The need to join the army
Before the full-scale war, I was not a military man, I did not serve. I worked in Kherson as a traffic engineer and a CNC machine operator.
Kherson took the first blow. On February 24, there was a massive bombardment of targets across Ukraine, and they entered through Kherson, Antonivskyi Bridge, and Kakhovka.
I was not at home that day, my family and I had just gone skiing in the west of Ukraine. We had return tickets for the 25th, but the trains were no longer running. We stayed there.
At first, there was some confusion, it was not immediately clear what to do and how best to do something. But you realise that the war has started, the occupation has started, the invasion has started, and every citizen needs to do something.
In the Lviv region, I went to the military commissariat, they gave me a draft notice but did not accept me immediately. Then I went again, and they didn’t enrol me again: “Thank you, we don’t need you for now”. And I was living with complete strangers. I started feeling uncomfortable and moved to the Vinnytsia region to live with my relatives. My family moved to Hamburg.
In the Vinnytsia region, I had already registered with the military commissariat, and there I was sent home several times in the same way as before. Meanwhile, my city Kherson was completely occupied. My mother-in-law and grandmother stayed there. They live alone in the village, which is located on the border of Mykolaiv and Kherson regions. At that time, the village was under occupation, and a missile hit the house where they lived.
My mother-in-law had a very serious leg injury, she had surgery, and for this purpose, we had to go through a bunch of checkpoints to get to Kherson. Local people and volunteers helped with that. After the operation, my mother-in-law stayed in Kherson and went to live in an apartment we were renting. Then people helped to take my grandmother out of the village – she hardly walks, so it was a hard trip for her.
While I was waiting for a call-up notice from the military commissariat, I worked. I have a combine driver’s licence and worked on a combine harvester in the summer. I was drafted in September.
I immediately found myself at the frontline, in the Maryinka direction. I knew exactly where I was going and what could happen to me. I was not shocked by the shelling and shots. I knew and imagined it all.
I recall the day I was wounded all the time. And my attitude to this event does not change. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life.
On November 3, there was a very heavy mortar attack. Probably the strongest I’ve ever seen. We were holding our position, a trench. And I was wounded by one of the mines. It was a phosphorus mine. The guys said everything was on fire after I was taken out.
I remember as soon as the mine hit and I got wounded, everything was covered in smoke and flashing lights. The guys were somewhere at their points. I heard voices and started shouting asking to get me out. Then all of a sudden the voices disappeared, I thought: “That’s it. There is no point in screaming, I’m going to die”. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t apply a tourniquet because I was in a trench and it was too narrow. Then I heard the voices again. They started pulling me out of the smoke, I couldn’t breathe anymore, I had respiratory tract burns. They poured water on me, pulled me out, and applied a tourniquet. Apparently, the fact that I was covered in mud helped me a lot – I had almost no burns on the survived parts of my body. I remember it was morning because there was already sunlight. They started evacuating me to the car.
They carried me for about a kilometre. This was also under mortar fire. I was conscious, I had a pain shock. I was injected with an anaesthetic and I was conscious until the evacuation vehicle drove away. They told me that the evacuation vehicle was under fire too.
And when they brought me to the collection point for the wounded, I kind of came to my senses. Then, as far as I understand, they injected me with something narcotic, and I passed out again.
I woke up in a hospital in Dnipro, in intensive care. When I was injured and the tourniquets were applied, I immediately realised that I would not have legs. The question was to which extent. When they brought me to the first hospital, to the collection point for the wounded, I told the doctors not to amputate anything.
When I woke up in Dnipro, I had already accepted and realised it. I knew what had happened, I just had to see what level it was. The amputation was high – I was shocked and upset, of course.
This is the reality. What is there to do? Of course, the next step is prosthetic rehabilitation. Everyone probably has such plans. But, of course, there was a period of depression. Communication, reading, and crosswords helped a little… I had to force myself. But when you’re lying down and everything hurts and it hurts even to move, and you don’t really want to do anything. You just want to lie there and not move so that it would hurt less. I was a bit addicted to medication, taking double or triple doses, because everything hurt unbearably.
When I stopped keeping in touch, my wife started looking for me. She had the phone numbers of my comrades, but they were somehow afraid to tell her. She found me through her friends, who also helped the wounded in the war. A doctor she knew helped her find out the information. Finally, she found out the anaesthetist’s phone number and, I don’t remember whether it was before the operation or after the operation, the anaesthetist came up, put the phone to my ear and said: “Your wife”. And we talked for a little.
At that time, she was abroad with children. Four days later, she came to see me. I was just being transferred from the intensive care unit to a ward.
She came and said: “I know everything. Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” The fact that we met was already good. My wife knew what to say, she felt me.
As soon as I was injured, I thought: “Shit, I’ll have to get prosthetics.” But prostheses are, of course, better than a wheelchair. You can walk on the prostheses! Try sitting all day – everything hurts.
Now I am in the process of primary prosthetics. I have already received a training prosthesis for my right side. I am training. There are bars in the rehabilitation centre, I grab them and stand on one leg, leaning on my hands, and move around. And now they are making one for the left side.
At the Halychyna rehabilitation centre in the Lviv region, there are rehabilitation therapists, rehabilitation rooms, gyms, and various procedures – everything you need for rehabilitation. The only thing missing is a swimming pool.
Family support is important. My wife is always by my side. And so, at times when it is emotionally difficult, it is important to listen, discuss and agree upon some points. My wife is probably the head of our family. Or not, she’s probably the neck, and I’m the head – she can twist me around as she pleases. I’m just joking. We have equal rights. However, there are situations where my wife is more right. I try to listen to her point of view. It helps.
I’m probably proud to have chosen such a wife.
We met at a mutual friend’s house. I saw her – her green eyes, her lips. You could say I fell in love right away. Maybe I didn’t lose my head, but I liked her so-o-o much. And then we met by chance, dancing. That was the first time we kissed. Then we started dating, then got married, and had children – Nastia and Masha. The eldest is 16 years old, the youngest is 10. The eldest graduated from the Kherson Physical and Technical Lyceum and is now studying at a German school. The girls, of course, want to go home, they miss us very much. But as long as there are shellings in Ukraine, we will not take them back home. When my wife returned to Ukraine, my mother went there to stay with the children.
Why was it important for you, a civilian, to join the army?
Just donating to the army was not an option. What was the point of donating to the army if I could put on the uniform and go to war? It would be wrong in my conscience like I wanted to pay off. Even though I’m wounded now and I have the status of a military I still donate to support the army.
Do you have a sense of fulfilling your duty to the country?
No, not while the war is on. As long as there is a war going on, something must be done to speed up the victory.
Do you notice the public reaction to the traumas of the military and is it changing?
How can you not notice it? Some old ladies cross and bless me, someone pokes money. There was a time when I was standing there drinking coffee and someone threw money into my coffee cup. Someone wants to help, although it turns out not to be help, but on the contrary, some fuss around.
Is it ok to offer help? How can outsiders communicate with a veteran with visible injuries without being annoying?
You can offer help, but you shouldn’t be offended if you are refused. Maybe It’s my opinion, but it happens that a person gets offended, like “I want to help, but you are so proud, you don’t want to accept my help.”
And how would you like society in general to react to the military?
I think people should be proud of this person. After all, this is not just a person in uniform, but he or she is a defender. People came up to me and thanked me for my service. It’s nice. In fact, many people come up to me, hug me and just say: “Thank you.”
How would you describe yourself?
A calm, depressive humourist.
Who is your biggest motivator?
My family. My wife is always there for me, supporting me, and encouraging me. My children. I do this for their sake. I want to be with my children.
Is there a person who is an example and inspiration for you?
No. Maybe now the guys from the national team. I communicate with them and learn something from each of them.
What is the best holiday for you?
I love active holidays. Before the war, we used to go hiking and ride bicycles. I really wanted to jump with a parachute and fly a paraglider. I used to go diving. Now I really want to dive. I just need to figure out how to attach fins. I went diving in Crimea. But it’s okay, we’ll go to Crimea soon and dive. The sea in Crimea is very different from the sea in Kherson. I really need the sea, I don’t know how to live without it.
But I’m a bit of a sociopath, I like to go alone, get in a boat, collect my thoughts, and sit. I need to be alone with myself from time to time – to read, listen to music, or just take a walk in the woods.
What can irritate you?
I have a keen sense of justice – injustice can make me angry. But I am not short-tempered. I try to be reserved until the very end, but then I explode.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from the war?
We all know our history, and we should have expected this from the russians. And we should have prepared and be ready for it. But we were not ready. To avoid war, you need to prepare for it. If we had been ready, maybe no one would have attacked us.
When will you have a victory?
When we regain our territories. I really believe and want russia to collapse. Some of their territories are former Ukrainian lands.
Why do you want to participate in the Invictus Games?
The Invictus Games – means being among my comrades. And for me, the main rehabilitation is sport. There is no rehabilitation without sport. You need to do some kind of physical exercise to recover. You have to work all the time to be able to put on prostheses.
Athletes came to the hospital and told us about it. Olena Yanovska (head coach of the national team for the Invictus Games 2023) came to support her comrade. And so, talking about this and that, she also told me about it. My archery coach also came, offered the guys to try the bow and told us about the Invictus Games. But I was not up to it then, because I had constant surgeries, everything hurt, I didn’t want to do anything, just lie down to make it hurt less.
And when I started feeling better, my wife said: “Hope you haven’t forgotten about the Invictus Games, have you? Go for it”. When I found out that I had been selected for the national team, I was very happy. And the kids were happy for me.