The bullet-scarred pickups raced the sunrise along a rough dirt road wending through a dense pine forest. Multiple languages were spoken by the men inside them — Ukrainian, Brazilian, Colombian, Polish — but few words. It was not a moment for small talk.

They had come to fight Russians.

The trucks barely came to a halt to discharge their passengers before speeding off again. Armed drones might appear overhead at any moment, and so as the men continued on foot, they, too, did so with urgency.

The soldiers of the 2nd International Legion had arrived.

The path of the soldiers, among thousands of foreign fighters who signed up to help Ukraine after Russia invaded, told a story of war.

The Serebrianka Forest in eastern Ukrainian was badly scarred from months of fighting. Now, on this February morning, the bears, deer, foxes and birds that once lived here undisturbed were nowhere to be seen. Many of the trees and plants that sustained them had been toppled and burned by artillery, mortars and tank fire.


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