Indigenous Taiwanese man volunteers for Ukrainian Foreign Legion

03/22/2022 03:33 PM
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Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

Taipei, March 22 (CNA) A member of the Indigenous Amis group in Taiwan has volunteered to join the international legion of Ukraine's territorial defense forces, after submitting his application at the country's embassy in Finland on Monday.

In an interview with CNA, Wang Jui-ti (王芮緹) said he flew to Finland from Taiwan on Saturday and completed his application at the Ukrainian embassy Monday morning.

Wang, 35, said it was depressing for him to watch the brutal images of the war on television, as he had never imagined such events could occur in the 21st century.

"I want to do my part to defend basic human values," he said. "I don't have any money (to donate to the cause), but I'm willing to shed my blood in return for Ukrainians' freedom."

Wang, who cycled across Europe to the Vatican in 2016-2017 in memory of his late girlfriend, said a decision to fight in Ukraine's foreign legion is only suitable for people like him who have no ties or commitments at home.

"If I end up dying, at least I'd be able to see (my late girlfriend) again," said Wang, who is a member of the Amis tribe, the largest Indigenous group in Taiwan.

Explaining why he chose to submit his application in Finland, Wang said when he was on his European cycling tour, he ran out of money and was stranded in Finland, but people there made donations to help him after his story was published in the media.

"That trip through Finland marked the first major turning point in my life, and so, maybe coming here again will lead to the second," he said.

After submitting his foreign legion application at the embassy, Wang said, he had a 10-minute interview, during which he explained that he had served as a sentinel in Taiwan's Military Police force and knew how to use firearms.

While awaiting an email notification about his application, Wang said, he planned to travel by ferry to Latvia then cycle through Lithuania into Poland. If his application is rejected, he said, he would consider reapplying in one of those countries.

Having arrived in Finland with very little money, Wang said, he had been camping in a broken tent and was surprised to find that temperatures in the Nordic country were still below zero degrees Celsius.

It would all be worthwhile, however, if he could fulfill his wish to help the Ukrainian people, he said.

The Ukrainian Foreign Legion was created in late February by that country's government, under the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to allow foreign nationals to join the fight against Russian's invasion of Ukraine.

As of last week, some 20,000 people from 52 countries had volunteered to join the force, according to the Ukrainian government, but many countries have been strongly discouraging their citizens from doing so.

When asked Tuesday about Wang's decision, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that while it was based on "commendable" values, he would not encourage other Taiwanese to volunteer to fight in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also said that it would not encourage such actions, but there were no laws preventing Taiwanese from traveling to Ukraine.

People who are considering traveling to the region should contact MOFA, so that it can clearly explain the risks involved, the ministry's spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.

(By Huang Ya-shih and Matthew Mazzetta)

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