A hairdresser by day and a “drone hunter” by night, Oleksandr Shamshur, 41, is among the tens of thousands of volunteers helping to defend the skies over Ukraine from Russian attacks.
As the first anniversary of the February 24 Russian invasion approaches, Ukraine is becoming increasingly adept at shooting down Russian missiles and drones fired at cities far from the front lines, and Shamshur is proud of its own role.
Members of his territorial defense unit, including a lawyer and a businessman, are responding to airstrikes in and around the capital Kyiv by attempting to shoot down Iranian Shahed-136 drones with a restored World War II machine gun.
“I’m a very happy person. Why? Because I’m defending my country, I’m defending our Ukrainian people,” Shamshur said as he combed the capital’s moonlit skyline through a rangefinder thermal camera from his rooftop position.
Nearby, a fellow fighter was adjusting the green barrels of the Soviet-made “Maxim” machine gun.
“But at the same time I can come to the beauty salon and work with the people, do the job I know, cut hair and talk to clients,” Shamshur said.
He said it had never occurred to him as a civilian to “run away and hide somewhere” when tens of thousands of Russian armored troops invaded stunned Ukraine last winter and began bombing Kiev and other cities.
“With the enemy on my doorstep I had to do something, I had to act defensively,” he said.
On the night of December 29-30, Shamshur said, his rooftop unit shot down two drones over Kiev. His team has also passed on the skills learned to other units.
Shamshur has several insignia on his camouflage uniform, including one “Drone Hunters”, in English, and another in Ukrainian that reads “Ronin” – a feudal Japanese warrior – which he has adopted as his nom-de-guerre .
When Russia invaded, Shamshur – an army reservist before the war – learned that his military base had already been destroyed by Russian shelling, so he joined the territorial defense, initially delivering food to civilians and helping to evacuate people.
At work in his salon, still dressed in military khaki as he styled a client’s hair, he said he tried not to talk about the war with his clients, calling it “dark” as opposed to the ” light” in the peaceful part of his life. .
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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