Ukraine invasion: Finland starts voluntary military training as it waits for NATO membership

Despite its application for NATO membership, Finland is not waiting around for protection. 

Rattled by Russia and the events of Ukraine, thousands of Finns from all walks of life are flocking to military training every weekend. 

They make up the frontline of the Finnish worry - it's a battlefield of anxiety that's being turned into action. Because Finland can never be too ready for Russia. 

One amateur army is women only. It's a defence force of daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have chosen now to pick up a gun and head into the forest for training.

"I have also five grandchildren that I worry for," Tina said.

"I'm interested in defending Finland," added Sophia.

"It gives me more peace of mind, I think. I find this is very much relieving," Hana said.

Hana has been a nurse for the Ukrainian refugees, but for everyone here, the war has hit too close to home. 

"The interest has skyrocketed this spring," said trainer Axi Holmström.

The free military courses have been filling up within 24 hours.

"People feel like they have to do something, they don't really know what, but they need to do something and this is as good a place to start as any," Holmström said.

Ukraine invasion: Finland starts voluntary military training as it waits for NATO membership
Photo credit: Newshub.

It's war 101. How to fire an RPG, how to use a grenade, how to clear land mines, and how to save a comrade. When it comes to the enemy, they are only focused on the East.

"It's not a good thing to be a tiny little country in northern Europe with a very long border, with a very aggressive neighbour, when independence of a country is not respected anymore. That's a very worrying development," Holmström said.

The threat from next door is not new. The tiny Finnish Army took on the might of the Soviet Union's Red Army in 1939.

"It's kind of in my blood. I can't trust them," said army trainee Tina.

It's part of the reason the country of 5.5 million now has 900,000 reservists all ready to fight.

Unlike most European countries, Finland bases its defence on compulsory military training. Every year, around 20,000 young men are conscripted. Upon completion, they enter the reserves. 

But conscription is only for men.

"Everyone should have basic skills," one person said.

So these women are arming themselves voluntarily.

"If something like that happened here, I would like to help somehow," Vera said.

They only have to look to Ukraine to know that every soldier makes a difference.