Fighting For the Future, A Young Ukrainian Returns Home to Be Drafted

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Ukrainian soldiers wait on the road as Pro-Russia separatists block the Kramators to Slavyansk road to prevent them from advancing on May 2, 2014. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty)

The question of whether or not he will fight for his country—or even die for his country—has real weight for 24-year-old Ukrainian Yuriy Didula.

Yuriy has been studying and working here in the United States for the last three years, but these days he can't escape the question, "What is worth fighting for?" Last week, he received the news that Ukraine's acting president is reinstating the military draft for Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 25.

The government attributes the need for a draft to the "deteriorating situation in the east and south of Ukraine" that has threatened Ukraine's territorial integrity. But Yuriy will be walking into an environment where Russia claims the Ukrainian army is being used against its own people.

"Those who protest in south and east Ukraine want their voices heard—holding elections in a situation where you use your armed forces against a faction of your own people is unusual—this is not Afghanistan where we have an on going war and elections taking place," Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov said Tuesday in Vienna.

When he leaves Washington D.C. to return home in a few weeks or months, he believes his life will change forever. He says that despite some misgivings, he is going home to be drafted and fight for Ukraine—a decision he has not even shared with his mother.

While he believes his country is worth fighting for, he's not entirely sure that he's ready.


Yuriy Didula

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [6]

Nick from Omaha Nebraska

As a 40+ years old Naturalized Bulgarian here are my thoughts for what is worth.

When Democracy came to my native Bulgaria in 89... I like the kid on this show had dreams. I argued with my grandpa that it is for the good of all the people in then communistic Bulgaria. 25 years later I wish I could apologize to my grandpa, but it is too late, he is gone. Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries members of the EU. The population have decreased by close to 30% in the last 25 years. Main dream most young Bulgarians have is to emigrate or to work in the west. The unemployment and standard of living is worst then Greece,by folds not by %. But you never hear about it on the news. It always has been like that... there is nothing new.

I was listening to this boy and was thinking of myself 25 years ago.

Please let him know my opinion. It is not worth it. Crooks have kidnapped his country, the way the kidnapped Bulgaria. They don't care whether you are Ukrainian or Russian. It is all about money. It doesn't matter whether you will join the West or The East... either way you fail. Ukraine, like Bulgaria had 25 years to change... and it did, in the worst way possible. So here is my opinion. Be the best you can be outside of Ukraine. Prove that Ukraine have great men by not getting yourself involved in this... circus. A circus in which two superpowers shred your country just to measure the size of their ego. Be wise and see in the fog.

May. 08 2014 12:21 AM

War is so criminal. I fear that this sweet, considerate, young man, and so many other men, women, children, will get killed, and that decades of hatred and cyclical revenge attacks will ruin the area. I fear the violence, the destruction to people's property in Ukraine, and the devastation that will leak across borders.

Okay, I know this is totally naive, but given the cost and consequence of war, how about the Ukraine government declare the next two weeks as a public reconciliation non-violent holiday period, where factories / businesses are closed and people from the west are encouraged to travel to their eastern brethren (and vice-versa?) to hold gatherings / to hold non-violent marches / to talk / extend friendship / whatever needs to be done to discuss and reach consensus on what is best for the majority of Ukrainian families. Those spewing hate would, I would hope, be swept away by peaceful, regular citizens. Perhaps the outcome will be that a majority in the east will decide to split, but get to this decision by voting, not fighting. As we grew up in Ireland learning, ballots not bullets.

May. 06 2014 04:09 PM

I too was very moved and proud of Yurij's comments.
I'm a Ukrainian-American, a Naturalized citizen now for 60 years, and I have a 28 year old son... If my American son comes to me and asks for permission to go to Ukraine and fight... after hearing Yurij.. there is no way I can say.. No.

May. 06 2014 03:35 PM

I was offended by the Take Away host's comment to the Ukrainian guest at the end of the interview. "Ok, Bud, good luck with that" or something very close to this. It was rude and dismissive about a potentially life and death decision by the young man.

May. 06 2014 02:51 PM
Ksenia from Portland, OR

I'm also from Lviv region, but live in the US. I was so so proud of Yuriy! What a bright, brave, and wise 24 year old he is. My heart just aches for these young men, who have to make such a difficult decision. Unfortunately, Ukraine has an extremely unreasonable liar, manipulator, and bully for a neighbor that can't be dealt with in any other way (though Lord knows we tried).

May. 06 2014 12:41 PM
Taras Smerechanskyy from Philadelphia

Brave soul!

May. 06 2014 11:21 AM

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