service member needs for the field, from the Daily Mom web site.
  • A good razor with a shave gel that protects throughout the day is key for a service member who is shaving in the field. Source: the Daily Mom web site.


The picture at the top of this post shows old women sheltering in the basement of the refugee collection point in Lysychansk, in the Donbass region, during an artillery strike. My friend spent the attack outside, listening to debris bounce off of his helmet with every hit. The Russians eventually flattened the collection point.
The picture is a screen shot from this video by documentary filmmaker Marharyta Kurbanova, a member of my friend’s team.

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