The Volunteer (Interview with Dawid)
This article will be different than others. I will write about myself, and that is never easy.
It will not be a perky story about adventures on a frontline. A lot has been said about that. But I would like to add a few words about myself.
The reportage that has been available to watch on YouTube since the beginning of May was made by Natalia Grochal and Tomasz Nawrocki. They’ve done a great job. These days, the topic of the war with ISIS is not as shocking as it used to be. There is also no willingness anymore to gather the information on the ground and report it first-hand.
The volunteer [Interview with Dawid]
But I will not dwell on that. At the end of the day, most of you who are reading this have enough background. I will move on to the subject matter, namely to my first trip to Iraq. 2016 was a strange year. A lot was happening in my life, but at the same time, not much was happening. I will not reveal details from my personal life, but my situation had helped me to make the decision I made. However, it was not made lightly or spontaneously. It was a well-thought position the sources of which I see in God, my life experiences, as well as the events that were taking place in the world. Since 2014, ISIS was massacring civilian populations of Iraq and Syria. Women, children, and men who stood to fight in their defense were brutally murdered. The reports provided by the media were informative but void of condemnation or call to action. And that was what I was missing in the information noise. I was waiting in vain for the great and the good of this world to launch a campaign to stop those horrid atrocities.
At the beginning of 2016, the Internet was full of movies and reportages covering massacres carried out by ISIS. There was no need of searching for them on the Dark Web (namely that part of the Internet that cannot be found through popular search engines). Maybe some of you remember that movies showing executions and murders could be found on YouTube. It is quite ironic, considering that the age restriction has been imposed on the interview above making it unavailable for viewers younger than 18. There were also testimonies of people who fled the terrorists. At the time, I had no idea who the Yazidis were and why the terrorists earmarked them for extermination. I was not considering the complexities of the Middle Eastern ethnic composition and I was not trying to convince myself that in this region war is normality. Simply put, something was boiling inside me. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an article I read about Yazidi girls burned alive in Mosul. They were all teenagers.
I continued searching. I came across an article about a Christian self-defense unit composed of volunteers who stood to fight in defense of their land. If you follow our blog, you are already familiar with one of them. Majid, whom I interviewed in March, is my friend from those days. Apart from the Assyrians, the unit included foreigners as well. Like me, they were also fed up with the words: “Someone should do something about it.”
I will spare you the details. I will only say that I found myself on the frontline, at the border between the Iraqi Kurdistan and territories occupied by the so-called Islamic State. I spent several months over there and shortly before going back home I had met Bartek Rutkowski. Some may say it was a pure coincidence. But to me, it is very unlikely that in the middle of a war, thousands of kilometers away from Poland, in a place inaccessible to journalists from the largest TV stations, two Poles shook their hands by pure luck.
As I have mentioned, my faith played a large role in those events, so my explanation is much simpler: that was God’s will. After our return to Poland, Bartek contacted me and it turned out our goals were aligned. I wanted to stay active and Bartek needed help in developing his foundation. Today I know that both experiences have been very valuable and in hindsight I can say without hesitation that helping people the way we do now is the best thing that has ever happened in my life. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing a family in an extremely difficult situation back on their feet. Or how hardship and hours of work to collect any penny are transformed into workshops, shops, and houses – a real help for real people.
It is hard work. Perhaps not physically, although hours spent behind the wheel and thousands of kilometers traveled every year can be tiring. The most difficult moments come when you receive a call from a man whose child has just died asking for any help. Or when you are forced to refuse support in obtaining medical treatment because its cost is a five-digit number counted in US dollars. This work also requires everyday activities aimed at reaching people who are not indifferent to the fate of strangers. Once reached, we need to convince them that aid they may decide to provide truly helps those in need. If you are reading this, think that you may be such a person.
Author: Dawid Czyż