“Warning. Air raid alert,” the voice says with the gravity of a Jedi Knight. “Go to the nearest shelter.”
It’s a surreal moment in an already surreal war: the actor’s grave but reassuring baritone Mark Hammill -Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars”- urging people to take cover as Russia launches another airstrike on Ukraine.
The intrusion of Hollywood sci-fi fantasy into the grim everyday reality of the Ukrainian war follows Hamill’s decision to lend his famous voice to “Air Alert”, a downloadable app. attached to the Ukrainian air defense system.
When the air raid sirens start blaring, the app also warns Ukrainians of the possible arrival of Russian missiles, bombs and explosive drones.
“Don’t be careless,” advises Hamill’s voice. “Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
The actor says he admires — from afar in California — how Ukraine has “shown such resilience… under such dire circumstances.”
Help with a “Star Wars twist”
His fight against the Russian invasion, now in its second year, reminds him of the “Star Wars” saga of brave rebels who fight and ultimately defeat a vast, murderous empire, he said. Him voicing the English version of the anti-aircraft app and giving it his “Star Wars” twist was his way of helping.
“A fairy tale about good versus evil has a lot to do with what’s going on in Ukraine,” Hamill said in an interview with Associated press.
“The people of Ukraine are joining the cause and responding in a very heroic way… It is impossible not to be inspired by how they have weathered this storm.”
When the dangers from the sky pass, Hamill announces via the app that the “air alert is over”. He then closes with an uplifting, “May the Force be with you.”
Hamill is also raise money to buy scout drones for the Ukrainian forces at the front. He has autographed the “Star Wars” posters that are raffled off.
“Here I am, sitting in the comfort of my home, when there are power outages and food shortages in Ukraine and people are really suffering,” he said. “It motivates me to do as much as possible.”
While the app is also in Ukrainian, voiced by a woman, some residents prefer Hamill to break the bad news that another Russian bombing is imminent.
On the worst days, the sirens and app go off every few hours, day or night. Some turn out to be false alarms. But many others are real and often deadly.
A little humor in the midst of tragedy
Bohdan Zvonyk, a 24-year-old app user who lives in the repeatedly attacked western city of Lviv, says he chose Hamill’s voiceover over the Ukrainian version because he’s trying to improve his English. He is also a fan of “Star Wars”.
“Also,” he says, “we could use some of the power Hamill wishes us.”
Following an alert, Zvonyk was driving a trolley bus when Hamill’s voice came on his phone. He said the man in the lead “turned to me and said, smiling, ‘Oh, those damned Siths,'” referring to the Russian forces. The Sith are the evil enemies of Jedi benefactors.
Olena Yeremina, a 38-year-old business manager from the capital Kiev, said Hamill’s line “May the Force be with you” made her laugh at first. Now, his enduring humor gives it strength.
“It’s a great phrase for this situation,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I feel like a Ukrainian Jedi, but sometimes that phrase reminds me to straighten my shoulders and keep working.”
Sometimes it can be prudent to deactivate Hamill. Yeremina forgot to do it during a trip out of Ukraine – in Berlin – and she paid for the mistake when the alarm clock started to go off at 6 in the morning and, again, while she was traveling by subway in the German capital.
I was not alone. Another person in the car also had the app and it started ringing too. The two first swore, but then she “made both me and that person smile,” Yeremina recalls.
Ajax Systems, the Ukrainian security systems maker that co-developed the app, hopes Hamill’s fame will encourage people outside of Ukraine to download it so they learn about the distress caused by shocking alarms and from death among the Ukrainians. from the sky.
“With Mark’s version, it won’t be so scary,” said Ajax marketing director Valentine Hrytsenko. “But somehow they’ll understand the context.”
In the first year of the invasion, air raid alarms sounded more than 19,000 times across the country, so “it’s obvious people are getting tired,” he said. The app has been downloaded more than 14 million times. Hrytsenko is one of the people who use the English setting to hear Hamill’s voice.
“For Star Wars fans, that’s great,” he said. “It’s part of the Ukrainian mentality to find some humor even in a bad situation or try to be positive.”
Hamill is pleased that the sci-fi saga is once again transporting people, if only temporarily, to their own galaxy far, far away.
“It inspires people,” she said. “Everyone is 6 again. And if the movie can help people through difficult times, so much the better.”
Fountain: Associated press
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.