It has already hit the press and not because of me, so I am free to speak. Bero and Dato. Gia Beriashvili and Dato Ratiani.
They died yesterday in the battle for Irpin, doing reconnaissance for our platoon.
We took Bero, who had already died, out under mortar fire yesterday. Bero fought for his life until the last minute.
Dato Ratiani had become a close friend. It was he who saved my life after his death, as I told you today, without giving his name. Dato took several occupiers with him to their deaths. He was a machine gunner. Dato lived as a hero and died as a hero, helping a French soldier with a wounded leg to get to our meeting place. Dato died on the spot from a mine explosion.
Dato was strong, quiet, modest, always organized and kind. Dato Ratiani is a swan from Mestia who lived in Abkhazia and lost another homeland because of his second war, after the Afghan war, the Abkhaz war. I write about this dryly and know that I am presenting the facts that I’m able to tell you in a way that almost sounds «clerical.» Perhaps I will write more about Dato — a man who taught me a lot during the few months of our acquaintance and joint trips to the front — from the line of demarcation with Samachablo and Abkhazia to my native Kyiv.
I want to hear your voice every minute of this day: «Alex, did you clean the machine gun?» «Alex, they wrote about a woman who died under fire, a mother of seven, have you read that?» «Alex, is there any news about when we come out?»
Dato fought his last fight yesterday morning, at five in the morning.
We were together until the last.
The mine that killed him, when the enemy tried to capture us, lightly wounded the soldier he was carrying and did not touch me.
The mines rained down on us, when we carried the dead on a terrible night, and tried to cover us all.
But it was fate that brought Dato to this shelling.
Dato Ratiani’s spectacle chain saved my life that night. That thin magical cord.
Together we Georgians and Ukrainians took them out of the forest where they had died.
I know that even under fire Dato would have said to me: «Alex, I told you not to tie the magazine that way because it can get stuck.»
Dato. Thank you for being with me. Thank you for being.