18 April, 05:48 PM
Texas paratrooper and Iraq veteran reveals his reasons for protecting Ukraine
During the two months of the war, tens of thousands of foreign volunteers arrived in Ukraine to help its military defend their lands. According to Ukrainian diplomats in the United States, at least 3,000 Americans have joined Ukraine’s cause. One of them is Paul - a paratrooper from Texas. He kept his last name hidden for security reasons but is happy to talk with NV about his experience fighting in Iraq and now in Ukraine, as well as his plans to settle in Kyiv after the war.
NV: Tell me a story about your relationship with Ukraine: how did you come here and why did you decide to stay?
Paul: I was in the American military, but wanted to live in Europe all my life. Therefore, I moved to Kyiv in October 2020 and have gotten residence since then, because I really like the city and the people here. During COVID-19, the restrictions in America were very difficult and they were better for me in Ukraine.
The first time I was here was in October 2014, and the first thing I saw here was the parade of the defenders of Ukraine. So my first impression of Ukraine was patriotism and national pride, which people had in their military and country. It was a great place for an American to move to, so I decided to stay in Kyiv.
I worked at a veteran center here and was helping to teach Ukrainian military veterans English. I made some friends, and they showed me Ukraine - they took me to the Carpathian Mountains, and took me on bicycle adventures across the country.
NV: When the war started and you decided to fight for Ukraine, what was your motivation?
Paul: I was very prepared and ready for war. Many Americans went back to the U.S., but I decided to stay. My friend, an American military journalist here, told me that there would be a war. Therefore, one month ago, I joined a foreign legion military formation, and I started training civilians – teaching Ukrainians basic soldiery. When everything started, I already had lots of food, money in my locker, and a shelter set up at home, for my friends in Kyiv. With the Georgian legion, we began fighting from the first day of the war.
NV: What does your family in the U.S. think about your decision to stay in Kyiv?
Paul: They were worried for me, but they understand why I want to be here and understand my passion. So they support me now, especially my father. He’s former military too, and he knows I’m here fighting for Ukraine - not for the money, but just because I think it’s a good fight for a soldier to be in.
NV: Tell more about your combat experience: where did you fight before, and in which battles have you participated in Ukraine?
Paul: I was sent to Iraq to fight many times, and now am well prepared for a long-term war, because I spent many years there. I was wounded in combat and have seen many of my friends killed. I understand that war is a serious thing.
In Ukraine, my first fight was in Hostomel with the Georgian legion, and I was very surprised to see that Russian forces came so close to Kyiv in the first two days.
Since then, I’ve been participating in combat in the eastern parts of Kyiv, and the most powerful experience I’ve seen was in the villages of Lukianivka and Hostroluchia. Schools, churches, and civilian homes were destroyed in just a few weeks that the Russians were there.
It’s horrible for me to watch what's happening to Ukraine – I went to Mariupol last April for a weekend, I have been in Kharkiv for Christmas.
NV: Why it is important for foreign military volunteers to help Ukraine win this war with Russia?
Paul: This isn’t a war for money, It’s a war for people. This is a war to defend the very concept of freedom - for people to have the right to exist. Ukrainians have their own history, language, and have fought so many times against different occupations, and became a founding member of United Nations.
People have said they support freedom, liberty, and democracy for people, and they must show this support now. If they were waiting for the time to stand up and fight for these kinds of things – this time is now.
This is the biggest and most important war in Europe since World War II. If you are a military man and you can fight – it’s a good thing to fight for. The best example of war for a good reason.
I fought many times before, because it was my job, my duty as American solder to go and fight when I’m asked. But this time it wasn’t my job. It is my moral duty. I was living in Ukraine, Kyiv adopted me and, of course, I have to stay here to help and fight.
NV: What do you like in Ukraine the most, and what is your favorite place here?
Paul: I think Ukraine is very similar to my home state of Texas – it’s the same size, the people look the same, and they also have traditional folk music. The food is also similar to Texas – grilled meat and fish. In many ways, Ukraine reminds me of home: I liked to go to the Sea of Azov because it reminds me Gulf of Mexico in Texas. It was my favorite place to go when traveling.
Another thing I like about Ukraine is that you can get on a train and go anywhere in the country, without any worries and pretty cheaply. It would be nice to have the same in America.
NV: How did you see the end of the Russian-Ukrainian war and what is your plan for the future?
Paul: Honestly, I don’t know when the war will be finished. My plan is to stay in Kyiv and help my new friends start their lives over again. I want to spend this summer in Kyiv and try to be as happy as possible. I’ve saved a lot of money during my life in Kyiv, and now I’d like to start a business in Ukraine – open a gym, or like a typical Miami beach bar.