Part of the army
I am from Zaporizhzhia. For the last four years, I had been working as a forklift driver at a company called Silpo. But on February 26, 2022, I was already at the distribution point, holding a rifle, already part of the army.
Back on February 22, I quit my job. I was already annoyed by all this, I was indifferent to everything. I felt like I had potential, but I felt I was going nowhere, unable to reveal myself. And this trampling is just a waste of time.
I wanted some kind of development, a change in the picture. Because I was already doing my work at a higher level. I had reached my maximum. It was no longer interesting.
After I quit, I stayed at home for a day – I needed time to figure out what I wanted, and then a friend called and invited me to go to a hotel complex outside the city to relax.
On February 24, everyone was sleeping, but I, as usual, could not sleep. I made myself some coffee, picked up the phone, and it was five in the morning. I saw an announcement in the work chat, which I still hadn’t deleted, that no one had to go to work. It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. We survived the COVID and everything, and we never stopped working. I had no idea how a warehouse that supplies 64 stores had stopped. They said it was the war.
The very first thought that came to me was that I needed some means of defence, and weapons. I did not find anything. I heard the first information about the distribution of assault rifles to everyone, stood in line for three and a half hours, and realized that I would not get one. My friend, with whom I have been friends for 10 years, called me and said that he was in the Dnipropetrovs’k region, at the distribution center, and had already received a machine gun. I packed up and went to see him.
There were more than a thousand people there, I was escorted through and given an assault rifle. Two days later, our formed battalion was attached to the brigade, and that’s how we became the Zaporizhzhia territorial defence.
I found my place
We moved from the Dnipropetrovs’k region to the Zaporizhzhia region. We were driving towards the village of Bilenke. That was our permanent deployment point. There, I joined a reconnaissance unit in the battalion. But because of my desire to actively do something, to conduct operations, we did not get along with the commander. Our task was to observe and the observation usually ended with the identification of certain subjects, where we came across the battalion’s rapid response team, which we forced to work. We were told that we were too active, and the rapid response group invited us to work together. That was my thing.
I don’t know where I got the understanding of how to act. Sometimes we were taught by older and more experienced people, sometimes we worked intuitively. I said to my colleague once: “You and I may not kill anyone in the first months, but we can prevent a lot of things.” We earned our first “points” by identifying a subversive group member, who was later handed over to the Security Service of Ukraine and found out that there were three more of their group members in the villages along the coast, and the fourth was where our checkpoint was located. They were passing information about our location and our movement to each other. This guy was a local. This is how we realized that we were not standing still. We may have not been killing the enemy, but we were preventing the possibility of infiltration.
But I wouldn’t say that Zaporizhzhia was pro-russian. Especially now, since this has started and see how many people are dying or getting injured, it’s very depressing. And when you hear that someone you know is injured, but too heavily – it’s a relief.
We spent two weeks in the Zaporizhzhya region and then moved as a battalion towards the Donetsk region. We arrived there, took up a position, stayed there for some time, and then went out to reinforcement. But it was not reinforcement, it was a pure call for the enemy artillery. We were a live target. When the artillery responded, those who were lucky – they made it, and those who weren’t – they didn’t survive. The russians went on the offensive, and the battalion retreated. We moved back early in the morning, as we were the battalion’s reconnaissance unit. And we had to draw fire on ourselves for five days. This is how reconnaissance works.
It’s not like in the movies where the reconnaissance groups crawl up to the enemy, lie in the grass with all sorts of night vision devices, and watch the enemy walk right before their eyes. In fact, everything is much simpler: a group goes to an open area and starts making noise until the enemy notices and starts shooting. As soon as they start shooting at us, our guys understand where their positions are and return fire.
Those five days were hard. That was the first time I felt such a cold breath of an invisible, otherworldly force called death. And then I had no thoughts about friends or anything else. There was only one thought about where in this yard I would die heroically. Because everything was leading to that.
Those were hard five days: no communication, no water, no electricity. We were just moving around the village, moving from one place to another. And it was only a matter of time before they would come for us and kill us – 13 people. We created the impression that our troops were there to draw fire on ourselves and make the enemy expose their positions.
Of course, there were locals in the village. And there was a spotter among them, an old man, 74 years old, a former soldier with a “russian world” point of view. That’s why the accuracy of their mortars and artillery was perfect. I have never seen anything like that in my life before, only in a movie… But a movie is a movie, it’s fun to watch on TV.
…The locals who did not want to leave the village did not live in their own houses, but stayed together in a bunch and lived in someone’s basement. Once we had to pick up a woman and drove up to one house to collect water, took a lot of bottles with us, and then returned to her. It seemed like everything was going well.
When we arrived at the woman’s house, she and her friend started handing us food. I was holding the eggs, they were handing me a piece of lard, and suddenly I heard a sound – a missile hit the garden. Andriy, with whom I was together, accelerated and we drove out of this village as fast as we could, but the missiles kept hitting at us so hard that we were tossing around and the Lanos was jumping over the hills like a mountain donkey. Eggs and lard looked as if they were being whipped in a mixer. It was scary. They were shooting very accurately and precisely. And when we identified that spotter, everything fell into place.
The russians had been already encircling the village. On the sixth day, we left at our own risk on the only road that remained from this village. Staying there was a 100% risk of death. Each of us had a grenade in order to avoid being a prisoner of war.
During those five days, we found one shopping centre. There were people there. Our radio was constantly working. There was a crazy night fight, everything was on fire. I went downstairs to rest. It was already getting light. I was flipping through my phone, and I had a lot of photos with my children, from different vacations. I felt so bad, I asked: “Tell me, Lord, will I ever see my children again?” Suddenly I heard the commander say via radio that help was on our way… Then my faith in God became stronger.
I realized that it was too early to give up and that I would see my children again. The feeling that morning would never come for us disappeared.
And indeed, we got out of there. We retreated to Huliaypole. We were given two weeks to get the battalion together. And then, one day, the deputy commander came and said that the reconnaissance should gather and move to the village next door, where we had escaped from.
We moved out, occupied a house, and spent the night. In the morning on May 19, we got to our positions… An Audi passed in front of us, and the five of us in a Pajero hit an anti-tank mine. And it happened faster than you can blink. Because I saw the Audi and in a second I was all dark.
I was sitting by the door, and I regained consciousness on the street. The machine gun on one side, people on the other. The car was blown up on the right side. Seryozha was lying with his leg blown off. His other leg was almost gone too. And a piece of the machine gun got into his leg. Everyone screaming. Sasha, the driver, was lying there and we thought he was dead. I was bleeding, I could not see with my left eye. “Kuba”, his name is Nazar, was our medic. Now he is a combat medic in our battalion. And the fifth was “Chudo”(Ukr. – “Miracle”). He was from another unit. It was a “Miracle” indeed, because he didn’t have a single scratch on him.
“Cuba” was calling me. That was the first time I saw the world in black and white. And the sounds were like ultrasound. I just didn’t understand what was happening. “Cuba” and I were getting Sanya out. I did it all automatically. He survived but lost his eye.
Seryozha died there. Although “Cuba” was fighting for his life for a long time. The day before, we had a conflict with ‘Sirota’ – Serhiy’s call sign -. Before he died, he said to “Cuba”: “Tell ‘Moldavan’ not to be offended by me”.
Later, instead of the military medical commission, I was returned to my service. But I found out that this is not how things should be… My commanders sent me to AWOL. After a month and a half, I was sent to a military hospital, the same one that sent me back to the frontline without treatment. Now they said that my injury had turned into an illness, but my knee was cured.
Then I returned to the position, and got under fire from an AGS – it hit the same leg. I believe in God, and it seems to me that he was trying to tell me to take care of myself a little bit.
On May 19, we were blown up, and on May 23 it’s my wife’s birthday. We were sitting at the table and I was just digesting everything, realizing that this could not have happened. These people would have gathered, but the reason could have been different…
How do you like to relax?
I like to be left alone. Get behind the wheel, turn on some music and drive. Take a fellow traveller – someone who needs a ride. I can go play billiards, I like billiards. I can go to the sauna by myself.
How would you describe your character?
I’m an awkward person. It’s not difficult for me with my character, it’s difficult for people around me.
If I say no, there is no point in persuading me. And if I have to persuade someone, it starts to irritate me. I’m like a train – those who got on – are on board those who can’t make up their mind – stay on the platform.
What can you punish your children for?
I am always on their side. I am their ally, protector and guarantor in any situation. Even if they are wrong. Even if I know they are wrong. Even if I have seen with my own eyes that they are wrong, I am still on their side. But if they lie – they will get what they deserve.
Is there any point in arguing with you?
If you have arguments, please join the game. I don’t follow the principle “I said so”. I listen to arguments if they are valid.
Where do you get inspiration?
I go to the forest. I feel good by myself. If I run into a dog or a cat I’ll be happy. I love all animals.
What are you afraid of?
Nothing. Not anymore.
Why are you participating in the Invictus Games?
I didn’t just come here, I was brought here by fate. I managed to ensure myself rehabilitation in the hospital, but before that, I had to have the shrapnel taken out, with which I continued not only to live but also to serve for a month and a half. In the ward, I met the chief supply sergeant of my battalion. He asked me if I wanted to go to Dusseldorf. He asked me if I was into sports, called the “deputy colonel” and said: “Cross me out, I’m not going. Put Kobylianu on the list, let him go.” Then they explained to me that the trip to Dusseldorf was not for nothing. First, I had to come to Lviv, pass the selection, get into the national team… I knew that there would be people with injuries, but I didn’t realise the scale of the event.
When I arrived, these guys inspired me. I looked at them and realised that some problems in life cannot be considered problems at all. They also have a sense of humour and enthusiasm.