• Номер запису / Number of record: 333-05-03
  • Автор(-ка) / Author: Anton
  • Дата запису / Date of record: May 31, 2023
  • Регіон / Region: Donetsk region

Soledar. The story of an artist

At the beginning of February, we received orders to take back a village next to Soledar. I understood perfectly clearly that I was going in one direction only. I said a prayer, kissed my cross and went into the unknown. I was trembling with fear, but I gathered all my strength in a fist.

The sun was going down early and there was very little time. Our scouts said it was all clear where we were supposed to take up our position. Still, we ran into some russians who tossed grenades our way.

It was now dark. We heard three russians walking some 15 meters away from us, loudly talking: «Adessa [Odesa]!» This was the password they used to identify their own. They had simply become lost in the dark. When they drew closer to us, we took aim and shouted: «Surrender!» They refused. A skirmish began. It ended up with us shooting two of the russians while the third dropped his gun and went after us with a knife. One of our guys dropped him neatly, shooting at his shoulder. He fell, so we tied him up and provided first aid.

He was a convict who had been offered two options: to stay behind bars for many more years or to finish his sentence at the front in Donetsk Oblast while receiving 30,000 rubles a month [$ 400] pay. So he joined the ranks of Wagner PMC. He had managed to be at the front for just a few days.

During the night, the russians began a counterattack. We captured the russian walkie-talkie and were able to overhear an announcement: «Shoot with your iron for now. The beast will show up later.» That meant that for now we were facing a mortar, but later a tank would drive up.

The russians actively bombarded us with shells. Our position was set up behind four houses. After three hours of shelling, all that remained of the houses was knee-deep craters.

One of our guys was seriously hit by shrapnel all over his legs. He was in a state of shock, so he didn’t fall but ran. But, where the rest of us were running back, further from the shelling, for some reason he was doing the opposite, running towards the enemy. I yelled at him, «Hey, dummy, where you going?! Get back!» But he ran towards a trench in front of him, fell in there and began to scream: «It hurts!!!»

I ran up to where he was, bent over to pull him out and just then a shell exploded a few meters from me. I was so stunned that I barely remember what happened after that. Only the odd image remains in my memory: me crawling, breaking through some bushes, falling, someone saying something to me.

After a day, I began to feel better. And although the other guy was pulled out by other brothers-in-arms the following night when thins were a little quieter, he had already bled to death.

During one attack, I was on patrol in the trench. Less than two meters from me stood another brother-in-arms. Suddenly a shell from a tank landed between us. I was wearing a cap and helmet, but I still felt afterwards how my ears got hot. Almost like a burn. By some miracle, the shell did not explode but ricocheted off the parapet and flew on. It fell a long way behind us and never did blow up.

During the next round of shelling, we weren’t so lucky. Somehow, a mine fell in front of us. The blast wave threw me back. But a fragment cut off part of my partner’s head, together with his brain. He kept breathing for some time and I tried to provide some medical assistance, but it was no use. He died shortly afterwards in my arms.

I tore up a blanket that was hanging in the entryway to the dugout and placed the dead soldier’s body on it. To get him out, we had to first cross a field that was constantly being shelled and then to the ferry. The body was heavy. We hadn’t slept or eaten for several days, so that even the four of us together couldn’t muster the strength to carry him out. Somewhere among neighboring houses we found a kid’s wagon and brought him to the ferry in it.

The ferry consisted of simple planks that floated just a bit higher than the water level. They began to buckle under our weight and our boots ended up completely under water. When we pulled the body across the ferry, it tore out of our hands and slipped into the water. One soldier jumped into the icy river, which was about waist-deep and grabbed the body. That’s how we slowly brought him to the other shore. There, some other guys helped us.

Afterwards, I climbed into our APC. Someone there began to yell at me, but I didn’t hear them. That’s how I understood that I had lost my hearing.

Later on, I was diagnosed with a serious concussion and was kept in the hospital for a few days.

Every night, I swallowed a couple of sleeping pills. Without them, I simply could not fall asleep. And when I did fall asleep, I always dreamt the same dream: the storming of this village. In my dreams, I would see all those events that I just described. And when I woke up I would notice that my arms were bent as though I was holding a machine-gun.

P. S. Not long after, the Artist was back again, working on those positions where he set up the fortifications. That’s where he died during yet another round of shelling.

Anton, Donetsk Oblast

Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj