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Looking for a fight

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There are many reasons why a foreigner joins the army to fight in a war that has nothing to do with him.

One of them is of course money. Open contracts in Ukraine pay an average of about $2,500 per month, an attractive figure for some people from countries lacking good economic opportunities.

But the International Corps was created on the orders of Ukraine’s president just days after Russia invaded in February 2022, and some fighters stationed in the woods say they are looking for something more.

A Polish soldier with the call sign Konrad 13 described war as a calling, even a blessing. He said that after returning to his hometown, his growth process was full of ups and downs. Then, at 41, he felt like he’d hit a dead end.

Yes, the pay is attractive, says Konrad 13, but so is the sense of purpose.

“My life changed when I came here,” he said. “I started growing here. It was an evolution and I felt like my life was coming back to me. I changed and became a different person. This is my family now – my real family.”

During their rotation — which the Ukrainian military is prohibited from disclosing when it took place or how many fighters were in the unit — the men repeatedly engaged the Russians along the way. During the day, fighting breaks out every three or four hours, usually lasting an hour. At night, the bombs came.

After the rotation was over, a new group of soldiers came to replace them, and the soldiers packed their bags and were ready to go. But they had to delay: a Russian drone appeared overhead over the edge of the last trench.

It was more than an hour before Zigan cleared his troops and ventured into the clearing that separated them from the trenches, enjoying a moment of peace.

before returning to the fight.

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