Taiwanese man takes up arms to defend adopted homeland Ukraine

04/10/2022 06:47 PM
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Naive Wang (王楠穎) at a refugee camp. Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Naive Wang (王楠穎) at a refugee camp. Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

Taipei-Medyka, April 9 (CNA) On March 2, Naive Wang (王楠穎), a long-term Taiwanese resident of Ukraine, boarded a bus and said goodbye to the life he had spent eight years building in the city of Kharkiv.

His Chinese employers in Ukraine had upped sticks almost immediately after Russia's commencement of military operations on Feb. 24, and had encouraged Wang to do likewise.

Nine days into the war, he finally took Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs up on their offer to evacuate, leaving his material possessions behind and heading for the Polish capital Warsaw.

Yet in Poland Wang still found himself in a tight spot.

Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

Not only was the Ukrainian hryvnia in his pockets near worthless due to depreciation, his Taiwanese passport only afforded him a 90-day visa-free stay in the Schengen Area.

"Leaving so abruptly lost me everything," Wang said. "I was penniless, without a place to stay, and was without a job."

In the end, he decided to pass on four job offers in Poland and return to Ukraine to enlist with the International Legion of Territorial Defense.

Unlike Wang Jui-ti (王芮緹), a Taiwanese man who had been rejected by the international legion, Naive Wang's application -- written in fluent Ukrainian -- was approved in just one week.

Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

Born in 1982, Wang, who is also fluent in Russian in addition to Ukrainian, hopes he can play a valuable role as a translator with the international legion, a majority of whose 20,000 or so volunteers speak neither language.

Having spent the best part of a decade putting down roots in Ukraine following his graduation from the Ukraine National Aerospace University, Wang is unsure what to expect when he finally makes it back to Kharkiv.

"I don't know if my home is still there. When I escaped, I didn't bring anything. My clothes and books are still there."

While volunteering in the Polish town of Medyka, where he helped the large number of Ukrainian refugees pouring into the country, Wang become aware of the toll that heavy fighting had taken on his adopted home city.

Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

"Several older ladies upon hearing that I came from Kharkiv embraced me and cried," he said. "So many emotions pent-up from life and death situations and hate that couldn't be put into words could only be expressed through tears."

Despite his previous employment with a Chinese firm, Wang recognizes that Beijing's siding with Moscow has changed public opinion in Ukraine.

"Now, most Ukrainians think that China provided Russia with funds to start a war," Wang said.

Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti
Photo courtesy of Wang Jui-ti

However, he also said that Ukrainians are aware of Taiwan's support for Kyiv, something he hopes his service with the international legion can further underline.

As he prepares to take up arms in the ongoing conflict, Wang hopes that Taipei's support for Kyiv will extend to postwar rebuilding efforts. "I hope Taiwan's concern for Ukraine is not temporary."

(By Huang Ya-shih and James Lo)

Enditem/ASG

> Chinese Version

Update

April 23: Taiwanese man documents army life on Ukraine frontline

Photo courtesy of Naive Wang
Photo courtesy of Naive Wang
Photo courtesy of Naive Wang
Photo courtesy of Naive Wang
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