Australia

From Adelaide to Ukraine: What drove an Australian to join another country’s war? | | Ukraine

Matt Roe is devastated when he discovers that his medical condition prevents him from enlisting in the Australian Army.

“It took me years to get over it…even if I did,” says the South Australian landscaper.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do.”

But now, 36-year-old Law has found another way. Although potentially illegal, she is to leave Australia and join the Georgian National Corps, a force formed to support Ukraine’s struggle against Russian aggression.

Lo is neither Georgian nor Ukrainian.

he grew up in the northeast Adelaideand in many ways he said he was “living the dream”, earning good money as the owner of a small gardening and landscaping business.

But when the war began, footage and reports from Ukraine kept Law up at night.

“It really ate me just coming home and sitting there… drinking beer and enjoying the three-day weekend. [there] was suffering. ”

“I like to stick my neck out, take risks and have a strong sense of right and wrong,” says Roe.

This wasn’t the first time he felt he had to volunteer for someone else’s match.

“When the war with Isis began, I wanted to do the same – I was thinking of joining the Peshmerga. [the Kurdish armed forces fighting Islamic State] Back then. ”

Roe says one image finally broke any hesitation about going to Ukraine.

“There was a particular press video of this family that I saw. They were carrying this girl. She was probably about six or seven years old. She was killed.”

“That was the moment I said, ‘No, that’s it.’

“Russians will see me as a mercenary”

Sarah Percy, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Queensland, has researched and written extensively on the role of mercenaries and unconventional combatants. She says that men who sign up to fight abroad often find that they are very different from what they imagined themselves to be.

“War is glorified very effectively for young men, especially when a cause is involved,” she says.

“Certainly … in Syria they often ended up there completely horrified by the reality of war.”

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “had all the hallmarks of a conflict that draws people together and fights for someone else.”

“There’s a clear aggressor, there’s a fair amount of charismatic leadership that’s fighting back, there’s a sense that ideals are really at stake, and there’s important ideals. That’s what drives people.”

“I like to stick my head out,” says Matt Roe, shot in Ukraine.

March, President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyannounced the formation of the International Corps, and tens of thousands of people responded from around the world, including an estimated 200 or so Australians.Some, like Roe, had little or no military experience, others likewise. Some faced legal hurdles for

One British recruit said he was stopped at the airport as he was leaving. he said he could be arrested for terrorism When he returned, the signal from the British government was ambiguous.In February, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: She would “absolutely” support anyone who volunteered to fightbut her fellow minister, Grant Shaps, later emphasized that it was illegal to do so It warned potential volunteers to risk worsening the situation in Ukraine.

Roe traveled to Ukraine with a 23-year-old Melburnian whom he met on Reddit. Before leaving, he sold his landscaping business for “about 20% of its value.”

By the time they arrived, both had several kilos of body armor, were severely sleep deprived, and were unknown to the Australian government despite concerted efforts to leave the country undetected. I got

Australian law makes it a crime to “enter a foreign country with the intent to engage in hostile activity, except to serve in or serve in the armed forces of a foreign government”, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment. There are penalties.

The foreign ministry declined to comment on Mr Low’s case or the application of the law to those who have gone to war in Ukraine. advice on Ukraine page on the government’s Smartraveller website It doesn’t refer to the law, it just says “Don’t travel”.

Dr Carrie McDougal, a University of Melbourne academic and former assistant director of the international law section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the country’s definition of the armed forces had not yet been tested and could undoubtedly extend to the Georgian National Corps. says.

Even if a court upholds a narrow interpretation, a crime can only be committed when there is intent or actual engagement in “hostile activity,” such as an attempt to overthrow a government. increase.

The decision to prosecute will also require the consent of the Attorney General, meaning the impact of the prosecution on Australia-Ukraine relations may be taken into account.

McDougal said: “I think a strong case could be made that the exception rather than the rule would be that those who fought for the Ukrainian military or related organizations would be caught for the crime of aggression by foreigners in Australia.”

Roe said he knew he would have to consider what would happen if he wanted to return to Australia, but said questions about the legality of his actions were “not the most important thing for me at the moment”. I’m here.

“The important thing for me at the moment is that Ukraine wins.”

There is also a rather pressing problem of Russians. The consequences of legal action in Australia pale in comparison to the daily risks in Ukraine.

At least one Australian who participated in the International Legion was killed in action. Mick O’Neill, another inexperienced Tasmanian, was killed in a Russian mortar attack on the outskirts of Kharkov on 24 May. Australian reported.

The possibility of being taken prisoner is not so scary.

“[The Russians] They’ll see me as a mercenary,” Law says. “He will be put to death.”

at least two British reportedly face the death penalty After being captured during a battle with the Ukrainian army.

Missile attacks and untrained volunteers

Roe arrived in Ukraine at an unfavorable time for future foreign fighters.

Many deserted in haste after a missile attack on a base used by fledgling international forces just 10km from the Polish border.

“During that bombing, there were a lot of people in the International Legion who had their rifles on them and they were running towards the Polish border,” Law says. and tried to cross the border with 500, 600 rounds of ammunition. ”

After that, the policy of the Ukrainian government changed dramatically. Volunteers were welcome, but had to prove their mettle before they could be trusted to fight.

“We were all pretty pissed off,” Law says of finding out he wouldn’t fight. “A good number of people… just left.”

Law stayed. He enlisted in the Georgian National Legion and was trained as a military instructor despite his own inexperience.

Since then Roe has been training boys and men in the central regions of Ukraine. Often, she is the only instruction she receives before being sent to the front lines.

“You’re going to be like… ‘How many people shot rifles here?'” There are like 100 people and two hands go up,” Roe says. “Unfortunately, we lost quite a few people we trained. But it’s better than nothing…and you can see how much difference it makes.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Kyiv in July and met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Kyiv in July to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky encouraged the formation of an international corps, but the Ukrainian government restricted its actions after the first few weeks of the war. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

When Roe arrived in Lviv in late March, the Russians were still continuing their northwestern offensive through Belarus with the goal of capturing Kyiv.

Lviv, through which most aid to Ukraine passes, was regularly bombarded.

“For the first few days when the siren went off, you noticed it and ran to that shelter,” says Roe. “But over time, everything will be normal.”

Russia had launched its first missile strike in Kyiv in almost a month when the Guardian spoke to Low. His reaction, he says, was a far cry from his first few days in the country.

“Yesterday… we were just out. We went to the museum.

“Missile sirens are blaring, rockets are exploding … But you can’t just be inside. A missile can hit someone, even if you are in your apartment, just as if you were out in Kyiv. are the same

“He’s doing what feels right”

Sarah Percy notes that her research shows that those who go to war often have no easy path back to civilian life, and that exposure to war can have lasting consequences for both individuals and those around them. It may affect

“We can certainly speculate as to whether it can reduce people’s barriers to the use of violence,” she says.

While the current Royal Commission on Defense and Veterans Suicide has focused a great deal of attention on the importance of post-conflict mental health treatment, those outside that structure are seeking opportunities for institutional support. You risk losing it.

“One of the dangers of talking to yourself is that you’re doing it outside the state umbrella meant to care for people with PTSD,” she says.

“That’s one of the risks you take. There’s no one there to pick up the pieces.”

Back in Adelaide, the idea of ​​how Law will readjust is far from the first consideration for sister Ali, 36, who anxiously awaits news of her brother.

She says he’s one of her best friends, but she doesn’t know if or when she’ll see him again.

When she talks about Matt’s motives, his sister speaks in terms of purpose.

“You have a purpose in life and you feel that purpose very strongly. [Matt’s] I never felt calm, never truly happy. Because he couldn’t do what he always knew he had to do. ”

For better or worse, she says, he found his purpose in Ukraine.

“It’s hard… it’s really hard. But… for the first time, he’s doing what feels right.”

From Adelaide to Ukraine: What drove an Australian to join another country’s war? | | Ukraine

Source link From Adelaide to Ukraine: What drove an Australian to join another country’s war? | | Ukraine

Back to top button