'I'm willing to die to do good': LBC speaks to man who flew from Canada to fight Russians

7 March 2022, 07:42 | Updated: 7 March 2022, 10:49

Hunter Francis, 24, is signing up to fight the Russian army in Ukraine
Hunter Francis, 24, is signing up to fight the Russian army in Ukraine. Picture: LBC
Matthew Thompson

By Matthew Thompson

Of the thousands of foreigners signing up to fight the Russian army in Ukraine, a 24 year old Rolex watch salesman may not seem the likeliest of candidates.

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And yet, on the plane to Warsaw, that is exactly who we meet.

Hunter Francis is is from rural Canada. He has never been to Europe in his life.

Aside from a tendency for sub zero temperatures, his home town of Miramichi, New Brunswick, has little in common with war-torn Kyiv.

But within days, he hopes to be on the front lines of that city’s desperate defence after a journey of nearly 4,000 miles.

"You’re going to Kyiv?” asks one surprised passenger sat next to us. "That’s a one way ticket."

Hunter smiles. "I know. That’s why I only booked one flight," he replies.

Still, the pair exchange details, as the passenger has a friend who is also looking to enlist.

Hunter is calm, eloquent and remarkably lucid. This is no naive quest; no ardour for desperate glory.

Read more: Russia shells nuclear reactor in Kharkiv amid warnings of 'large-scale disaster'

Read more: Zelenskyy urges Russian people to stand up to Putin and 'overcome evil'

He has three years’ service in the Canadian infantry. He knows what war looks like.

So what on earth is he thinking, travelling thousands of miles to risk life and limb for a city he’s never even set foot in?

"Someone’s got to do it," he tells me.

"I’ve had that mentality my whole life. Even the s*** jobs that nobody wants to do. Somebody still has to do it. It just feels like this is calling. Even I think I’m crazy, trust me. But some things you’ve just gotta do."

And he’s far from the only one. At a briefing on Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that almost 20,000 foreigners, from 52 countries, had signed up to fight.

"It's their choice," he said.

"We didn't hire them, we didn’t offer them anything. This is their desire to fight on the side of good."

Before even getting within 100 miles of the Ukrainian border, the presence of the conflict is all around us.

Read more: Ceasefire ends: Mariupol evacuation halted for second time as Russia 'shells civilians'

Read more: France call UK 'inhumane' after hundreds of Ukrainian refugees 'turned away at border'

Cabin crew wear ribbons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

On one plane we meet Hunter, on another, a team of Home Office officials heading out to assist with the processing of visa applications for Ukrainian refugees.

Royal Airforce planes are docked at the airport, unloading troops and supplies. The vortex of war drawing people from all over the globe to its swirling centre.

RAF cargo planes on the runway at Rzeszow airport
RAF cargo planes on the runway at Rzeszow airport. Picture: LBC

Before we leave Hunter, on his way to the embassy to enlist, I ask him what his mum thinks of his decision.

"She’s proud of me, but she doesn’t accept it. She thinks I’m going to die, but that’s what all mothers think."

Surely he’s considered that it’s a realistic possibility?

"Oh yeah. And that’s something I’m willing to accept. But cliché as it sounds, I want to do good. The people who put up profile pictures of the Ukrainian flag? That’s not doing nothing. I’m doing something. Or at least I’m trying to do something, the best I can."

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