Juan, the Spanish soldier wounded in Ukraine visited by Zelensky | International
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The story of Juan, a Spanish volunteer who joined the Ukrainian fight against the Russian invaders, is an example of many other stories of people who followed the call of the President of Ukraine Volodímir Zelenski to help the resistance.
“If I was rich I would have donated to help Ukraine. If he were a doctor, he would have come to treat the wounded. But I can fight well, so I decided to help in the best possible way”, Juan told Efe from the hospital where he is being treated for war wounds and where he was visited by Zelenski.
Juan’s credentials before joining the fight against the Russians were 13 years of military experience. Now, after five months of fighting the invaders, Juan practically considers Ukraine his home.
Juan helped repel Russia’s attempt to capture kyiv and later joined the Arey unit of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, whose soldiers belong to the territorial defense of Kryvyi Rih. He for some time he served as an instructor, but then he fought as a sniper unit in a rural area in the Kherson region in the south.
Juan doesn’t talk much about the fighting, but a photo on his Instagram account shows a small house pierced by dozens of bullets where he was “about to fall in battle.”
In response to a question about the number of Russians he has killed, he said it is not something to brag about. However, the chief of staff of his unit, Stepan Kovalchyk, assured Efe that the Ukrainian soldiers saw him hit targets in battle several times.
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Juan says that he is the only foreigner in his unit. He has learned some Ukrainian and also communicates through Google Translate. In most cases, it has been easy for experienced soldiers to cooperate on the battlefield.
The building where Juan and his fellow soldiers stayed for the past few weeks was regularly hit by Russian artillery as the unit prevented the Russians from trying to cross the nearby river. Multiple shells exploded near him before a strange one flew in through a window.
“My heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital. I was saved by my colleagues and paramedics who revived me,” she said. He spent five days in an ICU and was transferred to a hospital in Odessa to help treat his injuries. He lost parts of the fingers of his right hand and part of the muscle of his right thigh. He also has a damaged liver and kidney.
Juan was surprised to see Zelensky appear on July 29 at the hospital. The president thanked him for his service and took a picture with him. In addition, he told her that he would come back to personally present her with an award for saving three Ukrainian soldiers in combat.
“I saw a drone right above them that was carrying some explosives and was about to drop it on the soldiers, as can be seen in many videos on the internet,” Juan said, adding that he had then fired at the drone.
Juan says that he has never been afraid in battle, but he does respect war and that, no matter how many precautions are taken, if the time has come, there is nothing that can be done. The Spanish soldier says that the situation on the front remains difficult. “More experienced foreign soldiers who love Ukraine are needed to help it win,” he said. Ukraine, according to him, also needs much more artillery, tanks and aviation. There is no other way to stop Russia than to keep fighting, explains Juan. “We gave up Crimea and part of Donbas before, but Russia did not stop,” he said.
After four months with the unit, his soldiers are like brothers to Juan. He hopes he can return there somehow, perhaps as an instructor, if not as a combatant.
The feeling is mutual. Stepan, a Ukrainian soldier, thinks highly of Spanish. “A professional like him, with his experience, would be able to teach other soldiers a lot,” he said. “Besides, he promised me that one day he would take me around Ibiza,” he says. “I’m waiting for him to get better and come back very soon,” he added.
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