As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, targeting many of the country’s most important cities, the fight is striking a chord with Canadians including a man from Powell River.
Thirty-three-year-old Bryson Woolsey, a cook in the city, has recently quit his job and is now preparing to travel overseas as a volunteer.
“There’s some pretty graphic stuff I’ve seen on Reddit and stuff,” he said. “It really strikes me as deeply wrong, it’s a great injustice.”
“I wanted to do something and all I really felt I could do was put myself over there somehow, and then the president called for international volunteers.”
Bryson’s reasons for his travels are not those that are rooted in family, he says he doesn’t have any Ukrainian heritage. However, after struggling with an alcohol and cocaine addiction earlier in his life, the now four years sober man is finding he wants to watch out for others in need.
“Being sober for the last four years and as I’ve grown I’ve really started to lean more towards helping other people rather than looking out for myself,” he explained. “I think that probably is another reason is seeing what’s going on there and wanting to do something.”
He also says he is a History buff and spent lots of time in school learning about the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War.
A mission like this requires a lot of supplies for those who are travelling to the country to fight. He says bringing basic supplies like boots, a sleeping bag, first aid kits are a must as they could be to be hard to find and will be best to bring himself.
“As far as I know, they’ll supply weapons, body armour, depending on what they have at the time,” he said.
He says others, including veterans, have been giving him advice and some firearms training. He says others have offered Air Miles to help him get over.
“People want to help,” he said. “Whether it’s going over there doing what they can here.”
He recently set up a gofundme page to help him cover some of the costs and others in the country.
“Any of the excess I’m hoping to use to help out other volunteers because there’s quite a few and it’s a lot more money than I thought to get over there,” said Bryson. “It’s all going to support Ukraine in some way.”
He says many people are trying to travel in groups, and he will be leaving with a group of four or five on his way there. He says he has no expectations as to what he will be doing for the country.
“With the experience I have, I have no idea what will happen or where I’ll end up being placed,” he said. “The only kind of medical experience I have is I had first aid level 1 and 3, marine first aid, they’ve expired now. They’ll know better than me where I’ll be of most use.”
He says he is fortunate to not have a lot of things to leave behind as he leaves for this mission.
“I’m fortunate in a sense in that I don’t have children or a spouse, I don’t own a house. I don’t have a lot of strings attached to me,” he said. “I’m enrolled in college for the end of March with student loans lined up for that, but I can postpone that.”
He says he is also leaving his family behind but wants to go as he has an opportunity.
Fear of the unknown is the biggest thing for him as he prepares to leave, along with the potential to not return home. However, he says his hope far outweighs the risk.
“It’s far outweighed by my hope that I can help, I just want to be able to do something,” he explained. “There’s still fear, but the hope far outweighs that.”
For those in Canada, Bryson says any help is welcome to help not only him but the whole of Ukraine through donations. He also says the experience shows a lot about his country.
“We’re blessed to live in the country we live in and if anyone has the ability and wishes to help even in a small amount of money it goes a long way for those people,” he stated. “I think we should stand up and give them our support.”
The gofundme page can be found here.