Members of Ukraine's Foreign Legion Explain Why They Volunteered for Battle

A need to “do something” was among the key reasons given by volunteer foreign fighters talking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about why they joined Ukraine’s International Legion.

Footage published by the outlet on July 11 shows three volunteers — two from the United States and one from the United Kingdom — discussing what made them travel to the beleaguered east European country to fight against Russian invading forces.

“I was watching the war with my family when it first started and thinking, ‘Someone needs to do something,’” Aaron, an American volunteer, says. “And then when the children’s hospital at Mariupol got shelled, I realized ‘someone’ is me.”

Ryan, another American volunteer, says for him, joining Ukraine’s armed forces was about staying connected to the country.

“I understood that at this moment, with what was going to happen in this country with the war, that my friends and other Ukrainians and I would be on different paths, that if I wanted to stay a part of that world, if I wanted to stay with them, I would have to fight with them as well,” he tells RFE/RL.

Just days after Russia’s February 24 invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the formation of the foreign legion, prompting governments around the world to warn their citizens against partaking in the conflict. Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via Storyful

Video transcript

- I was watching the war with my family when it first started and thinking, well, someone needs to do something. And then, when the Children's Hospital at Mariupol got shelled, I realized someone is me. Well, my wife was already a soldier, so she-- and she's very religious, so she understood the idea of moral duty.

My daughter took it hard. She didn't want to say, goodbye, to. Me when it happened. But I would like to believe she's proud of what I'm doing, and I'm looking forward to winning this so I can go back and hug her.

- From the first day, I watched the build-up. My girlfriend was away at the time. So for the four days after I was waiting for her to get home, I just-- I didn't sleep, and I was angry. I just felt a pull towards having to come here. Like, I think it's the right thing to do. I think more people-- more of the world should be here.

Quite often. I would say at least once a week. Sometimes we go quiet for a couple of weeks. But they know that I'm good. I've told them that, if I was to die, then they'd find out very quickly. So a couple of weeks here and there is fine.

- I understood that, at this moment, with what was going to happen in this country with the war, that my friends and other Ukrainians and I would be on different paths, and that, if I wanted to stay a part of that world, if I wanted to stay with them, I would have to fight with them as well.

- I've come pretty close to death a number of times. So we can't not think about death. It's impossible not to. I've had mortars that would have hit me but they hit trees instead.

We've talked about what would happen if we're tortured, but it doesn't change your sense of moral duty. Whatever happens to us-- that doesn't change anything. We still need to be here because it's the right thing to do.

Crane really needs is artillery, rocket-- long-range artillery, HIMARS systems. My friends were being shot with tanks and artillery. And the reason we survived that ambush is because we were able to call in a strike from a donated M777, which is an American artillery piece. Literally, that saved my life and the life of my friends. So please, if you-- just-- everywhere-- all of them-- send them here. We need them.

- Every Ukrainian I've met is incredibly skilled, dedicated, and also seemingly a little bit crazy in a brave way. The troops on the ground are bloody brilliant, and they're great. Keep supplying me-- supplying them with what they need and they will get the job done.

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