Manuel has no military training and does not speak Ukrainian, but has gone to Ukraine to fight the Russians anyway. The news came as a complete shock to his extended family, RTV Noord reports. “He hasn’t told us anything,” says his uncle Frank Meijer of Ommelanderwijk. “We found out from the Volkskrant that he had departed for Ukraine.”
Manuel, the son of Meijer’s deceased sister, worked as a fiber optic cable technician in a small company in Ermelo. Two weeks ago, the 28-year-old Termunterzijl resident contacted the Ukrainian embassy in the Hague, which had posted an online form where prospective recruits could register their details, to volunteer for the fight against the Russians. Last weekend, he left for Warsaw, Poland, apparently alongside a handful of other Dutch volunteers. From there, they headed toward the Polish-Ukrainian border despite the Dutch government’s urgent advice not to travel to Ukraine.
Frank Meijer thinks that was a reckless and potentially dangerous act. Manuel is “impulsive and a bit unstable,” Meijer says . “He can sometimes take strange steps, and this is one of them. He is a gamer who spends a lot of time glued to the screen playing games. And he likes Airsoft – a game where you shoot opposing players with small pellets. But those aren’t real bullets that you can actually kill someone with. I doubt he’s prepared for the reality that is awaiting him.”
Mr Meijer is frustrated with the embassy’s evident lack of communication with the volunteer’s family.
“I think it is wrong of the Ukrainian embassy not to contact the family,” he says. “If something happens to him, we don’t even know where to look for him. These boys are just cannon fodder, nothing more, nothing less,” he believes.
In early March, Ukraine’s government launched a website to recruit foreign volunteers to an ‘international legion’ to fight the Russian troops, following repeated calls by the country’s president for outsiders to join in his country’s defense.