Instead of studying in the US, Pavlo Pavlov from Donetsk went to war in the east of Ukraine as a member of the volunteer battalion “Aidar.” Now he is on leave and will soon be returning to the front. Pavlov told The Day about the institution of Maidan, the psychological rehabilitation of the military, and shared his own plans for the future.
“I am a globe-trotter, the number of my attempts to serve the homeland is nearing 30,” says the fighter beginning his story of joining the battalion. “I know a little about military science, I read plenty of publications about the army, I have been doing airsoft [a team sports and military game. – Author] for seven years. In general, I sensed the war with Russia coming. I had thought about serving in the French Foreign Legion to receive quality military training.
“At first, I was in Dnipro-2 battalion for about a month, then I understood it did not come up to my expectations, so I switched to Aidar, which is active on the territory of Luhansk oblast. My father is from that region and there are a lot of acquaintances of mine in Aidar. I have been serving for a month. I have been to Shchastia, Triokhizbenka, near Luhansk, and took part in combat.”
What did you do before becoming a volunteer?
“I almost obtained a degree in psychology: I was in the fourth year of studies when my institute was shut down, so I was left without a degree. I lived in Donetsk, came to Kyiv in November last year, planned to stay here for two months and go to the French Foreign Legion. But suddenly Maidan started: I was sleeping, my mother called and told me about the events in Kyiv, I went to Maidan and did not leave it. I want to emphasize: I had job offers, but I chose to fight.
“For me Maidan is like a school of life. I had to sleep under snow, keep watch near a fire barrel, and learned the basics of the fighting. I met an UPA veteran at Maidan, a man I read about in books, a man of invincible spirit. I also met my fiancee at Maidan, we are going to get married now. In general, Maidan is a symptom showing that our society requires global changes that did not come yet.
“After Maidan I could have gone to the US to study psychology, but I chose war. I had all the papers ready for the trip, and suddenly sneaked off to the front. It is a civilizational choice for me. If I cannot help the state, what difference does my education make?”
How can civilians help the Ukrainian military?
“Now is the time for peaceful protest: people can walk around without masks and freely demonstrate their standpoint in Kyiv, they can make their demands known to the government for a week or two and wait for a reaction from it. For example, we lack qualified officers, we desperately need a strong center for military training. But we cannot pressurize the decision-making center in the government and we help boys at the front thanks to volunteers.”
What are you busy with at war except for fighting proper?
“I help with psychological rehabilitation of volunteers at Aidar. We do not have rehabilitation centers, there is no thorough preparation of soldiers for combat. But this is important: not everyone is prepared to see a lot of human and animal corpses, so many end up in a state of shock after combat.
“I talk to volunteers, ‘reboot’ them, help them out of shock. A lot of people think about fighting only, without considering the future, but it is important to imagine life after war. We have brave people, but they need support. If a person is not ready for combat psychologically, if they are afraid, it is better to wait it out. We are a volunteer unit, you have an opportunity to volunteer to guard the base for a day instead of fighting.”
How do you relax after the battle?
“You become less emotional with every loss. When a friend of mine was killed in Instytutska Street, I could not cope with the feelings for several months. Now I try to think about something else, remember happy moments: the first date, meeting my love. I also read jokes.
“I am not scared during battle, anxiety catches up with me after. I need to sit for an hour and a half, even with other people, think about things, talk about some silly nonsense, or troll separatists. I also recollect the plans I made two years ago, it is incredible how everything has changed today.”
And what plans for the peace time do you have now?
“I want to get married. I need to introduce my fiancee to my parents. I want a house and an education. I want to engage in psychology, I save more lives as a psychologist now than with a machine gun. I dream that this war is over in at least a year and that Ukraine wins. I dream of a renewed, strong country, I have a feeling this is going to happen. I also urgently need children, offspring. I would also take a walk in Donetsk. I was not particularly fond of this city when I left it, but now I would like to go for a stroll there.”