From a comfy office in the Netherlands to the Ukrainian Army – personal notes on fighting against Russian aggression

Notes and thoughts on fighting against Russian aggression by Dmytro Tolstoluzhskyi

RussiaVsWorld is looking for stories of Ukrainians who came from abroad to join the Ukrainian army. This task proved to be hard because people can’t talk about themselves for security reasons.

Today we publish our first story where the person agreed to talk to us. He has served in Signals and proved indispensable for his unit during his rotation.

The text below is his.


1. My journey to Ukraine.

Hi there. Let me introduce myself – I’m a Ukrainian who’s lived and worked in Europe for the last six years. For the past 2 years, I worked in the Netherlands and before that, for 4 years in Poland. I have worked continuously for the same company – a major global IT company – and enjoyed conducting peaceful, creative and sustainable business.

On February 24th, I was in Denmark on a business trip with my colleagues. The local news channels were suddenly dominated by the coverage of my home country. Russia had begun a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and there were already reports of missile strikes, ground force shelling, and other attacks.

I knew I had to go back to Ukraine. I knew I had to go back to defend and fight for my home. My colleagues – who I am extremely grateful to – understood this and let me proceed with my plans to return to my homeland. The next day I was back in the Netherlands. I took a plane from Amsterdam to Warsaw and was able to spend some time with my family there. Very special thanks to my wife who also supported my plans and gave me her blessings to leave.

I then had to drive 5-hours to the Polish-Ukrainian border, which was made possible thanks to my Ukrainian volunteers. We travelled in a convoy of several cars that carried humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees who has escaped to Poland. Once we arrived, that same convoy would go on to take my fellow citizens back to Warsaw. Here they would be met with much-needed accommodation, beds with fresh linen, and warm food. All are things that would help restore some level of normality – even in some cases, there would be toys and diapers for children.

The next morning at 5:30, I had made it to the pedestrian crossing post on the border. At this point, it felt scary, knowing full well that this was the point of no return. It was dark and cold, and there was the smell of burnt plastic in the air – but more prominent than this was the presence of risk and uncertainty ahead.

Those who were crossing the border to Poland were exhausted – almost like shadows, wrapped in fleeces and blankets. So many people, but so silent.

Two long corridors had been formed with metal mesh on either side – the corridor to Poland was completely filled by the long, long column of people waiting to cross. In the distance of 200 meters from the border post, several fires were burning in an attempt to warm those who had now become refugees. There were many international students – I heard conversations in English with an Indian accent around me.

Two other men were crossing the border with me – they looked young and had a look about them which made me think they could easily be more IT workers. After we crossed, I saw eight more men; silent, large in stature, potentially construction workers. They had heavy bullet-proof vests and large backpacks – I felt a sense of their focus and determination that made me feel reassured. Made me feel like I am not alone.

A grey dawn and there was more travelling to be done. A drive from the border to the city of Lviv – upon arrival I was already in my military unit and meeting my new colleagues. All of them came to the armed forces as volunteers, although they were now called the ‘mobilized’.

Since making my way here from the Netherlands, I have spoken to many people along the way – strangers I met on the road, those in my military unit, career officers, NCOs and other ‘mobilized’ colleagues. One thing I can see clearly – we will win this war. I don’t know how long it will take, but victory will be ours. ”Victory, however long and hard the road may be.” It is already ours. Ukrainians, you are unsurpassed.

2. My inspiration is Ukraine, both as a modern democracy and as the country with rich history.

Ukraine is far from perfect – but it is free, democratic, caring and friendly. Russia wants to form a new Soviet Union, and it needs Ukraine for that; it needs the Ukrainian people to become a global superpower and the former empire is dying without us. A modern-day Hitler has been bombing civilians for a few weeks already, but we are fighting back. We won’t give up our independence and our way of life. We are fighting for our freedom, our victory.

It’s hard to comprehend the accept the grim reality that has unfolded. To hear air raid alerts 2, 3, or sometimes 5 times a day. To see a Russian missile hitting the residential building only 600m from your own. To see a restaurant in Irpin where you would sit with your friends, reduced to bricks and rubble. The Northern Saltivka district in Kharkiv – where you grew up – overwhelmed by air raids, fire, and explosions. The thing you start to feel is rage.

No one holds the right to do these things – to deliberately destroy civilian areas, entire towns, peoples’ homes. But still, the Russians continue to do so. They have caused so much grief and suffering already that some of the damage can never be undone. Even when the war is over, there can be compensation for the material damage they have caused, but how can they compensate for the fear they have instilled, the lives they have taken, children’s tears. How will they bring back dead children, future geniuses, entire generations that never got a chance to live?

We Ukrainians remember our history well – we were exploited heavily to make the Soviet empire feasible. So far, we have been paid back with nothing but the loss of Ukrainian lives. Starved to death, imprisoned, relocated to Siberia. Millions of Ukrainians have lost their lives, millions more lost their language, history, faith and gradually forced to become ‘Russian.’ Moscovia demands our people to become theirs – they need our intelligence, culture, talent, technology, and resources. Dictatorial Russia cannot survive alongside a democratic and successful Ukraine – that is why Putin is (and always has been) so desperate to seize us.

Ukrainians have always fought for its freedom – Russia has always oppressed us. In the 1930s, Moscow deprived grain and other food from Ukraine which lead to an artificial famine known as the ‘Holodomor.’ Almost 4 million people were starved to death in this attempted genocide and entire villages were wiped from existence. “Red Famine” by Anne Applebaum describes the Holodomor in a way that truly explains the horrors of Stalin’s war on Ukraine. Just a few years after this, millions more Ukrainians lost their lives as we joined World War 2 – once again, having to fight against fascists’ ambitions for world dominance. As I said, we remember our history well, and because of this we can’t give up – the price we have paid for our freedom and sovereignty is already very high.

So far, Russia has already attacked us with more than 1,550 missiles and thousands of other bombs, shells and rockets. They want us dead – not just the military, but civilians, all Ukrainian people. They target the elderly, women and children – for the sole reason that they want to live freely. They are killing innocent people for not wanting to give up their culture and history.

War is not just far from comfort, but more like living through a real-life horror movie. But you’re not the only one living through it – your partners, kids, parents, friends neighbors, everyone. I am truly lucky to be in the army where we have weapons and the skills to fight back. Civilians have no other choice but to accept what is happening – you can’t plan anything, not for the next week, the next day, the rest of your life.

This horror movie currently shows Russians bombing schools, maternity hospitals, residential homes, and even deliberately seizing nuclear power plants. By now you have probably heard about Kyiv, Mariupol, Irpin, Bucha and many other cities and towns. Some you will never hear of as they have already been turned into ash. 74 schools were destroyed to the ground level, hundreds of civilians dead, almost 4 million refugees were forced to leave the country and almost 8 million have left their homes to find safety within Ukraine. More than 300 thousand Ukrainians have returned home from abroad to fight back and put an end to the horror.

Ukraine is resisting fiercely. We are fighting back to defend our people and our home. “God save the Queen” – the phrase has become very Ukrainian now, even if we have no Queen in Ukraine today. This is what our infantry, marines, and territorial defense forces say whilst firing one of 3,615 NLAW anti-tank missiles we received from the UK. “All you need is NLAW,” “From Ukraine with NLAW” – these are our messages to Russia. Cruel humor, but it helps.

We also have and use fabulous US “Javelins. Successful hits statistics prove that the ’mobilized’ IT workers are more than capable to master these weapons. We appreciate for being provided with such effective weapons that have already proved their power on the battlefield.

Thank you to the people of the free world for assessing the situation correctly and not being afraid to provide us with the weapons we need – for making bold decisions when they were needed. Your grandparents survived bombings in the 1940s and went on to win the war. We will win. It has been almost 82 years since Winston Churchill’s historic address to the House of Commons, but it has once again become relevant.

“We shall go on to the end, …, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, ….”

In Ukraine, we’re already fighting on our beaches, our fields, and in the streets, and we will never surrender.

Putin – the modern-day Hitler – recently said he is waging war ‘for the future of Russia – for the right to be and remain Russia’. The world today is far too developed and interconnected to accept a maniac like this into the global community and to accept him as any sort of leader. A leader of a country who wants to build its future upon the killings of women and children cannot be accepted. Russia must be stopped. We cannot allow these modern-day Nazis to let this war go on any further, we cannot allow another world war.

In order to survive, Russia sells off its natural resources – not to provide for its people or to develop its cities. The profits that are not already plundered by the Kremlin and their proxies are used to build up the army, accumulate weapons, threaten neighbors and spread fear throughout the world. They choose not to empower their people but to oppress their neighbors.

3. Resolve of the people is the same as that of the army.

This time the Russians have made a mistake – a grave one. They are trying to conquer a country that will defend its freedom to the end. They are facing fierce resistance from every Ukrainian. Their giant army is unmotivated and unfit. They were not expecting or prepared for the Ukrainian resistance – as Talleyrand once said, “it’s worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.”

In Ukrainian, the word for resistance is “Sprotyv.” Our experience in this area is vast, centuries deep, and truly inspiring. Now, Sprotyv has reached a new level. It is coordinated with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other authorities. Its training materials are based on the manuals of the Special Operations Force of Ukraine (SOF) – one of the most ambitious, efficient, and highly capable military units of the modern world. Wherever the Russian hordes temporarily occupy the Ukrainian territory, they are met with stern and well-organized guerilla warfare.

Say you have no NLAW or Javelin to fight a Russian tank, or perhaps you lack the training to engage an enemy combat unit. Instead, you can ambush the non-armored fuel trucks or logistic convoys – the tanks will be cut off from being able to refuel or get ammunition. In this case, Russians will simply leave the tank – this has already happened like you may have seen in the Sumy and Kharkiv Regions. Then you are free to capture it, burn it or even commandeer it (be careful of any mine traps the Russians may leave behind). If you need tank driving instructions you can find them on official Sprotyv website below along with many other useful tips & tricks.

Як завести і викрасти російський танк – Центр національного спротиву (

It’s not just information on armed resistance or nonviolent sabotage. The Ukrainian SOF is focused on creating support networks in all regions of Ukraine; making plans before the Russians are able to attack, hiding weapons and other supplies in secret hideouts. It also involves a lot of communication with our neighboring allies who are providing support, but first and foremost, it’s about defending our people on our own soil. Our message to Russians: “Stop and go home while you’re still alive, and if you don’t – welcome to hell.”

Ukraine is highly motivated and you can see our success stories from the battlefield. Make no mistake, we still understand how serious our enemy is. Beyond his conventional forces, Putin and his entourage are a real threat to the rest of the world with their threat of nuclear weapons. The use of any nuclear weapon, even a tactical one, will carry the risk of a global catastrophe. This would inevitably make Putin the number 1 target of many countries – he is already becoming an increasingly uncomfortable figure for Russian billionaires’ club so I believe that transport accidents and heart attacks will lead the list of Putin’s options. His time is coming to an end.

One of my colleagues – a very serious TacMed expert – recently said “you always have to turn on your logic”. In this case, the logic is very simple – the new North Korea 2.0 is not able to defeat the most powerful economies of the world when they have united common values and a common vision of the future.

The collective West supports Ukraine today. I am sincerely grateful for this, to you and all relevant parties. My Dutch colleagues together with the Dutch people have raised more than 160 million Euros for Ukraine. “The whole world is so impressed with the strength and courage of the Defense Forces of Ukraine that it takes our breath away.”  A single event in the UK, “Concert for Ukraine” in Birmingham raised GBP 13.4 million from sponsorship, ad revenue, ticket sales and public donations for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal – bravo.

Ukraine has become a source of inspiration and a model of courage in the struggle for freedom and independence; whilst Russia is burning through billions of dollars, losing access to modern technology, modern-day staples, oligarchs’ yachts & villas and a place among civilization. Russia has become a pariah state.

The battle is ongoing and I’d like to thank you for your support. We feel it, and we need it. I feel it personally from my friends who care about me exactly the same as my own family does. It’s not all about the millions of euros and pounds being raised, or ammunition & weapons – it’s the human connection that helps you do well what you need to do.

People can’t stay concentrated indefinitely, that’s natural and eventually, the news on Ukraine will become routine. Please keep your mind switched ON. Support Ukraine, and help us stop Russians. It’s we who stop this modern-day Hitler here and now before he has a chance to spread to the rest of the world. I don’t want to let this war reach Poland, the Netherlands or the UK, or the US. Russian politicians and TV hosts have already spoke about plans to invade the Baltics and Poland ‘after Ukraine’ – it’s a path to WW3. It’s a path to even more refugees, more world supply-chain issues, more shortages of food, and more disruptions to modern-day life.

Keep on supporting Ukraine, help us stop Putin now.

And again – THANK YOU for your support.

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