Chaos strike when air raid sirens start howling in war-torn Ukraine, but some Ukrainian Star Wars fans are finding comfort and strength in a familiar voice.
“Attention. Air raid alert,” says Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the popular sci-fi film series. “Proceed to the nearest shelter”.
After dangers from the skies pass, Hamill announces that the “air alert is over” and signs off with “May the force be with you”.
The actor has lent his voice to Air Alert, a mobile phone app linked to Ukraine’s air defence system, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
The app warns Ukrainians that Russian missiles, bombs and deadly exploding drones may be incoming when the raid sirens start howling, said the report.
“Don’t be careless,” Hamill warns. “Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
Hamil told the news agency that he has admired from California how Ukraine has “shown such resilience... under such terrible circumstances”.
Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion, now in its second year, reminds him of the Star Wars saga with fearless rebels battling and eventually defeating the Galactic Empire.
By voicing over the English-language version of the app and giving it his Skywalker touch was Hamill’s way of supporting Ukraine.
“A fairy tale about good versus evil is resonant with what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said in the interview with AP.
“The Ukrainian people rallying to the cause and responding so heroically ... It’s impossible not to be inspired by how they’ve weathered this storm.”
Hamill is raising funds to buy reconnaissance drones for Ukrainian forces on the front lines. He has also autographed Star Wars-themed posters that are being raffled off.
“Here I sit in the comfort of my own home when in Ukraine there are power outages and food shortages and people are really suffering,” he said. “It motivates me to do as much as I can.”
Although the app also has a Ukrainian-language version voiced by a woman, some Ukrainians prefer to have Hamill breaking the bad news that yet another Russian bombardment might be approaching.
On some days, sirens and the app sound every few hours, day and night. Some turn out to be false alarms, but many are real - and often deadly.
Mr Bohdan Zvonyk was quoted in the report as saying that he chose Hamill’s voiceover instead of the Ukrainian one, as he is trying to improve his English.
“Besides, we could use a little bit of the power that Hamill wishes us,” said the 24-year-old Star Wars fan.
Ms Olena Yeremina, who is a business manager in Kyiv, said Hamill’s “May the force be with you” sign-off made her laugh at first. But now, its enduring humour gives her strength, according to AP.
“It’s a very cool phrase for this situation,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that I feel like a Ukrainian Jedi, but sometimes this phrase reminds me to straighten my shoulders and keep working.”
Ajax Systems, a Ukrainian security systems manufacturer that co-developed the app, hopes Hamill’s star power will encourage people outside Ukraine to download it.
This is so that they can get a taste of the angst heaped on Ukrainians by nerve-shredding alarms and airborne death and destruction, according to AP.
“With Mark’s approach, it won’t be so terrifying,” said Ajax’s chief marketing officer Valentine Hrytsenko.
“But they will understand somehow the context.”
In the first year of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, air raid alarms sounded more than 19,000 times in Ukraine, so “of course people are getting tired”, said Mr Hrytsenko.
The app has been downloaded more than 14 million times.
Mr Hrytsenko is among those who use its English-language setting to hear Hamill’s voice.
“For Star Wars fans, it sounds really fantastic,” he said. “It’s kind of a Ukrainian mentality to find some humour even in the bad situation or to try to be positive.”