In the morning, an acquaintance called. Congratulated with a holiday. Used a ton of nice but exaggerated adjectives, such as the bravest, the strongest, etc. And said: «Promise that we will greet victory together.» And I remember the woman at the checkpoint…
We were moving from one place to another after an assignment. It was already dark. There was a line of cars near the checkpoint. We drove past the queue. In the distance, somewhere on the horizon, we see the sky ablaze with white light. «The motherfuckers are fucking with phosphorus again,» my brother-in-arms says.
There is a commotion at the checkpoint. Some lady is hysterical. The guards are not letting her through. She screams, moans, throws herself on them. We come out of the vehicle. We are beginning to understand that her son remained over there, where everything is now lit up in white. He is there by himself. He is 8-years-old. She left him for a couple of hours in search of a pharmacy. Because the child has asthma. Aerosol is running out.
I can understand the soldier who is not letting her in there. Because right now, everything there is burning with the temperature of 2500 degrees. If the boy was able to hide, he has a chance to survive. If she drives there, she will have no such chance. And she won’t even get there because the wheels will burn out in an instant.
But I can understand that woman as well. I too would not be able to just stand there, watch, and wait while my child may be subjected to horrific burns. Because even after phosphorus gets on the body, it continues to heat everything until it burns out.
It’s quite possible to save a person who has come into contact with phosphorus. The main thing is to stop the interaction of phosphorus with oxygen and with the body. In the first case, we need wet rags or water. In the second case, we carve out the remainder of phosphorus from the body with a knife. It’s not possible to do it with your hands-too hot. But would a regular civilian know that? Would a fragile woman be able to hold her child who is in great pain and pick at his wounds?
I looked at my boys. They nodded. We got in touch with our commander to give him the heads up that we will be delayed on the road for about an hour. The woman begged: «Promise me that you will save my child.» And I can’t do that. I can’t make such promises in war. How the fuck to get out of that?! So I answered: «I can’t promise that. But we will give our lives to save him.» And we drove closer to the population center, which was enveloped in a white glow like in a fairy tale. To be honest, I don’t know how this would have turned out had the woman acted in a more restrained, calmer manner. Would I have risked my life for someone not willing to do that on their own? For someone who accepts the blows of fate and does not fight back? I don’t know. If such a situation arises, then I will find out.
We brought the boy out. Unlike many of the locals, he got lucky. He was not injured. But their home burned down. Just like many other homes. We were delayed on the road for more than an hour. And for that, we got reprimands from the commander. But the enemy will wait for us. We had to bring the woman with the child somewhere for the night. So why am I saying all this…
No, we are neither immortal nor fearless. An unexpected explosion scares us too. The possibility of death provides motivation to fight for one’s life. But we are here because next to us are those who will step into hell itself along with us to kick the devil and to come back alive. We are here because all of us have acquaintances or friends to whom we can’t make promises that we will greet victory together. But we will give our lives for that. Thank you.
Danylo, Donetsk oblast
Translated by Natalya Barden