Ukrainian Frontline Soldiers Request Mobile Saunas from Estonian Allies


In what may seem at first an unexpected twist in the complex theatre of war, front line soldiers in Ukraine solicited the aid of Estonian allies, but not in the conventional sense. Their request? Mobile sauna units, crafted by renowned Estonian filmmaker and humanitarian worker, Ilmar Raag. More than a simple earthly pleasure, these saunas – tricked out with showers and washing machines for military uniforms, and meticulously camouflaged to deter Russian fire – offer essential hygiene and a much-needed morale boost to weary soldiers subjected to extended periods without respite.

Estonian military tradition, tracing back to the country’s conflict with the Bolsheviks nearly a century ago, understands the crucial role that saunas play. Deployed close to the front, the saunas allowed troops to bathe and disinfect following gruelling stints in the trenches. Bearing witness to the difficult conditions Ukrainian troops endure, like countless days without washing or removing their boots, the front-line commander expressed gratitude for Estonia’s contribution, referring to the saunas as a blessing.

Turning the lens to other European Union and NATO countries, it seems many individuals living on Russia’s doorstep are rallying to support Ukraine in various unique ways. From crowd-funding efforts mobilising vehicles for emergency medical aid to the selfless volunteer snipers fighting on the front lines, the spirit of help and unity transcends boundaries. Citizens of countries like Lithuania harbor a stark realism about the situation, understanding that fighting in Ukraine is akin to defending their homeland.

The Baltics nations – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – see and empathise with Ukraine’s turmoil, their shared history of Soviet occupation forging a bond of understanding. According to Germany’s Kiel Institute, these three countries have offered or pledged more aid relative to their economy size than any other nation, including the US and UK.

The act of Russian aggression towards Ukraine has not only ignited old wounds but has provoked a wave of paradigm shifts. Countries uncomfortably close to Russia’s border, like Finland, have metamorphosed their stance on NATO involvement. Previously neutral due to apprehensions about provoking Russia, the brazen occupation of Ukraine has galvanized Finland to apply for NATO alliance.

Many of Russia’s neighbouring countries are decidedly against the Kremlin’s expansionist strategies and attempts to destabilize the West. The present invasion has cemented this sentiment and given NATO a renewed purpose: enhancing their presence in nations adjacent to Russia and recruiting fresh members.

The war in Ukraine has sent shockwaves through businesses, specifically in Finland where Russian tourism, previously worth approximately £500m ($630m) a year, has come to a grinding halt. Hospitality and resort owners express mixed feelings, noting fond memories of camaraderie with past Russian guests but no desire for their return amidst the escalating tensions and heartrending Ukrainian struggle.

Continuing the journey, one finds a unique situation in Latvia’s second city, Daugavpils, where the majority of residents are Russian-speaking. The local government has taken precautionary measures to mitigate potential attempts at Russian propaganda, such as banning Russian TV channels and discontinuing Russian-language schooling. Yet such actions also run the risk of alienating their ethnic Russian populace, who could potentially flock to Putin’s side.

Reflecting on the deeply personal and widespread impact of the Ukrainian war, one cannot help but ponder the uncertainties of the future. It implores us to seriously contemplate one question: what sort of relationship should we, and can we, have with Russia in the aftermath of this conflict? This is not only a concern for countries sharing a border and historical rife with Russia, but a noteworthy consideration for all of Europe and every ally of Ukraine.


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