Alisa, a 38-year-old Ukrainian office worker in the capital, had always liked sport shooting and had joined a local territorial defense unit more than a year ago to learn fighting skills.
She is now concerned that she may have to employ such talents in a genuine conflict with Russia.
“It’s terrible when people are killed. Worse, when you consider not only your own life, but also the life of a 7-year-old boy, “She spoke to Reuters in her home outside Kyiv as her son, Timur, watched cartoons.
“I understand he might be wounded because of the folly of the neighboring nation, which is no longer a brother country,” Alisa, who wished to be named only by her first name, said.
Russia’s build-up of tens of thousands of troops near the borders with Ukraine has stirred fears in Ukraine and Western countries that it is poised to invade, something Moscow denies.
Alisa joined the territorial defense forces a year and a half ago, earlier than many. In January, as the Russian troops massed, the government said it wanted to build reserve battalions up into a corps of up to 130,000 people.
Alisa said she has seen dozens of new people joining the training sessions each Saturday.
She began this weekend as she often does, putting on camouflage fatigues, taking one of her two small-caliber guns she keeps at home and heading to a training ground – a pine forest with sand dunes, an old railway and few abandoned construction sites.
Along with dozens of other volunteers, mostly men in their late 30s and 40s with civilian jobs, she then spent seven hours either with her weapon on the ground or on guard as a part of a small patrol tasked to protect a concrete building from enemy saboteurs.
She said the fact she has at least basic training is some comfort.
“If, God forbid, a war starts … I know how to move from an unsafe point A to a safe point B,” Alisa said.
“I understand how to do if I’m under fire. I know how to help Timur, friends, neighbors if they are caught in fire.”
Alisa, a motorcycle fan, has visited more 50 countries along with her husband, also a biker. She is a media relations specialist at an organization that works in cyber security.
She tries not to skip training sessions herself even if she badly needs rest at the end of the working week.
“If we had peace time I would miss training if I was tired but now I make myself get up early for a session because now it’s needed more than ever,” she said.
Alisa said she likes gaining new skills that have built her self-confidence and courage, but hopes never to have to use them.
“I feel anger, hatred and I have my plans cancelled. It’s all surreal for me and I don’t get how such silly things can happen in a civilized world in the 21st century,” she said.