You see a soldier. But behind a soldier can be all men. A combatant is seen, matched to all his peers by a uniform that hides, in truth, his true identity. Soldiers are seen, but each one is a different story. There are graduates, teachers, engineers, carpenters, students.
Mykhailo Liakh is sitting in front of Clarion in a cafeteria in a fashionable neighborhood of kyiv that is slowly recovering its pre-war rhythm. She wears a sweatshirt that says: “Me? Sacarcastic? Never”. She is 25 years old. He looks like a hipster. Not a soldier.
But Myk, as he asks to be called, is preparing to go to fight. He failed his history studies and decided to enter the Ukrainian Army to receive military training.
He is convinced that his time has come, even though his mother worries. He worries but he understands: no one is opposed in this invaded country to any citizen of legal age deciding to take up arms to defend the Homeland.
Myk did not fight until now, but in October last year he started training, to do more sport, to get strong. She stopped drinking alcohol. He intensified his training in all aspects: military history, combat techniques, work with psychologists. It is striking because Myk, without uniform, sitting on the sidewalk, is a young man of the world, a trendy citizen, it doesn’t matter if he is from kyiv or New York.
Mykhailo Liakh Ukrainian volunteer soldier, like a civilian. Photo Sergio Araujo, sent by Clarín
But Myk shares Clarion a photo of him as a soldier. And you see a soldier. A cadre prepared for war, prepared even for survival, to defend itself and eventually to kill. Do you think so? Do you think you can kill or be killed?
Myk rehearses a response: “Being afraid is normal, it would be abnormal if I were not afraid. Having anxiety is also natural. We work with a team of military psychologists with whom they are evaluated and discussed about different situations. Of course we talk about everything that can happen to us and we believe that the only way to prepare for it is in this way”, says the young man.
Military service in Ukraine is compulsory. But those who are in a study situation may not do so. Myk hadn’t done it because of his history courses and like so many young I also believed that it was something that was useless.
“It was something very questionable. Those who did the compulsory service lost a year of their life and left without even having learned to shoot a gun or received real military training. But it is true that from 2014 things began to change. It must be said that this war has been going on for 8 years, not that it started in February. In February a new stage began, but the war really began in 2014-2015. So, Russia took us by surprise and the first occupation was a massacre, many of our people died. Since then, military training became serious. That is why Ukraine is showing signs, this time, of knowing how to fight”, says Myk and he stops looking like a hipster.
Myk knows that by the time he is in a position to go to war, he will finallythe conflict will have entered a new moment. Now the war is entering the stage of chronification.
Mykhailo Liakh, already in his Ukrainian soldier clothes. Photo Sergio Araujo, sent by Clarín
It is consolidating over time, becoming lethargic, with severe battles in the eastern cordon and increasingly destructive bombardments in Odessa, the pearl of the Black Sea. Everything indicates that Russia will continue with its expansive plans on these two fronts in the country and that possibly a time of greater calm is approaching for the rest of Ukraine.
The capital kyiv and the cities of the West are already experiencing a scenario, not post-war, but of recovered dynamics, even with refugees returning to their homes.
Then, in the last few days, a word has appeared that is pronounced by both local analysts and the soldiers themselves. On the front, as you can see Clarion in the last days. Or on the street, as Myk will now say. Or as even the top local officials say. The word is counteroffensive.
Mykhailo Liakh hopes to go to the front lines soon. Photo Sergio Araujo, sent by Clarín
Is Ukraine already thinking of a counteroffensive, not to retake villages and gain land, but to definitively expel the Russians from the country? Is a massive operation of magnitude possible? If possible, when is it that it could happen? “At first it was believed that the invasion had to be stopped. Now they are thinking not only about stopping and expelling the invaders, but also about recovering Crimea and Donbas”summarize the experts in one line.
It is officially what is thought. This Tuesday, who made these ideas public was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba. He said that if Ukraine wins the war, he would like to reconquer all of its occupied territories.
“In the first months of the war, victory for us looked like the withdrawal of Russian troops to the positions they held until February 24, and retribution for the damage caused. Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and we won the battle for Donbas, which will be decisive for the further dynamics of the war, then, of course, victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the remaining territories”, he said in an interview with the Financial Times.
Very ask for a coffee. She is asked about the counteroffensive. She is very clear about it.
“There are certain things that I cannot tell. But the training I am receiving also involves learning to handle secret codes that are key to the country’s security and to any type of action. But no one hides that there is talk of a large-scale counteroffensive. I cannot deny that for us now the victory is even to recover the zones occupied since before this stage of the war. And I am aware that perhaps it is my turn to fight in that counteroffensive, I think I am preparing myself for that,” says the future soldier.
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon in a trendy neighborhood of kyiv. It no longer looks like the same besieged city. It’s like I’m out of quarantine. Everything moves, the street vibrates, the people are beautiful. A few meters from Myk, a young blond soldier asks for a vermouth and lights up a cigar. He is determined to relax. Perhaps it comes from the fight, like so many paid ones that are seen walking around the city these days.
“He’s my friend -says Myk-, he also studies history and did the same as me. He felt the call of his country and enlisted in the territorial defense. Surely we will be part of the counteroffensive.”