After Russian President Putin launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, images of military and civilian fighters quickly began to surface. One photo instantly grabbed my attention and completely broke my heart. It showed a woman — dressed in her winter coat, gloves, and scarf — clutching a cardboard AK-47-shaped cutout as a uniformed soldier towered beside her, instructing her on firearms use.
It is tragic that innocent people have been swept into a senseless confrontation that could cost them their country, their freedoms, and their lives. And it’s heartbreaking that these same people have found themselves with no other choice but to fight for everything they have left.
Across the broken country of 44 million, average citizens — teachers, students, servers, cashiers, retirees, and countless other volunteers — have scrambled to protect their neighborhoods, their homes, their friends and families, and themselves. Most of these inexperienced fighters are learning firearms skills and practicing military-type strategies with cardboard guns, plastic guns, or paintball guns until real weapons can be made available to them.
Photos and videos show these countrymen and women with determined faces and fixed gazes, lined up in community squares or children’s play areas. But again, I am drawn to the image of the woman and her cardboard gun.
She’s fighting to learn a skill that so many in our country take for granted — or, worse, try to destroy.