As Poland prepares to mark the centenary of its independence this November, thousands of Poles are training in all weathers for a part-time force meant to help defend the eastern European state from invasion.
More than 12,000 volunteers have joined the Territorial Defence Forces (WOT), as well as more than 2,000 professional soldiers. The government expects to add 10,000 recruits annually, to reach a total of more than 50,000 by the end of 2021. This year alone, the defence ministry plans to spend 568 million zloty ($153 million) on WOT, nearly as much as on the navy.
Left: Krasnodebski looks on during a swearing-in ceremony to become a territorial soldier. Right: Krasnodebski works with his boss on a project before his 16-day basic training for Poland's Territorial Defence Forces.
Damian Krasnodebski, a 27-year old architect from Warsaw who joined last year, says the force will provide guerrilla fighters to help deter potential attackers, particularly Russia. Poland joined the NATO Western military alliance in 1999, but he believes NATO is not enough.
"A guerrilla force is always difficult to fight against," he told Reuters. "If there was fighting in Poland, there would be problems with supply lines, subversive activity. That's always difficult for the opposing military."
Marcin Wierzbicki, a 44-year-old manager in an energy company, says that by joining WOT he is following in the family tradition set by his grandfathers of defending Poland. He does not expect to take part in battles, but to support the operative army, guard key assets, control road points and so on.
"Poland will be safer now and in the future," he said.