At 23, German has a round face, frank eyes, a slender body and his ex-wife’s name tattooed on his arm. “Let’s not dwell on that! », he blushed in front of his Ukrainian fiancée. I met him in a park in the city of Kharkiv (northeast) where he was on leave. Platoon leader at the International Defense Legion of Ukraine, he was returning from the hospital where he had visited one of his men, a French-speaking, Belgian or French, he did not want to tell us. He just sighed that he was in a coma from an injury. He has done well so far, just a hole in his cheek, memory of a mine that blew up his vehicle.
German loves adventure and causes beyond him. After enlisting in the army of his country, Estonia, he wanted to see the country, lived in the United States, then got hired as a beach lifeguard in Australia. It was from there that he followed on his television the beginnings of the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than three months ago: “I no longer slept. My family is of Russian origin, so when I saw the injustice of this war that fell on the Ukrainian people, I could not sit idly by. »
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At the beginning of March, he got in touch with the Ukrainian Embassy in Estonia and joined the International Legion created by kyiv. After a little training in a camp near Lviv (west), he was immediately parachuted into the heart of the fighting. Convivial and polyglot, he learned a few rudiments of French at school and sympathizes with the hundred French-speakers who make up the Ukrainian International Legion. He remembers Wilfried Blériot, the 32-year-old Frenchman from Bayeux (Calvados), who died of an injury after a Russian bombardment, his courage in combat, his dedication to serving the Ukrainian cause.
“Me, it’s too late”
To listen to him, the French are very numerous to have joined the International Legion: “There are a lot of Parisians, Marseillais, and also fighters who come from small villages. » Some have terrible injuries. He saw amputees, cripples, but we don’t talk about it too much so as not to break the morale of others. According to Mykhaïlo Podoliak, senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky whom “the Obs” met, the Ukrainian army is losing up to 200 soldiers a day on the eastern fronts. But the much higher number of war cripples is not communicated… We meet them on the trains returning from the front, dragging their limbs, deafened by the bombardments, their mouths broken, their eyes empty.
Today, German asserts that there are no more “amateurs” in the International Legion: “All the young people who had come to Ukraine out of idleness or because they had played too many video games left. » To listen to the stories of ex-legionnaires, skimming was done in April during fierce fighting northwest of Mykolaiv, a city in the south of the country. It was during this battle that an American legionnaire, a former veteran of the Marines, died in circumstances not revealed by the army but which traumatized his comrades.
What is certain is that, lacking batteries to power their radios, the legionnaires had to communicate by WhatsApp. Soon after, Russian artillery pounded their positions. Since then, the legionnaires no longer communicate on anything. Neither on the areas where they are deployed, nor on their injuries, nor on their real names. Except German, who told me on Facebook: “Me, it’s too late, the Russians spotted me. Every day, they send me death threats on the networks. » Is the young man afraid of death? ” Obviously. But I’m ready. Saving Ukraine is a just cause to die. »