Igor Gavrylko was at his home in west London when the Russian bombs began to fall on Ukraine, Luke Harding writes.
A British citizen originally from Ukraine, he had lived in the UK since 1996, working most recently for Nissan as a forecourt salesperson. He rang his boss. “I knew a Russian invasion was going to happen,” he said.
My Ukrainian grandfather fought against the Red Army and the Nazis in world war two. Now it’s my turn to help.
Gavrylko set off by car from Ealing and drove across Europe. By the time he arrived in Ukraine his elderly parents had already had a narrow escape. Russian missiles had destroyed the airport in their home town of Ivano-Frankivsk. He said: “My city was bombarded.”
Gavrylko arranged for his mother, sister and four-year-old niece to escape to Poland. His 74-year-old father, Bogdan, refused to leave.
Now based in the western city of Lviv, Gavrylko is one of thousands of volunteers from around the world who have come to Ukraine to defend the country from Russian attack. Some have Ukrainian roots. Others are military veterans with no family ties who have decided to fight with Ukraine’s army. According to Gavrylko, “several hundred” Britons have already arrived, including Ben Grant, the son of a Tory MP.
There are volunteers from Canada – which has a large Ukrainian diaspora community – and the US. A group of Canadians were spotted in Lviv’s Freedom Square this week, with a large Canadian flag on the back of their vehicle. They identified a cafe for breakfast using Google, only to discover it was closed. Others come from the Baltic states and Georgia, itself the victim of Russian aggression and a punitive five-day war in 2008.
Collectively, these recruits amount to the most significant international brigade since the Spanish civil war, when volunteers including leftwing intellectuals fought in communist-organised military units between 1936 and 1938 in support of Spain’s popular front government. Gavrylko said he was aware of these historical echoes. Ukraine, in his view, was now fighting Vladimir Putin and a 21st-century version of fascism.
For the first time in at least ten days, some military planes are flying over the sky above the city of Lviv, about 50 miles from the border with Poland, and a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Ukrainians, Lorenzo Tondo reports.
It is still unclear whether the aircraft are Russian or Ukrainian. We all just hope they are friendlies.
On Friday, the cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, about 130km from here, have been targeted by Russian forces.