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Meet the Ukrainian couples training for war

Meet the Ukrainian couples training for war in Odessa
Maxim Yavtushenko, 32, Internet Marketing Sales Manager, and his girlfriend, graphic designer Olga Moroz, 26, who volunteered to join the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, pose for a photo during a training session in Odessa, Ukraine, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues , March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

March 19, 2022

By Natalie Thomas

ODESSA, Ukraine (Reuters) – A generation of Ukrainians who knew war only from history books and the stories of their grandparents has been forced to prepare for battle, and some are choosing to do so only with the partners with whom they built their lives weeks ago.

At a training center in the southern city of Odessa, young urban professionals who usually choose a place to meet friends for coffee are learning how to use weapons and use first aid for wounds on the battlefield.

“Every person should know how to fight, how to make medicine, help their relatives or other people,” said 26-year-old graphic designer Olga Moroz, who is studying civil defense together with her boyfriend, 32-year-old sales manager Maxim Yavtushenko.

The couple, who had planned their summer wedding, were inside the dimly lit facility, where 80 to 150 people receive basic training every day in preparation for the day Russian troops, closing in on the city, finally arrive.

Odessa, a picturesque Black Sea port that handles more than half of Ukraine’s imports and exports, is considered a key strategic and symbolic target for Russian forces. Russia invaded the country on February 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “military special operation.”

Three weeks later, the capital Kyiv and key cities like Odessa are still undefeated, with Russian troops meeting strong resistance from Ukrainian forces and defiant resistance from civilians. But some cities, like the city of Mariupol east of Odessa, were bombed for days.

The reality of war comes as a shock to residents of Odessa, a vibrant city where design studios and coffee shops specializing in roasting single beans mingle with historic architecture and the port’s towering cranes and freight yards.

“To be honest, it’s really hard for us to understand that there’s a war right now,” said 26-year-old Internet marketing agency clerk Murager Sharipov. “Now people are dying somewhere, people are dying and these are our people,” he said.

Although the civil defense training offered at the center is basic, Yavtushenko said it helped mentally prepare for what might be to come.

“Ukraine is alone right now and the people who are watching right now need to understand that the war is here, but it can be at your home, it can be with your friends and in your country.”

(Reporting by Natalie Thomas; Editing by James Mackenzie and Frances Kerry)

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Bobby Allyn

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