Meet Ukrainian couples training for war

ODESSA, Ukraine, March 19 (Reuters) – A generation of Ukrainians who only knew about war from history books and the stories of their grandparents have been forced to prepare to fight, and some are choosing to do with the partners they were building their lives with only a few weeks ago.

At a training center in the southern city of Odessa, young urban professionals who might normally choose where to meet friends for coffee are learning to handle weapons and apply emergency first aid to battlefield injuries.

“Everyone should know how to fight, how to make medicine, how to help loved ones or other people,” said Olga Moroz, a 26-year-old graphic designer trained in civil defense alongside her boyfriend, the 32-year-old business manager Max. Yavtouchenko.

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The couple, who had planned their wedding this summer, were in the dimly lit facility that provides basic training to 80 to 150 people a day, all looking to prepare for the day when Russian troops close in on the city. . finally arrive.

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

Three weeks later, the capital Kyiv and key cities like Odessa remain undefeated, with Russian troops facing strong resistance from Ukrainian forces and provocative opposition from the civilian population. But some towns, such as the city of Mariupol east of Odessa, have seen days of bombardment.

The reality of war has come as a shock to residents of Odessa, a vibrant city where design workshops and cafes specializing in single-bean roasting mingle with historic architecture and looming cranes and railway stations port.

“To be honest, it’s really hard for us to understand that right now it’s a war,” said 26-year-old internet marketing agency employee 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 prepare him mentally for what might come.

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

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Reporting by Natalie Thomas Editing by James Mackenzie and Frances Kerry

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