Donnie MacIntosh may not have a Ukrainian bone in his body, but that’s not stopping the 52-year-old Barrie man from putting his life on the line to help its citizens as they fight back against the Russian invasion of their country.
MacIntosh, who is of Scottish descent, recently registered with the Ukraine Embassy in Ottawa and is preparing to join the fight against the Russian forces. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 406 civilian deaths and 801 injuries as a result of the conflict, now in its 13th day,
A father to two, stepdad to three adult children and “papa” to six grandchildren, MacIntosh says he decided to get involved after watching a newscast featuring a Ukrainian woman asking for help.
“At that point, I said to myself, 'I’ve got to do something',” he said. “I can’t watch another child being killed without doing something about it.”
MacIntosh admits he has no military training, but does have a gun licence and has knowledge of how to shoot a loaded weapon. He is also healthy and in good physical condition, boasting a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo and self-defense training, all things he hopes will come in handy.
“It wasn’t a light decision on my part, but I figured I would go over there and try to make a difference," he said.
That decision — to travel more than 7,500 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of a war zone — is one that initially left his family speechless, not to mention and pretty “freaked out,” admitted his wife, Karen MacIntosh.
She says she’s still in a bit of shock.
“Sometimes the world doesn’t feel like it’s turning… but the more I thought about it and talked to my family and friends about it, this is Donnie’s purpose and this is what he wants to do,” she said.
He is a master mechanic by trade and also has a background in education in network engineering and security, which she hopes are the skills he will actually end up using once he arrives overseas.
It’s been five days since MacIntosh officially “enlisted” and he is anxiously waiting to be called upon to go fight, adding even if he doesn’t get an official call from the embassy to go help, he still intends to go independently.
In the meantime, he is raising money to help cover the expenses that come along with his decision — including equipment such as a bomb jacket and other military equipment, covering day-to-day costs as well as the cost of the flight to Poland, which is where he will then cross the border into Ukraine.
The couple is also accepting donations of men’s toiletries, as well as protein and granola bars, at their south-end Barrie business, which is located at 149 Welham Road, Unit 43. He plans to pack the items into as many suitcases as he’s able to pay for and take on an airplane.
“I could go down tomorrow and take the money out of my own bank account, but I don’t want to leave my family with nothing just to be on the safe side, because if something did happen, they need to have some money," he said.
Whether he ends up fighting with a gun or putting his background as a mechanic to use, he admits he’d be a fool if he said he wasn’t concerned about his safety. He says he is going into the situation knowing full well what he is getting himself into.
“I am well aware of what is going on in Ukraine and I am well aware that I could get hurt and I accept that. I am apprehensive and I am fearful, but I can’t let that get in my way right now,” Donnie said. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like bullies. I was a scrawny kid and I got beat up all the time by bullies and I look at the conflict over there and the leadership — and not to be political — but Putin is just looking like a bully on the block and I don’t like that.”
Karen said she wakes up every day and hopes that things have changed and that her husband won’t need to leave.
“I am proud. I think if more men stood up and fought for things that people need — and not just in Ukraine and not just in Russia but in the world itself — that it might not be so ugly,” she said, fighting back tears. “Someone has to do it… right?
"I know the long game is for me to stay here and be the glue to my family, hunker down and run the businesses we have here, and help my community," Karen added. "Now I will really have to be the glue to my kids and grandkids… and just keep a positive frame of mind that it doesn’t go on too long and Donnie comes back sooner rather than later."