Save the Vegan Soldier


Oleksandr Zhuhan did not give in. Engaged in the army to defend his country against the Russian invasion, this 37-year-old Ukrainian maintains a strictly vegan diet even on the front lines.

“At the beginning, it was very complicated”, explains this 37-year-old dark-haired man, enlisted in the Mikolaiv region (south), who does not eat any food of animal origin.

Because of the shortcomings, “people told me that I would not hold out” because a special menu is not planned, he says smiling, rifle in his shoulder, behind the barracks of the position from which he answers questions AFP by videoconference.

At no time did he tell himself that his convictions would prevent him from serving his country and he ended up finding on the internet a network of activists helping soldiers who, like him, feed exclusively on vegetable products.

“I wrote to them and, in April, the first package arrived as if by a miracle”, states this drama teacher who decided to sign with the army the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, l last winter.

“There was pâté and vegan sausages, hummus, soy milk, etc. And all of this, for free,” he says enthusiastically.

“Delivery under the bombs”

Her guardian angel is called Tamara Human. In kyiv, this former top model is at the head of “Every animal”, an association bringing together a hundred people and promoting veganism.

This way of life combines an exclusively vegan diet and the refusal to consume any clothing or cosmetic product derived from animals or their exploitation.

“We even deliver under the bombs,” she confirms to AFP, while preparing, with two other volunteers, bulgur and dumplings for the civilian population.

On the thirteenth floor of a residential building in the green district of Rusanivka, her apartment has become the logistics center of an extraordinary solidarity chain.

The dog Mysha has its place there. There is even a beige rat rescued from a lab who bears the nickname “Pizdyuk” (“little jerk”), because he is not against a little meat… and would gladly bite the fingers of the unwary.

Economic patriotism obliges, most of the food used by the Tamara Human teams is of Ukrainian origin and comes mainly from Lviv, to the west, the city where it is easiest to find.

From now on, eight localities are involved in this chain of solidarity which helps around 200 soldiers to reconcile their convictions with the call of the flag.

“The packages we send them allow them to supplement for two or three weeks what they receive from the army to have a balanced diet,” explains this activist who has long been involved in animal protection.

She sees no contradiction between veganism and military engagement.

“I wanted to go and kill Russians too, but I don’t know how to use a weapon, so I’m more useful here than in fatigues,” she says under old Vogue magazine covers, hung up on the wall.

06/19/2022 15:13:52 – Mykolaiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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