Once Sleepy and Picturesque, Ukrainian villages mobilize for war

KHOMUTYNTSI, Ukraine – Villagers appear like shadows in the headlights of cars and trucks, some carrying guns and others holding sticks, as if they were thugs roaming the streets.

They are local men and women formed into self-defense units in the villages of the Vinnytsya region of central Ukraine, where it is silent and dark when the street lights go out. They stood on the side of the road, under a very low sky with bright stars.

“I am so proud of our people,” said Oksana Mudryk, mayor of the village of Khomutyntsi, about 140 miles southwest of Kyiv, Ukraine. “Our village is very small so I thought, ‘Will we have anyone patrol the streets?’ I thought maybe three would come patrolling with me at most. But in the day after the war started in Kyiv, I registered more than 30 people.”

Most attention in the first days of the war was focused on the major Ukrainian cities, which were prime targets of Russian troop movements and the scene of street battles and raids. fair firecrackers. But in the countryside, an extremist movement is taking place in villages like Khomutyntsi as ordinary Ukrainians – farmers, shopkeepers, day laborers, taxi drivers – take up arms in a battle. The war had abruptly ended their lives.

The mobilization of civilians to fight against seemingly impossible difficulties has been one of the hallmarks of Ukraine’s unexpectedly fierce resistance. And although it may end tragically, Ukrainian officials are proud of the effort.

“The Russian leadership does not understand that it is at war not only with the armed forces of Ukraine, but with the entire Ukrainian people,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said at a news conference on Sunday. “And these people rose up in the liberation struggle, the war of liberation against the occupiers.”

The defiant performances were recorded across the country. In eastern Ukraine, where Russian armored columns have entered towns and villages, some local residents have confronted soldiers with angry words. A man kneels in front of a tank. A Ukrainian woman filmed herself on her phone taunting a Russian soldier by asking him to put sunflower seeds in his pocket, so that when he died in Ukraine, flowers would grow.

In Khomutyntsi, large grassland stretches along The Postolova River is often a place of recreation. Villagers fish in the river all year round and swim there summer. But this weekend, the whole village gathered in the grasslands to build trenches, checkpoints and underground shelters.

Ms. Mudryk was driving on Saturday night to check on her volunteers. She does this several times each night, as patrols guard the road from dusk to dawn.

Why did the Russian army come to Khomutyntsi, a cluster of one-story, whitewashed houses, gardens and dirt roads, with about 400 inhabitants, surrounded by forests and fields? It seems unlikely. But if the Russians come, they won’t be watched by the locals.

“I cried a lot because it was so hard to get used to our new reality,” Ms. Mudryk said. “But I bow my head before our people. Today, we were asked to bring some food help to the soldiers. In two hours, we had loaded a food truck, just from our village. ”

There is bravery, but also great fear. Standing on the street in the dark, the mayor pointed to a star in the sky that seemed to be behaving strangely, worried it might be a Russian drone flying over the village.

Serhiy Osavoliuk, who signed up for patrol duty, said his wife soon followed suit. “My wife, perhaps thinking of controlling me, also signed up,” he said. “Now we patrol together.” The couple went for a walk with a flashlight, stopped the car and checked to see who was inside. Usually, it’s just the locals.

Scenes like this were repeated from village to village to the countryside. Hundreds of locals helped build the fortifications, bringing large sacks out of their homes and filling them with sand.

Many civilians doing support work, like Mr Osavoliuk and his wife, are unarmed, although a few have guns or have requested them. But it seems everyone is doing what they can, hoping that even small actions can help you.

For example, Ukraine’s national road agency ordered the removal of all road signs – to make it more difficult for the Russian military to navigate.

On the road between the towns of Vinnytsia and Kalynivka, the process has begun, providing a new scene than the familiar streets. The sign for the village of Pysarivka disappeared after just five minutes. Volodymyr, a 55-year-old road service worker who did not want to give his last name for safety reasons, said he was driving around knocking down signs. “The important thing is that they get lost,” he said of the Russians.

At Kalynivka, near a large arsenal that the Russian military has targeted several times, local volunteers knit small strips of fabric together from a makeshift camouflage net over their checkpoint. They said there were too many people gathering around the place, making it a potential target. The location they chose was next to a bomb shelter, to hide in if bombs started falling.

Valentyna Rudenko said: “We have come to help our soldiers. “It’s hard to believe it’s happening to us.”

In some places, as in Hushchyntsi, the volunteer effort covers the whole village. About 50 people were piling logs into makeshift bunkers, as children ran and jumped and women prepared homemade meals.

“Get out of the way, you might get hurt, that’s the adult’s job,” one man told children hoping to get involved.

The town square near a recruitment center in Kalynivka was filled with men with duffel bags, and their wives and children coming to say goodbye.

They sat on the stumps and on their bags or stood in groups joking around. Their children feel bored during their father’s long wait were given guns and received instructions.

Those waiting are signed up and ready to go. But there were also new people arriving every minute at the entrance to the square, asking the guards where they should go to check in.

Among them was Volodymyr Varchuk, 67, who rode on a very rudimentary bike “Hey guys, how do I sign up?” he asks. The soldiers looked at each other and asked his age. When Mr. Varchuk answered, a soldier told him to go away and wait until he was called up.

Mr. Varchuk left disappointed. “Young people will be sent to fight, but we old people should protect the town!” he say. “I knew it was going to happen since 2014, we were at war with Russia, obviously they would want to continue.”

People ran in and out of the recruitment center, with bags of food, water, clothes. A woman with two boys who looked to be in their 20s led them to a bench and let them sit down. Then she helps them try on the new shoes she bought for them.

An elderly man named Viktor came to say goodbye to his son. “My soul is restless,” he said. “How would you feel about sending your son into the war?”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Kyiv. Once Sleepy and Picturesque, Ukrainian villages mobilize for war

Fry Electronics Team

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