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From the elderly to boxing legends, Ukraine is showing world what resistance means

Last month, Valentyna Kostyantynovska heard the building drumbeat toward Russia's invasion of Ukraine and decided to join the defense forces. She figured that the only way her homeland stood a chance against such overwhelming force was if everyone chipped in.

And by everyone, she meant everyone.

Even someone such as herself, a 79-year-old from Mariupol, located along the Sea of Azov which is connected to the Black Sea.

“I cannot do much,” Kostyantynovska told Reuters. “I can help the wounded. …I know they will kill me. And so it should be, so less young people would die.”

On a small island in the Black Sea this week, 13 Ukrainian soldiers, staring down the Russian Navy and with the choice of death or surrender, reportedly barked into a radio, “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”

In Kyiv, two multimillionaire former heavyweight boxing champions, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, each with the fame and resources to have long ago fled to safety, remained, vowing to take up arms and fight the Russians in the streets no matter the consequences. As high-profile targets, their fate may be sealed.

“I don’t have another choice,” Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv and the son of a former general in the old Soviet Air Force, told “Good Morning Britain.”

“I have to do that.”

Heavyweight boxing champion turned Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko has vowed to defend Ukraine.
Heavyweight boxing champion, turned Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, talks with AFP journalists at his office in Kyiv on Feb. 10. Klitschko said he was ready "to take up arms" defending Ukraine against a feared Russian invasion. (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

As recently as a week ago, many Americans knew little to nothing about Ukraine or the Ukrainian people. Many wouldn’t have been able to find it on a map, just another jigsaw piece among the geography of Eastern Europe.

There were the Klitschkos, a few NHL and NBA players, a couple actresses and lots of murky political scandals that would occasionally put the country in the news, but with little context.

Few, however, understood who these people are, what this country believes in and the measure of the courage available to defend against an overwhelming invasion.

They do now. Boy, do we all know.

The stories of individual heroism, of defiance, of courage and conviction displayed by the Ukrainians since Russia has invaded the country have moved the world.

This is a near-impossible fight. The Ukrainians mostly alone against one of the planet’s biggest armies, led by one of its most ruthless men.

Ukraine’s plan has never been about realistically stopping the Russians in their tracks, holding the border or forcing an immediate retreat. It’s been about making every step in Ukrainian land as difficult as possible. It’s about a sustained resistance, about citizens taking up arms and homemade explosives, about refusing to bend to occupiers. It’s about inflicting as many casualties as possible and simply outlasting the aggressors until support for this war collapses in Russia.

“Ukrainians are showing their true heroism,” Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released Friday. “Like our ancestors before, they are charging into battle. Russia continues to expect that our forces will grow tired, but we will not tire.”

Where are Russian forces surrounding Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

In 2014, Russia overtook the Crimea region of Ukraine without firing a shot. This time, it’s about making it hard. Ukrainian hard.

“The enemy wants to bring the capital to its knees and destroy us,” Vladimir Klitschko said in a statement Friday. “Everyone who can defend the city should join and help our soldiers.”

This is David v. Goliath.

Except there is apparently no shortage of Davids.

It’s the grandfathers and grandmothers, who lived through life under Soviet rule, enlisting to do anything they can. It’s 60-something retiree Dmytro Bellykov who told Reuters that he’s joining up because he’s still a pretty good shot and, if not, he’s good at fixing things.

“I can repair weapons,” he said.

It’s soldier Vitaliy Skakun Volodymrovych, who the Ukrainian government said was setting mines along a bridge when Russian forces arrived before he was done and clear. Rather than flee and let them pass, he blew both himself and the bridge up.

It’s the group of fighters outside of Kherson who lost a critical bridge to the Russians but, per CNN reporting, refused to retreat. Instead, they fought to take it back, at least temporarily.

It’s everything. And everyone. The Ministry of Defense has now encouraged Ukrainians to “inform us of troop movements, to make Molotov cocktails and neutralize the enemy” by almost any means necessary.

This is why each and every act is being celebrated. Old men. Old women. Citizens. Soldiers.

Everything from firebombs to harsh rhetoric that makes it clear that the Russian army is not welcome or wanted there, no matter the propaganda back in Moscow.

Some would rather die than be captured, make one last statement rather than succumb in silence.

These are the Ukrainians; desperate but defiant, one act at a time, a people the world has learned quickly and clearly exactly who they are and what they are about.