From Spain to the Donetsk Front: Ukrainian Sold Her Property Abroad and Went to the War

When the first Russian missiles fell in Ukraine in 2022, she began to feel depressed. This feeling disappeared when Alona left her settled life in Spain and flew to Ukraine to fight. Currently, the woman defends the country in the ranks of the Donetsk separate brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces.

Photo: Donetsk separate brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

Alona is from the Ukrainian city of Lutsk. Her call sign is «Ispanka» («Spanish») — she came to Donetsk oblast immediately with a weapon in her hands. Before that, the woman’s life was sunny — she lived in Spain from her youth. She bought her own apartment, worked as a translator, and had a relationship with a foreigner for 9 years. Everything changed on the night of February 23 to 24 — her life was actually destroyed by Russian missiles, even though she was thousands of kilometers from Ukraine.

«I was born in Lutsk, lived there while studying to be a journalist, and worked on television. And at 21 I wanted to see the world. At that time, my mother had already lived in Spain for several years, and I went to visit her. I started working there, then studied, and stayed for 15 years. I constantly thought to myself: «Well, one more year — and I will return to Ukraine. One more year to earn money for an apartment here — and I’ll be back.»

And she did buy an apartment in Spain, at some point she even stopped thinking about returning. Until the full-scale invasion began. She knew that the war had been going on since 2014, but she had never felt so connected to it before.

«On February 24, I was awake when it was reported on the Spanish news that a war had begun — Russia attacked Ukraine. It has blown my mind. From that moment on, I lost my appetite, I weighed 37 kilograms (with a norm of 50), I could not sleep, I could not eat, and I had terrible depression… Something was wrong with me,» the woman recalls.

Alona in Spain

In order to be useful, Alona started working with refugees — collected funds, contributed her own, and went to Ukraine. There she found internally displaced people who had lost their homes. She remembers how she looked for them on social networks, asked them to meet in Gorokhov, and then took people to Spain.

«I had a place to settle them, helped with money, registered their children for kindergartens and schools. Some children had medical treatments and surgeries in Spain… I was doing that until July. And when all my IDPs were settled, received financial assistance, and their children were in kindergartens and schools, I decided to do something else. It wasn’t enough for me. And I thought: I’m sitting here, I don’t know how to fight. But there, in Ukraine, thousands of girls and boys also did not know how to fight. If they were taught, then I can do it too!», — Alona recalls.

She told her mother that she was going to visit her grandmother, although she already knew that she was going to Kyiv to go to war. She didn’t want her mom to worry. Thus, on November 22, Alona came to Ukraine, on the 23rd, she applied for joining the Armed Forces of Ukraine through the Military Registration and Enlistment Office.

«When my mom found out that I was at war, she said that I am crazy, that she should’ve taken my passport, and asked why I don’t love her»

«Ispanka» recalls: she was rejected for a long time and told that she did not need the war. She was told to return to Spain, and that she is too fragile. However, Alona stubbornly passed the medical examination, and as a result even «jumped» into a combat vehicle, which was the only one that could take her to the eastern front.

«On January 24, I received a call from the Military Registration and Enlistment Office: „Leaving tonight, 24 hours to pack things. If you don’t get together, we don’t know when we will be able to send you, because you are a girl.“ After this, I called my mother and said that I was going to defend Ukraine. Perhaps I will return, but only after victory. At the same time, I heard from her that I was crazy, that I needed to see a doctor, that I am so small — where am I going… Mom shouted into the phone that if she had known, she would have taken my passport away, and why I don’t love her so much, and why am I driving her crazy, why did she give birth to me… Now my mom knows that I’m studying to be a signal officer in Poltava, and my studies will continue for another year for sure,» Alona smiles.

Parting with a former chosen one can also be called unpleasant. Neither he nor the friends of «Ispanks» knew, where is she actually going. Everyone thought that she was returning to Ukraine for just two months — to her sick grandmother.

«I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. Even the ex, with whom we were together for 9 years. I also told him that I was going to my grandmother. But I left a note where wrote that I would not return until victory and that he should live his life. When he found out that I went to the war — he called me a liar — because I went to the war instead of my grandmother. He said that he will suffer because of me, that I broke his heart, and he doesn’t want to know anything about me,» the girl recalls.

Even before going to the front, Alona returned to Spain for training. Out of 200 people, she was the only one who knew Spanish and was asked to stay there, abroad, as a translator. But the woman made up her mind: she will be on the front line.

«When we were driving here, on these roads, I was not afraid, I was shocked — how could such a thing be done to my country?! But I didn’t show it. I only had a desire to learn something as soon as possible and do something already, and not just sit. But yes, these ruins, a damp basement… Everyone looked at me and said: „What are you doing, you’re a girl! How will you be here?“. But everything is fine. Everyone should be in the same conditions,» Alona says.

Photo: Donetsk separate brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

«I have to „fight“ for body armor, firewood, orders — because here everyone has to be in the same conditions. Yes, boys protect me, but I am also a fighter»

From the very beginning, «Ispanka» was one of the few girls in her unit. Her comrades immediately began to protect her — and the obligation to wear bulletproof vests, firewood, buckets, or clothes had to be «fought» for.

«The boys took great care of me: don’t carry firewood, don’t take a bag — I had to get it out of their hands. They tried to carry my armor so that it wouldn’t be heavy for me — I said „No, I’ll do it myself, I don’t need anything!“ To this day, such moments still occur when I take a bucket of some kind. The boys snatch it from my hands. But I can pull it out, I’m strong too. They want to look after me, but I try to make sure that everyone is under identical conditions. For example, when they define who is going to be on duty, they sometimes say: „No, Alona should not go, she is a girl.“ Alona, when she hears this, definitely goes on duty,» the woman smiles.

Today Alona is the commander of the communications department. She adjusts walkie-talkies and goes to positions to establish communication there, but fights so that it is possible to go to the very front and do more.

«The war taught me to appreciate air — under shelling it is impossible to breathe»

«Ispanks» smiles: life before the war in Spain and life in the Ukrainian wartime basement are more than categorically different. And this difference taught to appreciate things that people don’t even pay attention to.

«The most difficult thing in the basement is that it is not always possible to wash yourself. But wet wipes are a fantastic invention. Not a shower, but you also get used to them. And you begin to appreciate water more — for example, when you wash, you don’t waste a lot of water. You no longer turn on the shower and wash monotonously. No. Here you unscrewed the faucet a little, got wet, and turned it off. Soaped up, turned on the water, washed quickly — and that is it.

There is also a nuance that it is not always possible to go outside from basements where it is damp. So when the shelling starts, we cannot go out, we have to be underground for a long time. But when we go outside, we can’t get enough air, and we hear such a noise when everyone inhales this air… Fantastically delicious fresh air,» the girl says.

Alona recalls: at first she didn’t even get enough sleep — she was constantly trying to do something and learn more from her comrades. Over time, this desire «rooted» in ordinary life — and the problem of lack of sleep disappeared. War simply became an ordinary life.

Photo: Donetsk separate brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

«With me, I have people who survived Azovstal, were captured, and lost their families. I see the fire in their eyes»

«Ispanka» says that among her comrades there are many people who have lost everything. Some of them have returned from captivity, half of them have real estate left in the occupied territories, to which they are unlikely to return — not only the occupation, but also the fact that they were gutted or demolished by the Russians will prevent them.

«We have people who have lost everything. They saw live how the enemy destroyed their houses. There are people who were in Russian captivity after Azovstal. Now they have nothing: they have no home, nowhere to send their belongings, they have lost relatives, their families. And I see the passion in their eyes, how they want to win, rebuild everything… Many of us spend almost all of our money on the war. For example, I spend them on „Mavics“, antennas, and some training because I want to be more useful in different areas. And in communication, you have to learn a lot,» the military woman says.

Alona admits: she likes to shoot guns. Especially to aim at enemies, although it does not have a negative attitude towards the entire nation of Russians.

«I like to shoot, I just love it. I have never even held a weapon in my hands before, but when you are at the front, you see Russian soldiers right next to you, and you shoot at them, hit them, and because of that they start shooting back at you… I am not a murderer, but when I shoot at enemies and I understand that I am destroying them, speeding up the victory — I can’t even describe my feelings. This is the desire for a peaceful life for my Ukraine.

But I am not against Russians as a whole nation — absolutely. I am in favor of destroying those who are on our territory, who invaded us. I don’t want all Russians to die, as they say — no. I just want them not to be on our territory. They should stay in Russia,» «Ispanka» says.

Photo: Donetsk separate brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

«After the war, I will do farming on the demined territories»

Alona recalls that her mother warned her from the very beginning: there will be no gender equality in the army, and even more so in war. However, «Ispanka» says that Ukrainians have gone far beyond stereotypes.

«I was also afraid of equality because it is the army. Here the man is supposed to be on top, and the girls are below. But our guys are so advanced that there is absolutely no discrimination. The fact that they protect me is another matter. They don’t discriminate, they don’t forbid me to do something, they don’t say that I can’t do it because I’m a girl, and they don’t molest me. There is no such thing and never was. They just repeat that I am small and fragile, and they are just always by my side to protect me. Here, they count on me, they consult with me,» the military says.

Alona notes that she could already be a citizen of Spain, but she never wanted it. However, now he is not even thinking about going abroad — even after the victory.

«Before, it didn’t matter what my citizenship was. And now I am proud of my Ukrainian passport. I am proud that I was born in Ukraine, and that I am Ukrainian. And I am proud of our soldiers. With minimal means (sometimes we use WWII equipment for communication), we do our best.

After the war, I will one hundred percent stay in Ukraine, in Donbas. I have already sold my apartment in Spain, after the victory I will settle here and engage in agriculture. Only in this, because until all the fields and territories are demined, there will be a huge need for food products. And if I have the opportunity to buy land somewhere in demined or unmined territories, I will buy a healthy piece of land. I will have both crop and livestock farming there,» the military woman says.

Author: Alina Yevych

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