Kyiv resident feels ‘much safer’ after joining Territorial Defense Force
Maryana Zhaglo, a 52-year-old marketing professional from Kyiv and a mother of three, has been branded by Russian media as a “militant, lionized by Western propaganda” for recent news stories featuring her purchase of a rifle, which she says is intended as a training tool to hone her marksmanship.
In an interview with NV Radio, Maryana explained her reasoning and joining Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force, intended to function as a ‘home guard’ in case of invasion.
The interview below has been edited for clarity.
NV: You bought a weapon and signed a contract with Territorial Defense two years ago, well before recent legislation simplified that procedure. What motivated you to do so?
Maryana: This spring it will two years since I joined the (territorial defense) battalion and one year since bought my weapons. It’s a hunting rifle, but I am no hunter – I purchased it for training purposes.
What motivated me? We’re aware that the war has gone on for eight years, and I didn’t want to simply stand aside. Joining the Armed Forces was not an option, being a woman of my age with absolutely no relevant skills. But as it turned out, the Territorial Defense is very relaxed about women joining, so I’ve been training and learning for almost two years now.
NV: Did you notice an uptick in people joining the Territorial Defense Forces recently? And how is the training going?
Maryana: When I came to my first training session two years ago, I was the lone newcomer and began my training alongside the entire crew. Now our recruits train as a separate squad. They’ve been assigned an instructor who teaches them basic moves and how to properly handle a weapon.
NV: Did you encounter anything particularly challenging during your training, and what does a typical session look like?
Maryana: Every session begins with us standing in parade formation and exchanging the usual “Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to the heroes!” greeting. We then get started with some warmup exercises. Afterwards, we engage in exercises that hone our individual combat skills. Those are the sort of moves we need to commit to muscle memory so that they become basically automatic. For 90 minutes, we practice the same set of movements: side-steps, taking a knee – the basics. Then our instructors guide us through practicing some more involved tasks, putting into practice what we’ve learned before. It could involve the whole range of tactical tasks: guard duty, convoying, setting up an ambush.
NV: Do you have some practical tips for Ukrainian civilians? For example, what should they do in an emergency without power, internet and communications: should they dash to the nearest bomb shelter or not, stay indoors, or take to the streets? What are you being taught about those things at Territorial Defense?
Maryana: Firstly, don’t panic. Second, every civilian ought to have some kind of a plan prepared. Since all of us at Territorial Defense are enlisted men and women, our response will be military in nature. We would have to report to a rally point, upon notice. Commanders will then give us our orders to direct our next moves.
NV: What did you friends and family say when you decided to sign up for Territorial Defense and then bought a rifle?
Maryana: They were initially somewhat surprised, but eventually got used to it. I didn’t know about the Territorial Defense Forces at all two years ago. It was by chance that I got in immediately, there was no information about it anywhere. I’m very glad it all happened as it did.
And (my) weapon is not for me to kill Russians – as the Kremlin’s TV stations claimed – but so that I can practice my marksmanship.
NV: Do you feel safer now that you have all these skills?
Maryana: I’m much calmer now that I have an understating of some military concepts. I also see how many young, responsible Ukrainians are getting involved, and I think it’s great.
NV: Did any of your friends join you?
Maryana: Most of them couldn’t commit to joining the battalion due to their age, but some of their children have gotten involved, yes.
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