On February 25, the second day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Yuriy Matsarsky, a local radio journalist in the capital Kyiv, made a life-changing decision.
As air raid sirens and explosions rang out across the country, he understood that Russia had launched an all-out war, and decided to abandon his role as a messenger and become a fighter.
He arrived at a community centre, joined a long queue of volunteers with no military experience, and enlisted in the Ukrainian army.
“I could not find any other useful duty besides joining the army since I couldn’t continue with my profession and live with my daughter and parents, and I volunteered to defend my country,” Matsarsky, 41, told Al Jazeera by phone.
Meanwhile, like millions of other Ukrainians, Matsarsky’s teenage daughter and his parents fled the country, while the radio station he worked at was relocated in 2018 from Kyiv to Lviv, a relatively safer city in western Ukraine.
“I was distressed by the fact that my own family was forced to flee their own country, and I couldn’t continue with my profession due to the Russian invasion,” he said.
“I couldn’t peacefully continue with my normal life. I decided to fight until I get my life and country back.”
Matsarsky’s show on Radio NV was well known and before February 24, he could not have imagined picking up a gun and fighting.
He said he is not alone, and claims that other journalists, including his radio co-host, have joined him at the front line.
Like him, none had basic military training in the beginning.
“We were given some basic training in the first days, and more sophisticated training after the Russian military left the Kyiv region,” said Matsarsky.
He likened the scenes he has witnessed to those from a war movie.
“Huge fields with artillery positions, constant fire, trenches, tanks are moving, and many craters created by shells,” he said.
“I had participated in the war in Kyiv, but now – after the occupiers have been pushed back from the city, I am based in a new position. I can’t tell you the precise location.
“I have seen kids, babies, women and innocent Ukrainians killed by the Russian army. The invading Russian forces are indiscriminately and constantly firing at the town quarters with tanks, artillery and missiles. They are killing everyone.”