I remember when I was in my 10th year of primary school, all boys, who reached their 17th year of age, had an extra class called “Dopryzovna Pidhotovka”, which is basically some preliminary knowledge one needs to have before entering the army later on. What we learnt there was how to put on a gas-mask properly, how to hold the gun, how to shoot and aim. My main question was always: “So I need to know this stuff to really kill another human being effectively, right?” – The answer was: “Don’t ask stupid questions and do what you are told to do”. It was meant to teach me that in real army they would not tolerate any kind of disobedience. Commands from officers and higher ranked soldiers are your everything, no matter whether they make sense to you or not. You can not have your own opinion.
Even then, I felt very anxious about my prospective entry in the army. I was always a free spirit, loving nature and respecting Life. I always had a sharp sense of equality. I was never afraid to speak my mind openly and directly before peers or elders, (my schoolteachers often disliked me for this). My uncle told me many times what would they do in army to a boy like me.
These stories are not worth mentioning here. Anyway, he was from the times when a boy could become a “true man” only after serving in the army. Thankfully, times have changed and it is no longer the socially determined attitude. Nevertheless, military service is still compulsory.
On top of that, Ukraine is in a difficult political situation now. We have war going on in the Eastern part. Some call it civil war. Some argue that it is not a civil war and call it actual war with actual aggressive actions from outside of the country. Others want to stay milder and call it mere conflict. Since it is another topic, let us not go deep into details here. What I want to highlight is that even after finishing your military service, you stay in official reserve. In case of military mobilization due to martial law, you will be called to join the forces. We had it during 2014-2015, when young men were picked up from bars, parties, city squares etc. The reason for this is the lack of military forces due to the fact that many young men find their ways to avoid the service. Now, it is not just waste of your time, but also the actual threat to your life. At some point, you will need to shoot. At some point, you may be shot. The latter happened to my best friend, who had internalized the sentiment of protecting his land. I completely respect his noble motive! Though, I thoroughly regret the loss of a beautiful soul in some geo-political game. So many young lives were severed because of this game. According to UN Rights Office, it is around 13 thousands. My uncle no longer judges me, by the way…
I met many PhDs who were doing their PhD only to have a postponement of their service, hoping that at some point they would be too old for it. Others just bribe their doctors to get some serious health issues in their files. Some get married and try to have a child or two as soon as possible. If you are a member of an official protestant community, you can get a paper from their highly ranked pastor stating that for the religious reasons you are not allowed to hold a gun. Thanks to a paper like this, one of my friends was permitted to do some voluntary service as alternative. I wish we all could have an opportunity to do some alternative service. Most people just do not show up when they are called. Young men in Ukraine have devised many elaborate ways to avoid their duty.
Sometimes I have my doubts as of what would happen to our borders, if everybody avoided the military service. But then I think that not everyone has to be obliged to do it. We have beautiful examples of many countries where conscription is voluntary, contract-based or abolished at all, and they still have enough forces. My hope is that the system in our country will change soon, and peaceful beings will feel peaceful once again.
Information about military service in Ukraine:
Ukrainian law on military service: https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/2232-12
Military mobilization in Ukraine: https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Хвилі_мобілізації_в_Україні_(2014—2015)
Conflict in the East of Ukraine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Donbass
Conscription worldwide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription#By_country