The foreign volunteers asked to be identified by only their first names because of concerns they could be prosecuted upon returning home for fighting for a foreign army. A U.S. law dating to the 18th century bans citizens from fighting countries not at war with the United States, but it is rarely enforced.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries have volunteered to fight, a number that could not be verified. A Russian missile attack two weeks ago on a training base being used for foreign volunteers near Liviv killed at least 35 military personnel and civilians, according to Ukrainian officials. Russia said it killed 180 foreign military volunteers. Neither figure could be independently confirmed.
The volunteers waiting in the hostel Friday were undeterred.
Luis, 29, said he served with the Mexican Army fighting drug cartels a decade ago, but until last week, he was an events photographer in Chihuahua City, Mexico, photographing mostly weddings. Then, scrolling through Reddit, he found an Associated Press photo showing an unidentified pregnant woman on a stretcher, being carried out by rescue workers after a Russian strike against a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Russian officials said Ukrainian forces had been using the hospital as a base and said the images were fake.
“I saw the face of my sister in that woman,” Luis said. “I do not have children yet, but I imagined how the baby’s father felt, how the woman and her family felt.”
He had never met a Ukrainian before flying to Europe. But when he read the woman and her baby had died, he decided to close his studio, sell his cameras and book the four flights to get to Poland, from where he drove across the border to Ukraine.