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White Eagle over Raqqa

Earlier this week, after several months of heavy urban fighting, the capital of the ISIS caliphate, Raqqa, has been declared liberated by the Syrian opposition forces, composed largely of Kurdish fighters.

But a small Polish-led unit has also had a role to play.

Called “Gniew Eufratu” (The Wrath of Euphrates), the 25-strong special team is made out of former military and special forces personnel from various European countries and the United States, including eight Polish snipers. They have all travelled to Syria of their own volition and are fighting along the the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as unpaid volunteers.

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Polish radio station, Radio Zet, asked the Polish commander of the Wrath of Euphrates, who goes under the nom-de-guerre Archer, his reasons for joining the fight against ISIS:

The first impulse came from watching women fighting ISIS. Many men left for Europe, but they decided to stay and fight. They trained, put on uniforms and created their own partisan units. They are particularly feared by the Islamists, because dying at the hands of a woman blocks your entry to Heaven, and it’s the thought of the Paradise, after all, which is their main reason for going on jihad. These women’s determination moved me not only because they were effective and brave but because they didn’t have much choice. I don’t think any woman should be put in such a position.

Another reason were the terrorist attacks in Europe. It irritated me that terrorists are running rampant on our streets and we’re just getting accustomed to their attacks… I decided that since the terrorists are killing our people, I’ll come over to them and attack them. I wanted to show them that there are people who are ready to hit back… I wanted them to hurt like we are hurting… to let them know that what they’re doing to us, we will do to them…

Also, we want to help Kurdistan. I wanted to show that while the Kurds couldn’t count on anyone’s help throughout history, there are people out there who want to assist them. We came here without any expectations and using our own resources. We’re not expecting anything in return… Sometimes it’s thankless, sometimes it’s hard, but deep in our hearts we know we’re doing good work here. If we return home, we will do so with clear consciences and the satisfaction of job well done [translation: TDC]

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While Archer’s Facebook page appears to have been taken down, you can still see some of the Wrath of Euphrates’s videos on their YouTube channel, including interview with Archer, who speaks surprisingly good English:

The Poles, of course, have a long tradition of fighting as volunteers in other people’s wars, revolutions and uprisings, according to the national motto, which says “For your freedom, and ours”. From the example of Kosciuszko and Pulaski in the American War of Independence onwards, thousands of Poles lost their lives in virtually every part of the world over the past two and a half centuries. After Poland ceased to exist under the Russian, Prussian and Austrian partitions, a romantic belief took root that freedom is indivisible, and therefore fighting for someone else’s freedom will bring Poland one step closer to her freedom too. This proud tradition clearly continues today, even though Poland is now finally free.

God bless and keep kicking that ISIS ass, gents.

[Some online commenters think the flames in the cover photo are photoshopped. They might be for all I know, but the photo is still pretty cool]

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