Kyle Johnson says the reception he’s received from the Ukrainian locals has made every second worth it
A selfless young man from Preston who gave up an ordinary life in the UK to help Ukraine win the war against Russia has spoken of his experience at the frontline.
Kyle Johnson has spent nearly seven weeks helping to protect Ukrainian civilians, rescue children and vulnerable adults and assist with armed extractions. The 27-year-old, who has five years military training has also witnessed plenty of horrific scenes and cared for people with catastrophic injuries.
Kyle said he felt an overriding sense of duty to help and has teamed up with volunteers from all over the world, including former navy-seals, Canadians, French, Spanish and German citizens. Speaking from an undisclosed location in Ukraine (due to safety concerns), Kyle said he wants to stay in Ukraine for as long as it takes to see off the Russian army.
Speaking to the M.E.N from his camp as air raid sirens sound out in the distance, Kyle, who is from the Preston and Manchester area, says the reception he’s received from the Ukrainian locals has made every second worth it. He explained: “The main reason I came over was purely to help out a neighbouring sovereignty and to offer support to those who need it the most right now.
“I’ve helped with armed extractions, rescued children and vulnerable adults and now homeless people from hot zones. I’ve been working alongside a bunch of American guys who are ex-navy seals.”
Kyle arrived in the country on March 9, and has since decided to join up the Ukrainian military due to “legal reasons in the UK.” Since then he has been volunteering wherever he is needed.
“I’ve been cooking traditional British meals for local people – meals they haven’t heard of but they’ve absolutely loved it,” he said. “I’ve done omelettes and lasagne and garlic bread – stuff you wouldn’t really get over in Ukraine.
“I’ve gone from cooking to helping the elderly in care homes to finding stray dogs in the street and putting them in homes. Extracting children from orphanages, treating people with severe medical injuries. We are helping those in a vulnerable situation away from Ukraine and over the border to Romania or Poland.
Kyle described treating one civilian whose arm had been left severely damaged after being hit with shrapnel from nearby shelling, but says that has only encouraged him to continue his volunteer work.
“There are obviously sirens going off right now but I think the way I have got it around psychologically is that although my health is most important, the number one priority at the moment is to help them regain control of the country and to help and advise the Ukrainian people,” he said.
“I don’t really have any family. I grew up in Foster Care because my mum died when I was six and I don’t know my dad. I’m waiting to start with BA as Cabin Crew and the whole company know I am out here and they have been amazing.”
Kyle says that thanks to the support and sending of weapons and ammunition from allied countries including the UK, the Ukrainian military is “improving.”
“The way the country is fighting today is pretty remarkable,” he said. The Ukrainian locals are second to none. They’ve been the most welcoming people. They will teach you Ukrainian, they will feed you. It’s been really rewarding. The culture and history of Ukraine is outstanding.
“The Ukrainian people are so grateful there are a lot of British, American and Canadian people out here. Not just fighters but volunteers. I think there are about 1,500 British volunteers out here, about 5,000 American volunteers and there’s 1,000 Canadians out here alone. Then obviously you’ve got the Spanish, French and Germans as well. Everyone has pulled together to help people in need.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll stay for. One part of me wants to stay here until the end because I want to make sure everyone is safe but at some point I will need to start earning money again and will need to work”.