Dispatches from a Few Rows Back from the Front
A soldier's journey to Ukraine
We still read daily reports about the war in Ukraine, even if coverage in the US has softened. But it is very difficult to grasp the texture of the experience of war from even the best news reports. For those of us lucky enough never to have experienced war firsthand, it can be hard to grasp exactly what its victims go through and what drives those who seek it out.
I recently received a series of emails from Haim Shweky, a TGS fan who has made the startling decision to take a leave of absence from his job, pack up his apartment, and travel to Ukraine in order to join the fight against Russia. His dispatches recount his trip from his home through Poland and into Ukraine. Haim’s vivid descriptions bring this journey to life—it’s a true insider’s account of the excitement, uncertainty, discomfort, and boredom that attend what he regards as a mission.
With Haim’s permission, I present some (lightly edited) excerpts from his emails. He’s promised to continue writing when he is able, so you can expect to see the continuation of this saga soon.
I write you from Warsaw. As of the next week, I’ll be writing from Ukraine as a volunteer in that country’s indefatigable people’s army. The plan is to contribute about a month’s stint, if they will allow it, before finally heading back to New Jersey in late August to visit family (after a three year absence). I plan, of course, to write of these experiences.
I’ve decided to take indefinite leave from my current job to travel, as I’ve always wanted. With an open schedule facing me, my thoughts turned to Ukraine. I have time, I have experience, and I like to think I have some discriminating sense of right and wrong (there is such a thing). It was thus a simple decision to resolve to join the Foreign Legion.
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