Former POW Alex Drueke looks back on year of war

It’s been one year since Russia invaded Ukraine and began war. No one locally has felt the heat of this war more than former prisoner of war and Tuscaloosa native Alex Drueke.

Today, Drueke is doing well and living a much quieter, less stressful life than the one he faced over a large part of 2022.

Drueke and fellow Alabamian Andy Huynh were held captive as prisoners of war in Ukraine by Russian separatists for 105 days, until they were released in a prisoner swap in September.

“Our Freedom Ride, as we called it, was not just a 30-minute trip from the prison to the airport,” Drueke said. “It was 24 hours of pure torture. It’s the only time most of us asked for death.”

Drueke said he’d traveled to Ukraine so he could help train Ukrainian troops for the war against Russia.

“It’s what I do,” Drueke said. “I am a solder. And soldiers serve protect those who need protecting. I had no idea I was going to fall in love with Ukraine like I did. The country is beautiful, the people are wonderful. They are amazing people.”

Drueke said what he saw reminded him of what he’s heard about Americans during the Revolutionary War.

“They are fighting for their freedom, fighting for their sovereignty,” he said. “And with all of the difficulties and trauma that they are going through, they were still so kind and so generous and so welcoming to us.”

Drueke said he vividly remembers when he first heard Russia went on the offensive, and the burgeoning urge to help the people of Ukraine.

“It took a minute for me to really realize what was happening, for me to realize I have to go,” Drueke said.

Today, he’s is still on a long road to recovery. Physically and mentally. But the ultimate healing, he said, will come when Ukraine is free of war and able to rebuild.

“My message is continue supporting Ukraine,” Drueke said. “Everything I do, I want it to help Ukraine. I am tempted to go back at times, but my Mama says I can’t or she’ll kill me.”

Drueke said just like his name was kept in the news during his and Huynh’s ordeal, he’s keeping Ukraine at the forefront.

“I want people to understand that, yeah, we have some economic issues here and it would be great to not be sending money to Ukraine, but we have to,” he said. “It is not that we need to. It is not that we should. We have to. Ukraine is not just fighting for their independence, they are fighting for freedom, for democracy. They are fighting for all that is right in this world against pure evil.”


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