“So if you ask why I went to Ukraine, if there is a reason why I went there, then the reason is those people and their fate.”
In the spring of 2022, Finnish writer Tuomas Kyrö heard about a Finnish mercenary fighting on the frontline in Ukraine. Kyrö travelled to Kiev, where he met Aleksi Lysander, a mercenary who told him his remarkable story of how a superhero-obsessed little boy from northern Finland who was bullied at school went on to join the French Foreign Legion before serving in conflict zones in Aghanistan and several African countries and completing his national service in between. When Russia invades Ukraine in February 2022, Aleksi is sitting in his car contemplating suicide after the breakdown of his relationship. Staring into the abyss, his decision is made, and so Aleksi sells his engagement rings and leaves Finland to enlist with the Ukrainian Foreign Legion in Irpin, Ukraine. A soldier doesn’t kill himself, but a soldier can die with honour on a battlefield, and so Aleksi finds himself always at the front with nothing to lose – he is indomitable.
Today, Aleksi is a disciplined and tough soldier but, at the same time, he remains the same little boy whose best memory is of working on his grandfather’s farm before his school years and before the bullies. DO OR DIE is an astonishing and moving account about a warrior and about survival, as told to Tuomas Kyrö, the acclaimed author of The Beggar and the Hare and The Grump series.
Outline & Sample Translation
2023, Finlandia Prize for non-fiction nomination
This eye-opening non-fiction book shows the reader the Ukrainian battlefield, uncensored, through the eyes of a Finnish soldier. Neither the protagonist, nor the author, nor the reader returns from this journey unchanged. The structure is insightful and the premise humane: killing is horrible, racism hurts, and even the most resilient mind can be broken. – Statement of the Finlandia Prize Jury