Among Ismagilov's motivations for taking up arms was his own family's history. "The Moskals (Russians - ed.) have been coming to my family for a century now, destroying and taking away everything that belongs to us and has any value to us," Said Ismagilov said.
Said Ismagilov is now serving in the paramedic brigade. "My task is to quickly deliver wounded soldiers to the medical centre and keep an eye on the road. I am driving, so I hardly ever look into the eyes of the wounded," he says.
The man explains that until 24 February, he could not imagine looking at the seriously wounded or hearing the sounds of explosions nearby. "And it turned out I could," says Said. "I was a mufti before the war, you know? I met kings, presidents, ministers and MPs. And now it turns out that I can live in the cold, without heating and electricity, knee-deep in mud."
Ismagilov also talks about the ruthless attacks of Russian troops near Bakhmut, when the enemy army throws all the means and personnel to capture the city, not caring about losses. And about the Russians' senseless attacks on residential areas where there are still civilians. "They really have such a low level of morality that they commit their horrible crimes and do not care at all," Said notes.
Mufti Said Ismagilov shared the personal reasons that motivated him to fight in this war against the Russian invaders. The main one is that Muslims in Ukraine do not want Russian occupation. "Russia is an unfriendly and intolerant country to Islam," he said. "In particular, today Russian troops continue repression against Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea."
And another reason is decades of repression by Russia. Ismagilov's family was forced to move from the Russian city of Penza to Donbass in order to survive during the raskulachivanie (Soviet campaign of political repression against wealthy peasants and their families - ed.). In 2014, Said had to leave his native Donetsk due to persecution by the Russians.
"In September 2014, I learnt from my friends that I was on the "firing list" of the Russian occupiers. I quickly packed my things and went to Mariupol, which at that time had already been liberated," Said recalls. The man was able to pass through the Russian checkpoint because they had his spiritual name on the list - Said Ismagilov - and not the one written in his documents. The man later moved to live in Bucha - and in 2022, the Russians got there too, ransacking his flat.
Not everyone can be a warrior, Said notes. But everyone should help Ukraine to the best of his or her ability.
"I have no doubts about our victory. I want to tell all soldiers, defenders, volunteers, and all those who help our country in one way or another that victory does not start with weapons. It starts in our thoughts and hearts," Ismagilov said.