A Quiet Homecoming

The first piece I wrote for SOFREP, way back on March 10th of this year, was about a Canadian Sniper that goes by the nickname of Wali. Wali went to Ukraine to put his considerable skills to use as part of the International Legion fighting against the Russians. Today, Wali is back home in Quebec. He must have exited the country quietly, he’s been back for over a month, and although I monitor the war quite closely, this is the first I hear of his departure.

Wali is now back home, unharmed, in Quebec, Canada. Image Credit: Olivier Jean, The Press

Shortly after returning home, Wali gave an interview to one of his local newspapers, La Presse. He told the reporter, “I’m lucky to still be alive; it really came close.”

During the interview, Wali gave details of his last mission in Ukraine. He was in the field with a Ukrainian unit partially composed of conscripts. It was early in the morning, and he had just taken up a position near a trench in an area that had been firing from Russian tanks. Shortly after, two conscripted soldiers came out from underneath their blankets to smoke cigarettes. You simply do not do that. It’s like holding up a big sign to the enemy that says, “Hey, over here!”. 

Wali said, “I told them not to expose themselves like that, but they weren’t listening to me.” Before long, what he described as “highly accurate” fire from a Russian tank was raining down on their position. “It exploded solid,” he said. “I saw the shrapnel go by like lasers. My body tensed up. I couldn’t hear anything; I immediately had a headache. It was really violent.” 

He looked over in the direction of the smokers and realized there was nothing that could be done. “It smelled of death,” he said. It’s hard to describe; it’s a macabre smell of charred flesh, sulfur, and chemicals. It’s so inhuman, that smell.” About an hour after the incident, Wali called home to his partner, who he wished to keep anonymous. She describes the call, which she received in the middle of the night local time,

“He was trying to explain to me that there had been two deaths. He was like, ‘I think I’ve done enough, huh? Have I done enough? Looks like he wanted me to tell him to come back, she says. He was awfully calm.” 

Not long after that call, Wali decided to come home to his family. He thought about how he had missed his son’s first birthday while deployed. “It was time to go back.” Says the young father, “My heart feels like going back to the front. I still have the flame. I like the theater of operations. But I pushed my luck. I have no injuries. I say to myself: how far can I roll the dice? I don’t want to lose what I have here.”

The sniper in Donbas. Image Credit: Wali via La Presse

Wali seems to feel that his particular skill set was underutilized in the war. He says he only fired two rounds into windows “to scare people.” “It’s a war of machines,” he says. He feels the Ukrainian fighters are courageous, but many lack technical military skills. He continues, “If the Ukrainians had the procedures we had in Afghanistan to communicate with the artillery, we could have caused carnage.”

Still, Wali does not hide his desire to return to Ukraine. But, he says, “You never know when foreign fighters will make a difference on the ground. It’s like a fire extinguisher: it’s useless until the fire catches.”