It’s a surreal moment in an already surreal war: the deep but soothing voice of actor Mark Hamill, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, urges people to take cover whenever Russia fires a bombardment airwave over Ukraine.
This Hollywood sci-fi take on the grim, everyday reality of the war in Ukraine harks back to Mark Hamill’s decision to lend his voice to Air Alert, an app connected to Ukraine’s air defense system.
When air raid sirens start wailing, the app also warns Ukrainians of deadly Russian missiles, bombs and explosive drones.
Don’t be reckless, Mr. Hamill’s voice advises. Your overconfidence is your weakness.
A gesture to honor the heroism of the Ukrainian people
The actor told The Associated Press he admires – from afar, in California – the way Ukraine has shown such resilience in such dire circumstances.
The country’s resistance to the Russian invasion, now in its second year, reminds him of the Star Wars saga, he says; Rebels fighting against a vast murderous empire and eventually prevailing. Lending his voice to the English version of the app is his way of helping, he explained.
The people of Ukraine came together for the cause and responded so heroically… It’s impossible not to be inspired by how they weathered this storm.
When the dangers in the sky have passed, Mr. Hamill will announce on the app that the air alert has ended. Then he brings out the famous sentence: May the force be with you.
Mr. Hamill is also raising funds to purchase reconnaissance drones for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He has signed Star Wars-themed posters that are being raffled off.
Here I am, sitting comfortably in my own home, while in Ukraine there are power outages and food shortages and people are really suffering, he argued. It motivates me to do whatever I can.
A little humor to get you through dark times
Although the app also includes warnings in Ukrainian voiced by a woman, some people prefer Mark Hamill to break the bad news.
During the worst of the bombing days, the sirens and application can sound for several hours a day and night. Sometimes these are false alarms, but often they are real attacks that claim victims.
Bohdan Zvonyk, a 24-year-old app user who lives in Lviv, a hit-and-miss western city, says he chose Mr Hamill’s voice because he’s trying to improve his English. He is also a Star Wars fan.
Besides, he said, we could use some of the strength Hamill is asking of us.
Olena Yeremina, a 38-year-old businesswoman in the capital, Kiev, said Mark Hamill’s wishes initially made her laugh. Now, she says, her humor gives strength.
It’s a very cool expression for this situation, she testified. I wouldn’t say I feel like a Ukrainian Jedi, but sometimes this phrase reminds me to straighten my shoulders and keep working.