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EXCLUSIVE. Interview in the trenches of Kharkiv with a veteran of the Foreign Legion fighting against the Russians: “First I thought about posting on Facebook, then I came to participate”

A former Canadian soldier, a driver who had left on his way to Calgary, ended up defending a large Ukrainian city from the Russians that he had never heard of in his life.

On the man’s uniform, next to the flag of Ukraine, a maple leaf shines. It is the symbol of his country: Canada. We are on the front line in Kharkiv, and Matthew McGill is one of the soldiers from 55 countries who have chosen to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainians.

Matthew says he has yet to see his opponent in the eye, the main danger being enemy projectiles

“Out of equipment!” – is the first thing Matthew invokes. “The Legion needs more money for equipment!” he says.

Matthew is 49 years old and a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. Here, in the trenches of Kharkov, they guard the positions of the Russian troops on the opposite bank of the river. The Canadian is part of a scout battalion and deals daily with the threats, risk and adrenaline of bombing.

For him, the enemy has no face, the enemy is the projectiles thrown lethally by both camps, sometimes from tens of kilometers, at the people on the front line. “Actually, I didn’t even look my opponent in the eye. I prick my ear to hear which direction the shot is coming from. If the sound is louder, I jump into the trench.”

He was driving a tanker 8,500 kilometers away

Matthew is a professional driver

McGill recalls how he ended up here, in a nest dug in the sun-scorched earth near the Ukrainian-Russian border, to defend a city that was completely foreign to him. He was at work on February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

A professional driver, he was driving a tanker full of fuel on his way to Calgary. In the days that followed, President Zelenski announced the establishment of the International Legion, and the Canadian veteran felt he wanted to do something for those attacked in this war.

“First I thought about posting on Facebook. Then I realized that I could do more than just donate some money or publish a Facebook post in support of Ukraine,” he says. “I calculated that the military experience I have may come in handy here.”

Matthew has a large family in Canada: two sons, 29 and 4 years old, and a month ago he became a grandfather. Since he left, his loved ones have been waiting for him, even if some disagree with his decision.

Some members of my family were angry with me. They cannot understand why I came here. They worry a lot.

Matthew McGill:

At first it was chaos

He enlisted in March after applying to the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada. Two weeks later he landed in Warsaw. There he was met by Ukrainian volunteers, who took him to a military base in Ukraine, where he trained with other foreign volunteers for a month.

“At first it was a mess. Total lack of discipline! Chaos!”, says Matthew, sparing neither himself nor the organization of the legion he belongs to. “Along the way, we got better! Now we’re really good!”

He says he was close to death when a rocket hit the building he was in. He escaped only with a severe scare and shattered glasses. It was the time when the Russians hunted foreign training centers with missiles from a long distance, normally from their perspective, to discourage enlistments.

“Fortunately, then, at our place, no one was hurt. My whole life passed before my eyes,” the soldier confesses. “It’s a moment that marks you for the rest of your life.”

The trench where Matthew is sheltering

“It’s worse than it looks on the news”

In addition to explosions, there is also the risk of falling into the hands of the enemy. Two Britons and a Moroccan, captured by the Russians in Mariupol, were sentenced to death by a court in Donetsk. The press in Russia writes that two volunteers from the Ukrainian side, who are supposed to be Americans, were taken prisoner in Ukraine. The Russian government considers international fighters mercenaries, which could mean worse treatment if captured. McGill says he is staying in Ukraine until the end of August.

The emblem of Matthew’s battalion

“I think 6 months away from home is enough for me,” he says.

What motivated him? Paradoxically, says the Canadian veteran, the atrocities caused by the Russians made him see more clearly the overall stakes and his own, which brought him and keeps him here for another month full of risks.

“Everything is very serious here. It’s worse than what you see in the news,” claims the military man from the country of the maple leaf. “It’s a war for democracy! I can only thank God that there is no war in Canada and that my dear people are safe”.

We end the discussion, please pay attention. He retreats to the trenches and waits for the sound of the next shell. In the quietness of the valley, you would say that it will never come again.

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Source From: Libertatea

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