In a series of diary-like dispatches, Matt Gallagher shares a riveting on-the-ground account of training civilians for combat in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

All-day lane rotations between trainers on urban movement, dismounted recon ops, and advanced room defense. They’re getting better. Petro’s a leader. So is Symon, the law student. So is Ivan, a regional manager of a clothing company. Adrian, Ben, and I chat. It’s time to start becoming more hands-off, we agree. Train the trainers.

Some of the trainees show us text messages they’ve received and been forwarded. People claiming to be American special-operations veterans offering security and exfiltration services for the low, low price of two grand a day. We’re the only suckers here losing money, Ben says, but he says it with pride, with honor.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.