MISE À DAY
After six months in Ukraine, an SPVM police officer is proud to have fought against the Russian army and prepared hundreds of foreign soldiers who came to fight like him alongside their Ukrainian brothers in arms.< /strong>
“I trained hundreds of people on the advance in contact, defensive positions, the handling of AK-47, a lot of notions on combat, survival in the forest. I gave them the best of myself and I feel that I made a difference,” says Denis Perrier, a police officer with the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
To go in the war, the 55-year-old took a year off.
Like the whole world, he had his eyes on this country which borders Europe when the Russian invasion began on 24 last February.
“When President Zelensky made his call [for anyone who wanted to come and lend a hand], he really came looking for me. It haunted me day and night. I wanted to leave,” he says.
Even his wife could not have convinced him to stay here, he says.
After several months of waiting, it was finally on April 27 that he took off for Krakow, Poland. After helping humanitarian organizations for three days, he finally decides to cross the Ukrainian border.
“I was taken to a military base in the west of the country, and as I was over 45, I was offered to become an instructor given my experience. There was a lack of instructors”, explains the one who lives in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
It was because at that time, Ukraine was only sending elderly people into combat. from 18 to 45 years old, specifies the one who notably accompanied the UN to Cyprus in 1987 and to Bosnia in 1995 as a Canadian soldier.
People from all over the world
For more than a month, he first did this on a voluntary basis, then signed a contract with the Ukrainian army, which paid him.
“I think I have trained almost 200 soldiers of almost 50 countries. I had people coming from all over: Australia, Colombia, Taiwan, Canada and all of Europe,” he says.
Every day, new soldiers who wished to participate in the war effort were added to the ranks. Mr. Perrier therefore had to get down to checking that everyone had the level required to go to a war zone.
“Some people left from afar, they had trouble holding firearm ! It's just if he didn't have it upside down,” he chuckled.
The worst ones were simply escorted to the border.
After three months, his commander asked him to train recruits to create a special forces unit carrying out specific missions in the field.
“I was proud that they trusted me for this mission,” he confides.
The former soldier, however, wanted to go with them.
“I pressed because I wanted to fight. I came to Ukraine for this, not to be an instructor and eventually they recruited me,” he explains, adding that he trained for about a month.
He and his unit were sent to Kharkiv, in the northern Donbass, in early August. The city was already without electricity, businesses were closed.
“It was very, very hot. […] The first day we arrived, we think we were quickly spotted by pro-Russians. Our first night, we were bombarded by heavy caliber, so that put us on alert right away,” he says.
A rocket exploded just a few meters from him and his unit.
For three months, the former Canadian Armed Forces soldier and his unit had to complete missions. They could then leave for several days in a row.
“We did a lot of different missions. We neutralized the enemy, set traps, launched mortars on the enemy, neutralized Russian soldiers, captured others who gave good information. We made a difference in our little piece of land,” he explains.
“I'm not shy to say that some missions could be suicide operations. We didn't know if we were going to come back, ”he says, confident that there were, fortunately, no deaths in his unit.
In addition to having the impression of making a difference, the SPVM officer really felt that the will of the Ukrainians pushed him to continue.
The courage of the Ukrainians
“They gave us fuel. To see these people fighting like that for their country and who joined the army, to see their courage despite the thousands of deaths and the atrocities, it was incredible. It's for them that we continued every day, “he says.
Returning to Quebec for less than two weeks to find his spouse, Denis Perrier is already thinking of going back to Ukraine in February, before the war celebrates its first anniversary.
“If I had to do it again, I would definitely do it again! I would go back tomorrow morning without hesitation. My head is still there,” he blurts out.
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