From a Canadian Comedian to a British Gym Manager, Thousands of Foreigners Prepare to Join Ukraine Fighters

Ukraine soldiers
Ukraine soldiers patrolling the border.Getty Images

Men from around the world have signed up to fight in Ukraine against Russian invaders.

Thousands of citizens from around the globe, many with no military experience at all, have rushed to join Ukraine fighters as Russia continues its brutal invasion of the former Soviet territory.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued an emergency appeal for the newly formed International Legion Army, beseeching able-bodied men to join his harrowed military as it fights Russian troops who have laid siege to the country.

Among those who have answered his call are former military members, as well as a British gym manager who has never served and a Canadian comedian who left behind his wife and three children to serve as a combat medic.

Leon Dawson, 37, showed up at London's Ukraine embassy this week, ready to sign up. "We've come to join the Ukrainian Army, or whatever they're called," he told a diplomatic employee in a TikTok video posted Monday. Asked by a reporter if he had any military expertise, the manager of a physical fitness center replied, "Absolutely none at all, no."

Nonetheless, he was willing to risk his life. 

"We don't want to die," Dawson told Sky News. "We're obviously scared. But if we're scared, we can imagine how the innocent women and children feel. I can't sit here and just let that happen."

Dawson and a friend, Tom Konarzewski, came to the embassy after hearing Zelenskyy's appeal. "We're young, strong, fit men and we can help, so why not?" Dawson said.

In Canada, 29-year-old comedian Anthony Walker flew to Poland over the weekend and is working as a medic. He has EMT training, he said, but no combat experience.

"Right now, I'm acting just as a medic, but the further we get into Ukraine, the more of a combat role I'll take on," he told CBC Radio. "So eventually it'll just be straight-up combat medic. So, like, half shooting people and half healing people."

Walker, a father of three, said he decided to come because he fears Russian President Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons in his brutal invasion. "I just don't believe that my family or anyone I know would survive World War III. So if I can stop that in any way in the slightest bit, then it makes sense to me," he said.

Walker has been posting updates and photos to Twitter since arriving at the Polish-Ukraine border.

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar posted on Facebook on Monday that thousands of people had come forward since Zelenskyy's appeal. 

"We are building an international legion," she wrote. "We already have several thousand statements from foreign citizens who wish to join the resistance to Russian occupiers and the protection of world security from the Putin regime."

Ukraine citizen volunteers mustering for deployment as members of the country's territorial defense units. - Getty

Sports figures have also signed up for Ukraine military service.

Ukrainian soccer manager Yuriy Vernydub has appeared on Twitter in uniform, aiding the country's territorial defense units. He manages the Sheriff Tiraspol team in nearby Moldova. Oleh Luzhnyi, one of Ukraine's most decorated players, announced he was postponing his plans to coach in Britain to stay and fight for his country.

"The situation is horrific," he told Sky Sports. "I want to come to coach in the UK, but before anything I will stand firmly and fight for my people, for my country and for democracy."

On Monday, the Military Times in the U.S. published a set of guidelines for those wishing to apply for Ukraine's International Legion Army.

They can be viewed here.

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