Letters from Australia lift Ukrainian spirits

The room was quiet and the mood was subdued as an Australian Army chaplain stood before a classroom of Armed Forces of Ukraine soldiers in northern England.

CAPTIONA traditional ceremonial guardian doll and handwritten letter from the Ukrainian community in Australia sits on the desk of a Ukrainian soldier attending an Australian Army-led leadership course in England. Story by Lieutenant Carolyn Martin. Photos by Corporal Nicole Dorrett.

As the freezing rain turned to hail outside, the padre, through an interpreter, told the assembled soldiers he had mail from Australia that he hoped would lift their spirits.

The Ukrainian soldiers are in the UK receiving leadership training before returning home to the war.

During their time in the UK, the soldiers have been revisiting and enhancing their military skills in urban and trench warfare, as well as assault and ambush methods in woodland environments.

But this day, the soldiers are receiving classroom lessons and a visit from the padre.

“I come here today to convey support, admiration and appreciation for your service from the Ukrainian community in Australia,” the padre said.

He distributed handwritten letters to each of the soldiers and some Motanka dolls, traditional ceremonial guardian dolls.

CAPTIONArmed Forces of Ukraine personnel attending an Australian Army lead leadership course in the United Kingdom, read handwritten letters sent from the Ukrainian community in Australia.

Some of the soldiers were visibly moved by the gesture, one pressing his eyes to stop the tears after receiving the letter and doll.

“To our brave and courageous Ukrainian men and women, you are preparing to head into conflict on completion of your training,” the padre read out loud from one of the letters.

“I take this opportunity to wish you well in all your undertakings and want you to know that both you and your family will be in my prayers – that God will watch over you in all your challenges – and to thank you once again for your selfless dedication to protecting your home and the free world.”

The padre said he hoped the soldiers would swap the letters among each other to buoy their spirits when they needed it.

CAPTION: An Australian Army padre deployed on Operation Kudu hands out handwritten letters to Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel. (Image has been digitally altered for security purposes.)


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