- After the Minsk agreements, people cut their donations to volunteers - they were caught by the 'cease fire' words. What should happen to increase the donations back to their summer level? Do we have to get into a war?
- The war, it keeps going. We speak less of it because people are tired. But up to this day, there are killed and wounded, our territories are shelled. No one actually ceased the fire!
- What do soldiers think of this 'cease fire'?
- Nothing. They just do their job, comply with their orders, and defend their homeland. They have no time to read: cease fire or no cease fire… Each of them fights for the country and for his family.
- You were listed as 'Focus' magazine's Top 100 most influential women. What is that a woman does better than a man at this war?
- On the front line, they always listen to chaplains, but they listen even more to women for some reason (laughs). Many of the guys who I jump into the trench with and crawl on the front line have lost their friends and were afraid to move on. They came up to their command and said: "We are afraid to go further, we're not going. I had a friend by my side, he was hit and killed, and I was not, and I want to live."
Everybody wants to live, right? So I go and talk to one for as long as he wants to. And after this, they get up and go on. Because he sees that a women keeps going.
- I got to know the chaplain of your 25th paratrooper's brigade, father Mykola. I remember his story of a big guy, a commander, who was crying on his shoulder: "Father, I had 18 people, only eight left. How do I live on?!"
- Only eight left, yes. And then it was only one left. We had one person remaining out of the whole company.
This is very hard. However, most of the people out there, they know what they go on for. There were intelligence groups from other brigades coming to us to have some rest after four days of secure. These people, they were dark as the night, because they lost their friends, people who they fought shoulder to shoulder with. They were dark - and they had to leave in the morning for Zhdanivka or Vuhlehirsk. And to lose their loved ones on and on.
These scouts, they say: "We thought they would not be able to get up at 4 in the morning and leave, for this was the tragedy for the whole camp. But we were surprised to see that at 3:30 a.m., they are in full alert on the vehicles, ready to go to fight. And they did!"
In August, Tetiana's husband, volunteer soldier Vadym Rychkov was killed at the front.This picture above is from Tetiana's Facebook page, the caption reading: "I didn't want to talk about said things. But I received the medal. He was named captain posthumous."
- I saw lots of Russian soldiers! With military IDs and stuff…
- Captives ?
- Yes, captives. Those who trained the separatists to work with artillery, 'Grads,' and 'Nonnas.'
- You couldn't see them when they still were with their detachments, but have they changed their rhetoric, I suppose?
- ( with irony ) Well, after 24 hours in captivity they are ready to take our side, and state they were wrong and made a mistake. Given that nothing is done to them, unlike Russian TV channels claim.
- I will say something rude now, but many Donbas people are very childish: they want to live in 'Russian world' but he salaries to be paid by Ukraine…
- …I will tell you what kind of people they are. They are like parasites, they got used to living at someone else's cost and don't want to do anything. If you want normal life - work. You have your head? Work with your head. You've got hands? Use them. But there, many people are like "I was fired from a mine, I only receive pension, live in my house, and grow cucumbers, but this is not enough. Let uncle Putin come and everything will be great, the pensions will increase, and we will live in heaven." This doesn't happen! These people are used to live with "free lunches." And there are so many of them.
- Back to the question of psychologists in the army. Is it true there aren't enough of them at the front and in the rear?
- We need chaplains. If we were allowed to have a chaplain in each brigade... For instance, our chaplain Mykola - he totally rules, he is awesome! You should have seen him hanging grenades on!
- I talked to him, he is from Moscow Patriarchate, fled to the front without a word to his superiors...
- Listen, all brigade commanders are whining: "Give us this chaplain, let him be with the team." For the whole brigade it's him and me. The coffee cup in the evening started to make me sick. Because you go for a walk with one person, drink coffee with the second, sit down and talk with the third, you know? And it is the same with him.
- Tell me, did anyone offer you to become an MP?
- Yes, almost everyone. And in the top five (of the party list - ed.).
- And what did you say?
- Screw that, I said. "We're at war. It's not the time nor the place."
- OK, and how do you feel about those who did go to the parliament?
- Horses for courses. For example, I told commanders of volunteer battalions repeatedly and to their faces that they are deserters. The war has ended for them? They leave their guys? ( Ironically ). No, they "will change everything in the Verkhovna Rada"! Our Bereza from Dnipropetrovsk said: "I thought about your words. I will probably refuse." I say: "Yeah, yeah." And did he refuse? No!
Yes, they are deserters. And they do not like me. Well, to hell with them. But they left their men. It means, for them the war has ended.
- Tania, let me ask you a general but at the same time a very specific question: what is your main goal in life?
- (thinking). My main goal in life? To be happy. And for my kid to be happy. I wish this nightmare ended, and I could live happily in this country, feeling confident about the future. For I do not intend to leave this country. And I try to affect at least something.
Want to help?
25th Dnipropetrovsk Paratrooper Brigade
Coordinator: Tetiana Rychkova https://www.facebook.com/HelpArmy.in.ua
5218 5722 1125 4953 Tetiana Rychkova
4149 4950 0700 7798 Yurii Biriukov
Other points for assistance and bank details:
Photos from Tetiana Rychkova Facebook page