Former Preston student volunteering in war-torn Ukraine: “Don’t come out”

Former UClan student Kyle Johnson has left his life in Preston behind to helping with the war effort in Ukraine.

By Catherine Musgrove
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 4:55 am

With five years of military experience, 27-year-old Kyle decided to travel to the country to “minimise casualties and to pass information to allies”, but has a stark message to others thinking of making the journey.

>>>Why has war broken out? Click here for Lancashire expert’s opinions.

Speaking to the Post from a Ukranian military camp in an undisclosed location, Kyle said: “I’d advise people not to come out here. I can’t say why.

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Kyle helping with the food in Ukraine

"But if you do come out, do it for good reasons and not just because you want to fight.

"The main thing has to be humanitarian support, which is critically needed.

"But at home there is plenty to do to help – do fundraising events, go to demonstrations and show efficacy to the UK parliament.”

Kyle has lived in Preston for the past five years, taking a Foundation Degree in Outdoor and Adventure Studies and then a BA in Outdoor Leadership at UCLan.

Kyle and his fellow war volunteers in Ukraine

Before this, he gained five years infantry experience and insists that he isn’t “just another wannabe Rambo” – a crticism thrown at him by some who have heard about his decision to volunteer.

He said: “I do have military experience, but it’s more about protecting the sovereignty of Europe and minimising this before it spreads like a virus.

"War hasn’t broken out near Europe since World War Two and lots of people are saying this is very reminiscent of the rise of Hitler. Look at the Z symbol they’re using – it’s half of a Nazi Swastika.”

Since arriving in Ukraine on March 9, Kyle has helped where needed, including with armed extractions, rescued children and vulnerable adults, tended to serious injuries, and cooked meals for local Ukrainian people.

Kyle (left) in Ukraine

He said: “For the first couple of weeks I was scared, but you have to put the psychological apsects aside. You have to have some courage and know that humanity and people come first."

>>>Here’s how the Ukrainian war is affecting Lancashire supermarket supplies.

He said that while Ukranian communities are “full of hatred" for those perpetrating the war, he has experienced a lot of “love and kindness” towards him and the other volunteers he is working alongside, which include former Navy Seals and civilians from Canada, France, Spain and Germany.

He added: “With Zelensky, they have a great leader. He is out and about as well as juggling politics.

Kyle with the Ukranians he's been living with

"The technology and equipment is also slowly rising, and people are learning how to use it.

"So the people of Ukraine are standing strong, and no Russian would be able to go through the security I’ve seen.”

Kyle – who was raised in foster care in different locations across the country – doesn’t know how long he will be in Ukraine for, but has lined up a job with British Airways as a member of cabin crew when he returns from the UK.

He said that the company is fully aware of what he is doing, and their staff have been “amazing”, carrying out fundraising efforts and providing support.

Kyle (left) in Ukraine