Christmas and New Years at the ATO

Accounts of a volunteer named Mr. Bojangles from the frontline in Ukraine. The name and locations are changed for security reasons


It’s Christmas. It’s New Year’s Eve. While many are in their safe, warm beds with friends and family having drinks and enjoying themselves, there are some who forgo these common luxuries and hold the line. To be sure, the fighting is not as active as in previous years. However, as the war enters its sixth year, there is merely a different kind of stress and strain. Without a doubt, the strain of boredom and being told to give up Ukrainian territory that was paid for in blood and ruined lives is a miserable form of slow torture for the soldiers and their families back home. Regardless, we are still here. Friends and volunteers bring much needed supplies. Children send drawings, and some even send a small bit of money. Anything to offer support and let our soldiers know they are not forgotten. It is heartwarming.


At any time, shelling and gunfire are heard either up close or in the distance. We can easily wake up to any scenario. The sounds of war are almost reassuring to hear. Strange thing for a person to get used to. Indeed, humans are capable of adapting to almost any situation. Very odd thing to have Christmas pastries, cookies, coffee, tea, and friends around for a photo with Santa, and other friends gathering, and all the while... there is the war. In a movie somewhere, I heard a character say, “War is not only death... it is also a kind of life.” Very true.


It is a kind of droning on. It reminds me of being thirsty in the desert. Wanting water. Needing it. One foot in front of the other, but the mountains never seem to get any closer. Another year, and another year of a war that nobody is willing to give into for each side. It is a slow burn that could easily erupt into WWIII. Nobody predicted the last two world wars, at least nobody of consequence I have read about. Nobody knows about this one.


If anything, my experiences have taught that life truly is what happens while we make plans. We all have a relatively short time on this planet. It is cold. Muddy. My goodness... the mud of Ukraine and the trenches are something one needs to experience to believe. Frozen cold ground one day, next it’s raining and mud. The mud fills even your pockets, and boots are rendered into a melancholy mess. It’s sticky.


But we are surrounded by friends, and the unmistakable sense of duty that if we are not here, defending these muddy trenches and ramshackle bases, the Russians will no doubt take more territory. Leaving those in the “grey zone” to the mercy of an enemy that is not known for mercy, nor anything remotely Ukrainian. Especially anything Ukrainian. I could go on and list the recent arrests, trumped up and fabricated charges, and desire to label volunteers as “terrorists” both in Ukraine, and in the United States. It is very real, and happening as we speak. But for now, it is the end of the year, and with it we hope for the best, no matter how difficult and dark times become. When I think about Holodomor, and the brave men and women of the UPA (Ukrainian Resistance Army during and after WWII) who resisted despite overwhelming odds, as well as the diaspora who fled to survive (and then return or send support), I still interpret the current struggle with a degree of hope. We still have greater reason for cautious optimism in building a free and prosperous Ukraine now than ever before. This is not fantasy, but a fact.


As for me, I am proud to have served in whatever capacity my abilities and situations have warranted, and I am proud of everyone who has, is, and will be holding the line. Glory to Ukraine, and Glory to the Heroes of Ukraine!

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