Poland launched a volunteer militia called the Territorial Defense Forces in 2017, about
Thus far, more than 12,000 volunteers and more than 2,000 professional soldiers have joined.
Here's what they do.
The Territorial Defense Forces (WOT) was created in 2015 by Poland's then-Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who argued it was needed to bolster patriotism among young people and to protect the country from the growing threat of Russia.
Young people who join are expected to spend at least four months in training over three years, including 16 days in basic training, for which they'll be paid an $80 monthly stipend as well as education and training allowances.
In basic training, recruits are taught marksmanship.
As well as topography and battlefield readiness.
Damian Krasnodebski, a 27-year old architect from Warsaw who joined last year, describes WOT as a guerrilla force.
Poland joined NATO in 1999, but Krasnodebski said the alliance is not enough.
“A guerrilla force is always difficult to fight against,” he said. “If there was fighting in Poland, there would be problems with supply lines, subversive activity. That’s always difficult for the opposing military.”
Monika Pawlik, a 24-year-old town clerk and young mother, was one of four women at a training session last winter.
“I wanted to try something new, and above all I wanted to have this sense of security,” she said.
Pawlik said that she's now confident about handling weapons: “I know what to do with them, I know how to aim.”
Pawlik also said she was surprised to find out she was just as strong as the men. "If I go for something, I take it to the end."
Marcin Wierzbicki, a 44-year-old manager at an energy company, said that by joining WOT he is following in his family's tradition set forth by his grandfathers of defending Poland.
Wierzbicki said he does not expect to take part in battles, but to support the operational army, guard key assets, control road points and so on.
“Poland will be safer now and in the future,” he said.
Thus far, however, the WOT has only participated in one major effort: a search through forests in parts of Poland for animals that died because of African swine fever.