Russian militants in Donbas do not hide their faces: they say they have come to Ukaine to fight against ‘NATO troops or U.S. mercenaries’. Belsat TV has interviewed Tomasz Maciejczuk, a Polish volunteer who raises funds and delivers aid to the ATO zone.
He is often called ‘a spy’ or ‘a mercenary’ by members of pro-Russian social media communities.
Watch the interview in Belarusian (start at 5:00)
Tomasz, you were in Debaltseve, in Piski, near Donetsk Airport. Why did you go to Ukraine? This war is not yours, is it?
The war is not mine. I believe this is Russia’s war against Europe. I hold the Ukrainians as a brotherly nation. The fact that Ukrainians want to build a European state is of high importance to me. We, Poles, also wanted to live in such a state and we reached our aim. We defeated Communism and dictator Jaruzelski, we are a member of the European Union now. We are free, we have opportunities to work and earn money, Poland is not so corrupted as Ukraine and Russia are. I wish the same were in Ukraine. I consider Ukrainians as Europeans and Ukraine as Europe.
Did you go there to fight? What did you do in Ukraine?
It is a good question because a lot of Russians think I am a Polish mercenary. But I am just a volunteer. Nobody pays me for my activity. Sometimes I spend my own money to help Ukrainian soldiers. What did I do in eastern Ukraine? I handed over humanitarian aid to refugees and Ukrainian soldiers (including Polish army boots, gloves, layered clothing, etc ). There were lots of things from Poland, Germany. Ukraine’s army lacks boots, soldiers’ clothes and necessities. They are ordered to defend their country, but they are hardly provided with protection means and high-quality machine guns. They do not have any thermal cameras, even good uniforms. In my opinion, we, Poles, should support them. I want Ukraine to win this war against terrorism. If Belarus ever decides to get a tack of transformation, another war may start, I am afraid. To prevent it, we should help each other.
What role does the Ukrainian state play in supporting the army?
The state is sending people to the war. Unfortunately, it does not have enough money to meet all needs of the army. Thus, it is the volunteers who started to perform the state’s functions. Moreover, Ukrainians are becoming more interested in what is going on with taxes they pay, what they are spent on. But for Ukrainian and foreign volunteers soldiers would never have army boots, thermal cameras, etc. The Open Dialogue Foundation has already given four thermal cameras to Ukrainians, and this is not the end. Thermal cameras are essential to fight at night. Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian volunteers launch joint fundraising campaigns via social media. We raise money, then buy things all around Europe – in Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, take them to Donbas and pass to Ukrainian soldiers. We want to be sure that soldiers at the front do receive our aid, that is why we do not leave the things in Kyiv.
All the things and equipment cost a bundle. Where does money come from?
Ordinary Poles eager to help Ukrainian soldiers and refugees contribute money – 50, 100, 200 euro. More and more Poles support Ukraine; they realise that Russia poses a threat to peace, to safety of Poland and other countries. Poles realise it and want to help. We fear that the same may happen to Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, maybe even in Poland.
Russian media state that NATO troops, U.S. private military firms, Polish mercenaries are fighting with Ukrainians in Donbas. Putin named Ukraine’s army ‘a foreign NATO legion. You have stayed in Donbas for a month; how many Polish mercenaries have you seen there?’
There were no mercenaries, no Afro-American tankmen from U.S. – Russian media reported their presence. Ukrainians have no money to pay their job. Ukraine has its own troops; why should it hire soldiers from other countries? They do not want to be paid, they are just keen to defend their Motherland. As far as Poles are concerned, they go and help Ukrainians. They are not mercenaries but volunteers [delivering humanitarian aid]. I met Belarusians who fight on the Ukrainian side. They say they are fighting for Ukraine freedom and hope Ukrainians will help them liberate their country [Belarus] One may say that Poles, Belarusians, Lithuania helping Ukraine do harm; but in that case, what is to be said about Kadyrovites [followers of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov] and others who come to fight for the so-called Novorossiya?They are paid for killing Ukrainians. They want to seize the territory of Ukraine and make it Russian. Belarusians and Poles, however, help Ukraine to defend itself from Russia.