For the last three years before it all started, I had worked in advertising department on the Inter TV channel. Then, in early March last year, me and my brother came to the military registration and enlistment office and applied to join the army. I had never served in the army before, so they did not want to take me neither during the first wave of the mobilization, nor during the second. So we joined the Donbas battalion. I spent about six weeks there and then I realized it was not my cup of tea. I returned home and resumed my visits to the enlistment office asking to call me up. At last, I had my way. First, I was sent to the training camp in Yavoriv [the Lviv region - ed.] where I was trained to operate an open chamber gun. Then I was assigned to the 93rd Mechanized Brigade and served as machine gunner, private. In October I mastered another profession: gunfire spotter.
I am just a man who loves his country, knows its anthem, honors its banner, and will never let anyone trample down that banner.
I love my home and family, and I worry about them. People ask me, "Why did you join the army as volunteer? Did you want to fight?" No, I do not want to fight, I want peace! I want to come back home, raise my son, see my wife every day, but since we have run into this problem, we have to solve it. We always have a choice, but fighting is my duty - not even before the state, but before me; because men must fight and defend their people.
On Oct. 29, we, the 1st mechanized company of the 1st battalion of the 93rd Brigade got an order to leave for "B Sector." From the very beginning we found ourselves at the very front line in Piskyvillage, facing the enemy at the distance of 500- 600 meters. Volunteers were the only people who provided for us. They and children, who kept sending us their drawings, were the people who made us realize who we were fighting for.
We spent two months in Pisky. After Christmas, our chief of staff, nickname "Novik", arrived and said that they needed more people in the airport because an urgent rotation was required. Some guys had spent too much time in the airport, they had to be redeployed, and he asked us to go there as gunfire spotters. He gave us his word of honor that he would mention us in the written order. Still, even up to now there is no word in the order about our presence in the Donetsk airport.
On Jan. 5, we left Pisky. We set off together with my friend, Zhenia Kovtun. He was brought to the terminal, and I got to the watchtower, which was the highest point in the airport, and it meant control over the whole territory and cover of the fire station and the terminal. We were responsible for all of the gunfire spotting. When an enemy tank was working, I had to climb the tower and watch.
Between Jan. 6 and 9, there was a severe cold. I thought all of us were just going to freeze. The number of heated sleeping places was far smaller than the number of people. I slept without heating. Sleeping bags were quite useless; on one of nights the temperature dropped as low as -29 ° C. We could not fall asleep because of cold. The tower was approximately 25 meters in diameter. There was not even a toilet there. The water was also gone - all frozen up. But there was no shortage of food and ammunition.
On weekends, the enemy arranged a sort of 'safari tour' to entertain their visitors from Russia to shoot at us. They just paid money to the 'DPR' separatists, or brought some humanitarian aid in exchange for permission to "shoot Ukrainians." However, there were some losers among them who remained there forever because they thought we were poor fighters.
On the tower, I practically lived with thermal goggles. About 20 people protected me along the perimeter. On Jan. 10 I saw a bunch of attackers who were moving in groups of two or three and were going to assault the airport terminal from the west direction. I called for our artillery, and in the aftermath, only three out of 25 separatists remained alive.
Next day, an enemy tank snuck up on us, we could only hear it, and started to shoot at us at point-blank range from the distance of 500 meters. The first shot resulted in three seriously wounded. One of them was "Grin," our commandant from the 80th brigade, the second one - military chaplain Sasha, the third guy - call-sign "Gladiator." The tank hit the elevator shaft; the shock wave went downwards, knocked down the doors, and seriously injured the guys there. They continued to shoot at us, and after the 15th or 20th shot, the seven floors of the tower collapsed, only four remained. The guys who were guarding us thought that we were dead.
We had been saved by guardian angels and God! I really hope that much of Ukraine was praying for us, because it was unreal to survive in that mess. The enemy decided it was the end of us and started an assault on the terminal. But I kept climbing upon the debris of the terminal and adjusting artillery fire. When they realized that we were still up adjusting fire after we knocked out either one of their BTR's or a tank, they launched more than a hundred shells at us within the next three hours. It was on Jan. 13, and I cannot express with words what was going on inside there.
At that time there were four of us among the ruins and we fought to the bitter end because we understood that they used infantry after each intensive shelling and that if they take the tower, we will all be dead and the guys from the terminal will be left without cover and will find themselves in a tactical pocket.
After Jan. 13 it became clear that we were in a desperate state. We could have been literally overtaken barehanded. There were no fortifications left - only debris and piles of rocks under our feet. None of us wanted to hand over our position and retreat, but there was no place left to hide. At that time any ricochet, any small splinter brought people down. We poured diesel fuel over all of our shells, all ammunition that was left, and stayed there for three nights, waiting for the order to retreat, but the order never came.
Jan. 17 was the third day under siege. 6th company of the 2nd battalion of the 93rd crew started an assault in the afternoon. I started to cry as our tanks and infantry combat vehicles started to advance; I understood we were no longer blocked. Our guys blew up on two anti-personnel mines incidentally, we lost almost half of our company to wounds, but the other half reached a monastery and fortified there. They needed reinforcement there. An order arrived to "Norton," commandant of our tower; he led us into attack. I consider the guy a real patriot and a hero. He was shot in his foot, but he told us to join the guys from the 6th company. People got into a strange situation there. Nobody knows who and why told them to attack the monastery. They came across an insurmountable tank ditch and a fence there, which had proven to be a dead end for the infantry. Those obstacles were even marked on Google maps, but for some reason nobody told us about them, it was unclear how the aerial surveillance worked.
As for me, my biggest achievement is that I brought these boys back alive and that they trusted me. Not a person was lost, and there was no wounded during the retreat.
Our information policy is very weak. Many are made heroes, but we do not know who the real heroes are. People know nothing about the 6th company who unblocked us, and now they have been sent away in order to keep them silent. My officer "Norton" who led us into the fight is a hero to me. My companion with call-sign "Dynamo", who came from Kyiv and who died on his post in Pisky after coming from the airport, though he should not have been there but had come to help anyway, is a hero to me. Someone complained that he was without helmet and his bulletproof vest. But nobody thought that his helmet and his vest had burned down at the airport.
Our war is a chaos of our leadership. I do not know why it is so. But what irritates me the most is that our government pretends that there is no war. Commanding officers treat their personnel horribly. We have to understand clearly that we are fighting for our independence and that tomorrow there will be no commanding officers at all, tomorrow there will only be prisoners or slaves.
I have a college degree, I had great job. I abandoned everything and left for war because I do not understand how it could have been otherwise. But when tanks approached us at the tower and shot from a 300-meters range and we couldn't do a thing, our artillery was silent, it was impossible to request for fire, and for all questions we received only one answer -"keep observing." And when we started rising media awareness and getting through to our contacts in the Parliament about us being shelled and enemies attacking, our leadership objected with: "So that is who brings us down!" And I said that I did not care whom I was bringing down, that I did not care about those who would be left without promotion, and that the only thing I cared about is was that my 20 smiling soldiers would not become 20 dead bodies. And they build their f**ing careers. They fight for power. We were sent there as recycled goods and forgotten. We will return despite everything. But first we have to deal with the external threat - that is the most important thing now!
We paid too high of a price to change our country and will pay even more, so we shouldn't make exception for anyone in the future. All officials should be held accountable for their claims. Either we build something new together, or there will be nobody left!
Text and images by Vika Yasinska, Censor.NET