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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“Once I get better, I’ll go to war again”

The wounded servicemen, now recovering in Kharkiv, show stunning strength of mind
3 June, 2014 - 11:31
IVAN FROM LVIV SHOWS A DRAWING THE UKRAINIAN SCHOOLCHILDREN SENT TO THE SERVICEMEN / Photo by the author

The wounded servicemen, now recovering in Kharkiv, show stunning strength of mindThe Ukrainian military, wounded in a counterterrorist operation in eastern Ukraine, are undergoing medical treatment in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, and other cities. The Kharkiv-based Military Clinical Center of the Northern Region has received 69 wounded army and police servicemen since the beginning of the counterterrorist operation. Seventy percent of all those suffered in this operation have been delivered to the injury clinic and the rest to the center’s other wards. A total 400 defenders of the fatherland, stationed in the eastern field camps, have turned for help to Kharkiv military doctors in April and May, the Defense Ministry press service reports.

The Day correspondents have visited the wounded servicemen and found that, among the many things they urgently need, are books. We wish all the wounded a speedy recovery and are thanking you, gallant and modest men, for defending us.


 

“Thank you, we have everything. Just look into the fridge,” Ivan from Lviv says when asked about what the wounded need. Ivan, 20, was on the Maidan, and when Russia began its aggression, he went to the recruitment center to enlist in the army. Turned down several times, the guy still showed persistence and finally got his way. Ivan joined the 51st Mechanized Brigade, the one that engaged into a fierce battle with the terrorists near Volnovakha on May 22, which left 17 men killed and 32 wounded. Ivan says he was lucky to survive – a bullet pierced both of his legs, and a tree saved him from a grenade. He tried to carry a wounded mate away from the battlefield but failed to do so, for a grenade that burst next to them killed the friend. Ivan says the attackers were very well armed, and they had carefully planned the operation. “We didn’t have enough time to build a checkpoint and dig in. We only put up tents. At about half past four in the morning, a truck brought in some armed people. The snipers, who had rifles with laser sights, shot about ten patrolmen who did not expect to be attacked because we had only seen local cars passing by. Then they began to fire their grenade launchers and assault rifles at the tents,” says Ivan in detail about that terrible morning.

Yaroslav from Berdychiv, who shares the same ward with Ivan, also notes that it is the professional military that are fighting against the Ukrainian army. A column of the 95th Zhytomyr Airmobile Brigade, in which Yaroslav served, ran into an ambush near Kramatorsk on May 13. The guy notes that the place for an ambush was chosen very professionally – the column was waited for near a fishery in the village of Zhovtneve in a narrow spot next to the weir. “It was a real military operation planned by all the rules of war art by true specialists in the minutest details,” Yaroslav says, recalling the battle. “We were lucky to receive prompt assistance. I want to thank the guys heartily! They rescued most of us.”

Yaroslav enlisted in the army as early as March 11. He says his wife wouldn’t let him go to the Maidan, but when Crimea began to be seized, he could no longer just live and work. He and two of his workmates came to the recruiting office. Yaroslav was hit with four bullets near Kramatorsk, while two boys in his APC were killed on the spot and one was seriously wounded. The soldier is glad not only because he was not wounded fatally, but also because he had an opportunity to engage in battle and fire at terrorists, “to shoot, crawl, and fight.”

“If my leg healed over, I would come back tomorrow,” Yaroslav says. “I’m full of fury, and I feel sorry for my comrades.”

Ivan is sure that no victory is possible without an adequate command. He thinks that the Volnovakha tragedy occurred to a large degree due to mistakes of the command. “They would come, look around, and leave without doing anything,” the serviceman says. He also accuses some commanders of selling to soldiers the things the state issued them free of charge, such as sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and cigarettes. But Yaroslav thinks that his command did its best to protect soldiers and carry out a successful military operation, showing high professionalism. Yaroslav is grateful to it.

“TELL MY GIRLFRIEND THAT I AM ALL OK”

The wounded soldiers note an absolutely different attitude of the Donetsk oblast’s civilian population to them. Some people received warmly the military, bringing them water and food. Others photographed the license plates of our helpers’ cars and threatened to “teach them a lesson.” The Ukrainian military were under a real psychological attack in Donetsk oblast.

“Sometimes aggressive people would come up at the daytime, cursing us. They said: ‘You are cannon fodder and won’t stay long here,’” Ivan recalls. “But other locals would come in the evening and tell us not to pay attention to the former, for they were paid-for criers.” Ivan also points out that among the locals who came to express discontent with the soldiers there were two or three organizers, leaders, for every fifty persons, who made speeches and calls, while the rest were just saying yes to them.

“I was prepared to have to deal with a zombified populace,” Yaroslav muses, “but it turned out there were not many aggressive-minded people. The majority welcomed us with joy. They would bring us so much food that we could not eat it all in time. There were so many foodstuffs in an APC that you found it difficult to enter one.”

Moreover, the guys note that the prevailing mood of people in Donetsk oblast is “scared indifference.” Many are dreaming that somebody will come and solve all their problems, they want to live not even in Russia but in an inexistent Soviet Union. It is an infantile utopia for which Ukraine has to pay a high price of the life of its best patriotic sons.

The ward displays a series of touching children’s drawings that show the sun, beasts, flowers, and words of thanks to the protector soldiers. There is fire and war in some drawings. Some also write letters in a hope that soldiers will protect them. The wounded are moved very much by these messages of love from the schools and lyceums of Ukraine. They also mark the professionalism and care of doctors, thank for the care of and support from Kyiv and Kharkiv volunteers, and ask us to calm their faraway relatives. “My girlfriend weeps whenever I call her. Please, tell her I am all OK,” the soldier says.

As we part, Ivan finally finds what to request: “Could you bring me a blue military beret? Mine has burned in the tent. I will need one after the hospital.” I promise him to do so. But I hope that when these boys get well again, peace will reign in Ukraine.

By Olena SOKOLYNSKA, Kharkiv
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