How the Ukrainian military advocated for arms issues in the USA

How the Ukrainian military advocated for arms issues in the USA
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“We were not born for war. We were born with a sense of freedom and justice” – with these words, each of the four Ukrainian soldiers begins their story. Andriana, Roman, Ihor and Petro have come to the United States of America to spend a week meeting with local government officials, legislators and influential people, advocating for arms for Ukraine. 

They are ordinary Ukrainians. In the days before this life of service, some of them worked in businesses, some were businessmen themselves, some were studying and building a career. These were lives lived with their loved ones, but today, they have embarked on a journey to safeguard freedom for all Ukrainians, for it has become a matter of honor. Read on to learn how their military advocacy was conducted.

This war is like a movie where I play a role

“Yes, it’s the German Marshall Fund of the United States. That’s the place,” says Ukrainian Marine Corps veteran Roman Tychkivskyy. We enter a large downtown building in the American capital. The foundation’s press officer opens the heavy iron door. After a few minutes’ break, we get started.

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Each of the four Ukrainian defenders who have come to the United States tells their story and shares their experience of serving.

Andriana Arekhta is a senior sergeant in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. She’s also a leader in the Ukrainian Women’s Veteran Movement. Her story on the battlefield started in 2014. Andriana has a lot of experience of working with American weapons. She was also among the soldiers who liberated Kherson. It was in that battle that Andriana was injured, and she has been fighting for her life for eight months, learning to walk, eat, and drink again.

 

Daria Kaleniuk, Igor Semak, Roman Tychkivskyy Petro Koshukov Andriana Arekhta are giving press conference in The German Marshall Fund of the United States

All photos provided by Uliana Boichuk

With vivid, sparkling eyes, she calls for an expansion in the provision of American armaments to Ukrainian soldiers. Ukrainian soldiers need even more American weapons, Andriana says. Today, this is crucial, because Ukrainian defenders are putting their bodies out there on the battlefield for the freedom of the whole world. These soldiers, safeguarding the freedoms of the entire world with their unwavering devotion and sacrifices, need unwavering support from the US Congress. As a senior sergeant in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Andriana’s appeal is poignant. “If we fail to provide Ukrainian soldiers with weaponry now, the defenders of democracy and liberty who are laying their lives on the line will be depleted. Who will safeguard my son’s freedom then?”

Petro Koshukov is bursting with pride. One of his sons is fighting alongside him to defend Ukraine from the Russians. Petro’s older son is a drone operator, and Petro doesn’t hold back his emotions. “I don’t want my younger son to experience the harsh realities of war. We must emerge victorious, because victory is synonymous with freedom.” A common vision of victory in both the United States and Ukraine is vital to this cause.

 

Ukrainian defender Petro Koshukov

Military serviceman Igor Semak has a deeply personal incentive for fighting in this war. His mother experienced the grim reality of occupation in the Kherson region, and the story he tells is about the torture and murder of civilians by the Russians there during the occupation.

“We are not fighting for territory, but for the people who are there. They want freedom, and this is the main reason for our fight. Personal freedom of dignity is what democracy is,” Igor says.

“Our battle is against brutal terrorism, and we cannot defeat it until our country achieves freedom!” says Roman Tychkivskyi, a veteran of the Marines of Ukraine. He adds that when he joined up, there was no question of  spending time learning about military theory. “We just accepted the challenge,” says Roman in a calm voice.

 

Daria Kaleniuk, Igor Semak, Roman Tychkivskyy  Andriana Arekhta Petro Koshukov meeting American Senator

Ukraine’s south is hell on the battlefield

Andriana is lost for words, overwhelmed by the heart-wrenching words of her 8-year-old son, who asked whether she could remember when they were a complete family. “When I come home and see my son, he asks me, ‘Mom, do you remember how we used to be a family?’ (my husband and I are both fighting). I don’t know the answer, because it’s like I’m in a movie where I’m an actress, and my main role is to win this war in memory of those who have been killed in it. And what will definitely help us to do this is weaponry that is now critically needed for Ukraine.” Andriana is unwavering in her plea for an increased supply of weapons for Ukraine – a dire necessity at this crucial juncture.

 

Andriana Arekhta and Roman Tychkivskyy talk to American Senator

Andriana is preparing to report to US government officials that Ukraine’s south is hell on the battlefield. “The reason why we can’t move quickly in the south is the lack of weapons. Time is not on our side now, and there are huge numbers of Russian soldiers on the battlefield.” When she’s asked about her dreams, her response is stark: there are no dreams left. The Russians have stripped them away, along with her ordinary life, her role as a brand manager at a foreign company, her motherhood, and the traveling she once loved.

Ukrainian Armed Forces serviceman Petro Koshukov had grappled with uncertainty about whether he was prepared to take lives in war. But all traces of doubt vanished after the full-scale invasion in February 2022. 

“In general, since February 2022, I realized that everything I did before that is irrelevant and my participation in the defense of my country is what I have to do. Everything else is trifles,” Petro says. “I served in the Soviet army in the 80s. I hated the army and never thought I would serve again.” Petro received a master’s degree in the US in the 2000s. Since 2014, he has been helping foreign journalists to write about Ukraine, to spread the word about the war. He also traveled to Crimea with journalists before the annexation.

 

Ukrainian military meeting with Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and volunteers from Arizona

To stand as partners and learn the lessons of war

“I participated in the Revolution of Dignity and was wounded in February 2014. I had a knapsack on my back with reading materials for the American Constitution in it. When the grenade exploded, one of the fragments that was heading for my heart got stuck in a printout of the American Constitution. This is a red thread running through my whole life,” Igor Semak said at a meeting of military personnel.

Before the war, Igor worked as a prosecutor at the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU). When asked for a key argument about corruption in Ukraine, Igor says the answer is clear: “Ukrainians are fighting against corruption just as they are fighting against the Russians. Even the fact of talking about it means that the facts are not being silenced and they become public. And just making corruption public is combating it. Do you ever remember that amount of talk about corruption earlier?” Igor asks rhetorically.

 

 Daria Kaleniuk, Roman Tychkivskyy  Petro Koshukov Igor Semak, Andriana Arekhta meeting American Senator

“We are experiencing a real war of the free world against totalitarianism, which is rapidly increasing. That’s why it’s very important for Americans and their government to support Ukraine in our fight,” says Petro Koshukov.

“Our partners should also learn lessons from Ukraine and enhance their capabilities so that they are prepared to combat this threat and these terrorists anywhere in the world. When the war is over, Ukraine will be a nation of dependable individuals. But give us the weapons to win this war!” Roman Tychkivskyy says.

By Uliana Boichuk

Edited by Teresa Pearce


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