Before he decided to buy a one-way plane ticket to Ukraine, Adam worked two jobs, as a security guard and as a cashier at a dollar store. He owned guns and fired them at shooting ranges, but the only fighting he had ever done was in mixed martial arts classes.
That didn’t stop the tall, lanky 24-year-old from Thousand Oaks, a Los Angeles suburb, from flying to this war-torn capital earlier this month. He joined a new international legion set up to fight Russian forces about 15 miles outside the city.
Adam, sporting camouflage pants, is unfazed by his inexperience in combat. He will rely, he said, on sheer determination — to save Ukraine and protect American values.
“Democracy and freedom are very important to the whole world,” said Adam, seated in the lobby of a Kyiv hotel, along with other foreigners dressed in their new military camouflage who have joined his unit. “What [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is doing is simply wrong. And Ukraine is the underdog, so they need help.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of Americans and other foreign nationals have signed up to fight for Ukraine, answering a call to action by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Now, with the conflict in its fourth week, a growing number of foreign volunteers are flowing into the capital, signing contracts and receiving weapons and combat training before getting deployed to one of the numerous front lines of the war.
They have been compared to the 32,000 foreigners, mostly Americans and Europeans, many of them equally unprepared, who joined the republican forces in Spain’s 1936-39 civil war. That conflict became a losing battle against nationalists led by General Francisco Franco, with the support of Nazi Germany and the fascist Italian government of Benito Mussolini.