In Ukraine, the People’s Army consists of Rock Stars, TV Hosts and Playwrights

Dancer Oleksiy Potyomkin is expected to dance across the stage of the Opera House this month as the prince in the ballet “Lileya,” a Ukrainian classic. Instead, he took a gun and a medical kit and joined the resistance against the invading Russian army.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have taken up arms or sought to support a nationwide resistance movement against Moscow’s offensive, which Kyiv says has left thousands of Ukrainian airmen dead.

Dancer Oleksiy Potyomkin joined the defense forces in Odessa at the beginning of the war.


Oleksiy Potyomkin

The broad mobilization included people from all walks of life, including celebrities from playwrights to legislators, rock singers and TV presenters, who gathered to defended the country’s independence, as Russian troops surrounded and attacked Ukrainian cities.

Mr Potyomkin, 33, said: “There were all kinds of civilians serving with me. “We are united by wanting to do something useful rather than sitting at home wasting time.”

Some, like Mr. Potyomkin, have picked up weapons. Others are raising troops and working in medical stations. Still others are sending the world information, pictures and videos of what’s going on.

In the western part of the country, far from the front lines, people gathered food and medicine and sent them east in cars, loaded with women and children. Women make camouflage nets and knit headbands.

One prominent casualty was Pasha Li, a film actor and TV presenter who was killed in shelling on the front lines on 6 March, days after joining a guard battalion. territory. But that did not discourage others.

Serhiy Prytula, a comedian and TV presenter who runs a charity that supplies equipment and supplies to Ukrainian soldiers, said: “Putin’s biggest mistake is that he thinks he thinks they will fight the Ukrainian army or some ‘nationalists”. “They fight the whole nation.”


Pasha Li, a film actor and TV presenter, was killed earlier this month, days after joining a battalion defending the territory.


@ pashaleeofficial / Zuma Press

Mr. Prytula said he was receiving grants from Ukraine and around the world and ordering equipment in neighboring Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as further afield in Spain and Australia.

He began helping the army in 2014 when Russia first invaded, gaining the trust of other Ukrainians who saw him visit soldiers in the trenches on the front lines and provide aid. aid them.

On Tuesday, he ordered 2,000 helmets and bulletproof vests for $2 million. Another organization purchased drones and night vision goggles for the military. The soldiers responded with gifts of their own: Mr. Prytula’s office is now decked out with a fragment of a Russian fighter jet that a unit recently shot down.


What surprised you and inspired the resistance in Ukraine? Join the conversation below.

Ukraine’s volunteers say the country’s basic protest force is strong and flexible and will be difficult to break.

Maksym Kurochkin, one of Ukraine’s most famous playwrights, who joined a battalion defending the territory on the second day of the war, said: “This is an army of free men, one by one. don’t be afraid to be proactive.

He said people carrying weapons include businessmen, taxi drivers, journalists, designers and programmers.


Maksym Kurochkin, one of Ukraine’s most famous playwrights, joined a battalion defending the territory on the second day of the war.


Christopher Occhicone for The Wall Street Journal

This is an approach that was first honed in 2014, when protests against government corruption prompted a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee the country.

Protesters have set up a tent city in Kyiv’s central square and defended it from attacks by police and pro-government thugs. After Mr. Yanukovych left, Russia invaded and occupied parts of the country. Volunteers poured into the front lines to fight and supply the weak army at that time.

The most famous person defending Ukraine is President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian and actor. His transformation into a wartime leader has been welcomed by pro-Ukrainian foreign governments and even his critics.

“He was really brave,” said Prytula, who entered politics on his own a few years ago worried about Zelensky’s direction for the country. “It is good for all Ukrainians that he stays in Kyiv. He is like a lighthouse to us. I agree with him that we will fight to the last bullet.”


Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the outskirts of Kyiv on Saturday.


Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press


Andriy Khvilyuk, from rock group BoomBox, was supposed to tour the US, but was instead helping police patrol Kyiv.


Efrem Lukatsky / Associated Press

Andriy Khvilyuk, from rock group BoomBox, was supposed to tour the US, but instead she is helping police patrol Kyiv and posting regular updates on Facebook.

A video of him singing the capella version of a Ukrainian folk song with a rifle in his chest in front of St. Sophia went viral.

In a recent video, he speaks to fans in Russia, where his group stopped touring in 2014 after Moscow first invaded. “We are waiting for you in every house, in every window,” he said, speaking in Russian. “The last, oldest granny will beat you with a ladle, with a shovel, to try to kill you.”

Mr. Potyomkin, the dancer, joined the defense in Odessa at the start of the war under the command of a friend, a veteran of his guerrillas, the Samurai. They patrol their district, looking for anything or anyone suspicious. After evacuating his family to Lviv in the west, Mr. Potyomkin joined a medical team.

“Honestly, it was all scary, but we were always in control of ourselves,” he said.


Volunteers train in territorial defense in Lviv, Ukraine.



Politicians, including former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, are also taking part. Kira Rudik, a lawmaker and former business executive, took up a gun and gathered a group of about a few dozen party members and friends at her home, sleeping on sofas and on the “a bit like camp” floor. summer,” she said.

“I looked at my house, my family, my nest, my cat and realized that everything I love is here,” she said. “Why do I have to leave? Because Putin decided to take what is ours? ”

They train in basic weapon skills in her garden every day with the help of veterans. At first, neighbors were startled until they understood what was happening, she said. Ms Rudik said her gun handling skills are improving and her team works to investigate reports of vandals, help evacuate elderly people or assist in the aftermath of a bomb attack.

Now, she’s trying to keep her group more organized, with breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and dinner at 8:30 p.m. and a strict alcohol ban.

“We were shocked the first few days, now we are reorganizing,” she said. “I am tired of the summer camp situation. We need to be more like an army.”

While Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine, a WSJ video analysis shows Russian forces bombarded homes, schools and evacuation routes – albeit with no military targets. evident in some areas – due to their lack of control over the cities. Photo compilation: Eve Hartley

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