Hunter Francis, the Canadian who fights in Ukraine because ‘the right’

Hunter Francis, a former Canadian soldier and criminology student, has no personal connection to Ukraine, but when he saw Russian troops shelling residential areas, he decided to join the fight.

“It wasn’t really a decision. It’s something that needs to be done. It’s the right thing to do,” the 24-year-old told AFP. “Things like this shouldn’t happen. There shouldn’t be a full-scale invasion of a country in the 21st century,” he says.

The decision by the student, who lives on the so-called Eel Ground First Nations (Aboriginal) reserve in New Brunswick, shocked his friends and family, especially his mother.

“Everyone called me crazy. You have to be crazy to voluntarily enter a war zone,” he admits, calm and thoughtful in his combat gear.

“Nobody likes doing this stuff. I’m just doing what needs to be done. Someone has to do it right. That’s been my mindset all my life,” he adds.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has summoned foreign volunteers to come to his country and join an “international brigade” to fight the Russians.

Hunter Francis answered the call. “They’re like us. Normal people who are now embroiled in conflict, what’s left to fight,” he says. “What if Canada was attacked and everyone left the country? We would be alone. Don’t we need help?

– “Bring up morale” –

Packing his backpack with essential gear, including bulletproof vest, hearing protection and survival kit, Francis traveled almost 6,000 kilometers to Warsaw.

“In my backpack, in a small pot, I carry my grandmother’s ashes. She always wanted to come to Europe and now she is here,” he smiles.

In the Polish capital, he was helped by a friend who booked him a hotel room and took him to the Ukrainian border.

The young man first plans to help in a refugee center, before going to Lviv and then to kyiv. L receive a Ukrainian bracelet and a pistol.

Their crossing was coordinated by Jan Plewka, a Polish shooting instructor who assisted dozens of foreign fighters.

“I have never been to Afghanistan, I have no formal combat experience, but I have a lot of training. I hope to be able to put it to good use” alongside the Ukrainian forces, confides the Canadian.

Some 20,000 international volunteers have already joined the resistance against the Russian invasion, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday.

The presence of volunteers can help Ukrainian troops on several fronts, according to Hunter Francis.

“That way they will have more personnel and more firepower (…) We also bring groceries, I have tons of medical equipment that I can distribute,” he explained. “We lift our spirits just by joining them.”

Hunter Francis found the last few days surreal. “I had insomnia. You prepare yourself psychologically, don’t you? You’re constantly thinking about what might happen.”

He also fears that the Russians will target foreign fighters like him.

“If they are lucky enough to catch a Westerner, they will use him in their propaganda. There will be torture videos,” he said. But feel no hatred for the enemy. “I’m not mad at the Russians. They don’t want to be there,” he said. “Nobody wants this war. Nobody wins.”

Elmer Hayward

"Pop culture fan. Coffee expert. Bacon nerd. Infuriatingly humble communicator. Friendly gamer."

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