As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its fifth day, and the number of casualties continues to stack up, some Israelis of Ukrainian origin decided they cannot keep watching the situation from afar, and they are preparing to join the country in the fight against the invasion.
"It's tough, and I feel like crying," says 38-year-old Sergei Nowitzki, an Israeli citizen, and a former IDF soldier. "The whole world is afraid of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sends soldiers to kill children and civilians. It makes me want to grab a weapon and volunteer to join the Ukrainian side."
Nowitzki was born in Kyiv and immigrated to Israel 24 years ago. Although he defines himself as an Israeli, he finds the images coming out of Ukraine disturbing.
His Jewish side of the family - his mother, grandmother, and aunt - live in Israel, but his father is a Ukrainian who still lives in Kyiv. "My mother spoke with my father a few days ago. He said he is alright, and is ready to fight," Nowitzki says.
Besides his father, Nowitzki also has a child in Ukraine, from a former marriage.
Nowitzki was drafted to the IDF and served in a combat support unit. He now decided that he must help his native country and join the fight against the Russian invasion.
"I enlisted in the IDF willingly, and now I must try to protect my family in Ukraine," he says. "I love Israel, and whenever something happens here I join the reserves immediately. Now there is a war in Ukraine, and I, along with others citizens of Israel who were born in Ukraine, ask the world, including Israel, to help," he says.
Nowitzki says there are various groups of Israelis who are willing to join the Ukrainians and fight the Russians. And as of right now, they are just waiting to receive permits to take defensive equipment out of the country.
"We will fly from Israel to Poland, and from there we will cross the Ukrainian-Polish border with a bus or on foot," Nowitzki explains.
"We still don't know in which city we will be stationed, we will most likely get our orders as we cross the Ukrainian border. If everything goes smoothly, I hope we can leave for Ukraine in the next 48 to 72 hours," he says.
Nowitzki will be accompanied by two of his friends and they plan to fight together. "I have a Ukrainian passport so I can leave without implicating Israel. I hope we don't have to fight and that a peace agreement will be reached, but if not, I will do what it takes to protect my relatives."