Photos: Poland’s volunteer militia trains against perceived Russian threats

Poland is preparing to mark the centenary of its independence this November, with thousands of Poles training in all weathers for a part-time force meant to help defend the eastern European state from invasion. Poland joined the NATO Western military alliance in 1999, but he believes NATO is not enough. More than 12,000 volunteers have joined the Territorial Defence Forces (WOT) and the formation's creators hope it will have clear resonance with a Home Army that fought against occupation in World War Two, and with later resistance fighters against Communism.

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As Poland prepares to mark the centenary of its independence this November, thousands of Poles are training in all weathers for a part-time force meant to help defend the eastern European state from invasion. More than 12,000 volunteers have joined the Territorial Defence Forces (WOT), as well as more than 2,000 professional soldiers. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

As Poland prepares to mark the centenary of its independence this November, thousands of Poles are training in all weathers for a part-time force meant to help defend the eastern European state from invasion. More than 12,000 volunteers have joined the Territorial Defence Forces (WOT), as well as more than 2,000 professional soldiers. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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The government expects to add 10,000 recruits annually, to reach a total of more than 50,000 by the end of 2021. This year alone, the defence ministry plans to spend 568 million zloty ($153 million) on WOT, nearly as much as on the navy. The Territorial Defence Forces are modelled on America’s National Guard, and are prepared to die for their country. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

The government expects to add 10,000 recruits annually, to reach a total of more than 50,000 by the end of 2021. This year alone, the defence ministry plans to spend 568 million zloty ($153 million) on WOT, nearly as much as on the navy. The Territorial Defence Forces are modelled on America’s National Guard, and are prepared to die for their country. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Recruit Damian Krasnodebski, (R), an architect, works with his boss on a project. He says the force will provide guerrilla fighters to help deter potential attackers, particularly Russia. “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.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Recruit Damian Krasnodebski, (R), an architect, works with his boss on a project. He says the force will provide guerrilla fighters to help deter potential attackers, particularly Russia. “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.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Recruits prepare their accommodation on their first day of 16-day basic training. Most Poles perceive their main threat to be from Russia, which has built up significant conventional forces along its western borders after annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Opinion polls show that since then, nearly half the people in Poland feel their independence may be under threat. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Recruits prepare their accommodation on their first day of 16-day basic training. Most Poles perceive their main threat to be from Russia, which has built up significant conventional forces along its western borders after annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Opinion polls show that since then, nearly half the people in Poland feel their independence may be under threat. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Town hall clerk Monika Pawlik and young mother (L), 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. Now she feels confident about handling weapons: “I know what to do with them, I know how to aim.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Town hall clerk Monika Pawlik and young mother (L), 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. Now she feels confident about handling weapons: “I know what to do with them, I know how to aim.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Territorial soldiers train in moving through an urban area on the outskirts of Siedlce. Poles are not the only people in the region who are anxious about Moscow. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - all bordering Russia - have sharply raised defence budgets in recent years. They are among the few NATO allies that meet, or are close to meeting, the alliance’s target of spending 2% of economic output on the military. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Territorial soldiers train in moving through an urban area on the outskirts of Siedlce. Poles are not the only people in the region who are anxious about Moscow. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - all bordering Russia - have sharply raised defence budgets in recent years. They are among the few NATO allies that meet, or are close to meeting, the alliance’s target of spending 2% of economic output on the military. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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A commander instructs a recruit at a shooting range. Poland’s military planners launched WOT in 2017, just over a year after the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in October 2015. Its creator, Antoni Macierewicz, who was defence minister at the time, argued the formation was needed because of a growing threat from Russia and as a way to bolster patriotism among young people. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

A commander instructs a recruit at a shooting range. Poland’s military planners launched WOT in 2017, just over a year after the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in October 2015. Its creator, Antoni Macierewicz, who was defence minister at the time, argued the formation was needed because of a growing threat from Russia and as a way to bolster patriotism among young people. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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A recruit washes himself in a bathroom. Macierewicz said Poland took its operational example from the United States, where the National Guard reserve military force is made up mostly of civilians with part-time military duties. “We have consulted repeatedly with Guard officers,” Macierewicz told public broadcaster TVP Info in 2016. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

A recruit washes himself in a bathroom. Macierewicz said Poland took its operational example from the United States, where the National Guard reserve military force is made up mostly of civilians with part-time military duties. “We have consulted repeatedly with Guard officers,” Macierewicz told public broadcaster TVP Info in 2016. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Pawlik and other territorial soldiers takes a break during training. So far, Poland’s WOT force has only participated in one major effort: a search through forests in parts of Poland for animals that died because of African swine fever. It’s a highly contagious disease that affects pigs and wild boar and has been spreading in eastern Europe in recent years. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Pawlik and other territorial soldiers takes a break during training. So far, Poland’s WOT force has only participated in one major effort: a search through forests in parts of Poland for animals that died because of African swine fever. It’s a highly contagious disease that affects pigs and wild boar and has been spreading in eastern Europe in recent years. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Territorial soldiers practice first aid. Young people who join are expected to spend at least four months in training over three years, including 16 days in basic training in battlefield readiness, marksmanship, topography and first aid. Any holiday trips need to be cleared with a local unit commander. In return, recruits receive a 300 zloty ($80) monthly stipend as well as education and training allowances. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Territorial soldiers practice first aid. Young people who join are expected to spend at least four months in training over three years, including 16 days in basic training in battlefield readiness, marksmanship, topography and first aid. Any holiday trips need to be cleared with a local unit commander. In return, recruits receive a 300 zloty ($80) monthly stipend as well as education and training allowances. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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Marcin Wierzbicki, 44, a manager in an energy company, shaves during his 16-day basic training. “I am a pragmatist and I believe that we will not take part in battles,” he said. “We will take care of things that are necessary for people, such as guarding key objects, controlling road points, defending population of course, and minimising the impact of an attack on the community.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

Marcin Wierzbicki, 44, a manager in an energy company, shaves during his 16-day basic training. “I am a pragmatist and I believe that we will not take part in battles,” he said. “We will take care of things that are necessary for people, such as guarding key objects, controlling road points, defending population of course, and minimising the impact of an attack on the community.” (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

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A recruit marches toward breakfast meal after morning exercises. Wierzbicki said that by joining WOT he is following in the family tradition set by his grandfathers of defending Poland. “Poland will be safer now and in the future,” he said. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

A recruit marches toward breakfast meal after morning exercises. Wierzbicki said that by joining WOT he is following in the family tradition set by his grandfathers of defending Poland. “Poland will be safer now and in the future,” he said. (Kacper Pempel / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 19, 2018 11:53 AM IST

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