Soldier Ruslan Filipsonov: It’s most offensive when people ask me “Whatever were you fighting for?”

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2016/01/11 • Stories from the Front, War in the Donbas

Article by: Halyna Tereshchuk

Lviv. Ukrainian fighter Ruslan Filipsonov saved the lives of seven comrades and was seriously wounded. 25-year-old Ruslan, serviceman in the 24th mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has undergone about 50 operations and was immobilized for almost nine months in hospital. The Ukrainian fighter saved six comrades-in arms during an attack, but was seriously wounded when he ran to evacuate the seventh. The doctors performed a real miracle – Ruslan will walk.

Today, Ruslan is in a wheelchair. He is under medical surveillance and follows a daily exercise programme. We first met a year ago, when he was lying immobile in hospital, a laptop on his chest and his mother Kateryna constantly beside him. Even then Ruslan firmly believed that he would walk and return to a normal life. That was his main motivation. Although his wounds and injuries are very complex, he has twice survived clinical death. Officer Ruslan Filipsonov recalls the day of hell on August 20, 2014.

“Despite the shelling, I ran out to pick up my friends. I managed to save six. When I went out for the seventh, I was caught in a rain of heavy enemy fire and fell to the ground, severely wounded. I’d been in the army for almost three months. I was in charge of the equipment and soldiers. I was wounded on August 20, 2014 in Lutuhyne, Luhansk Oblast. Our positions were under heavy shelling from half past three to nine in the morning. Everything was burning and we were in the middle of this hell. We had to retreat, and then the enemy tanks also pulled back. Some of our guys were lying injured in the trenches. There were three officers, but one was wounded. Despite the shelling, I ran towards the wounded men; bullets were whistling and mortars were exploding all around me. When I ran out for the seventh guy, I was hit and regained consciousness in a hospital in Kharkiv.”

Ruslan suffered from severe abdominal wounds; his legs were injured, his right hand was completely smashed, the right lung was punctured, the intestines and bladder were severely damaged. He was first operated in Kharkiv, then in Kyiv and finally transferred to Lviv. Caring people collected money to send Ruslan to Austria, where he was treated three times.

“Modern medicine and foreign doctors perform real miracles. During the first operation, they shaped the tissue and skin of the abdomen, covering the open wound and proceeded to kill the infection in the stomach. Two professors performed the second operation, which lasted eight hours; they sewed up the intestines and bladder. The surgery was perfect. The doctors admitted that the operation was very difficult, but successful. The third operation was done on my feet; titanium implants were inserted. If all goes well I will learn to live with them…”

Ruslan can eat almost anything and says he feels fine. He will have another operation in two or three months. Doctors will remove his cast and perform muscle implant reconstruction surgery. Funds are needed for this operation as Ruslan gets a small soldier’s salary. After that, Ruslan will undergo rehabilitation and learn to walk again.

“I’m counting on good people and volunteers that really helped me last time. I’m very grateful for all this.”

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For his courage in the face of danger, Ruslan Filipsonov was awarded the Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. He does not regret his action and has never doubted that that they were fighting for a just cause. He therefore finds it very offensive when he hears people saying: “Whatever were you fighting for?”

“I don’t have such negative thoughts; I never ask myself what I was fighting for. I knew from the first day why I went to serve on the frontlines. I fought for our future, for our children, for our girls, women and mothers, and for peace and tranquility so that the fear that I saw in the Donbas does not spread throughout our country to western Ukraine. I talked with the people there; they see destruction everywhere; the fear is in their eyes and hearts. Only ruins and destruction… Do we want to see the same here?”

Ruslan’s comrades have not forgotten him. They have all been demobilized. Ruslan learns about the situation in the Donbas from the news and friends. He is very concerned about the soldiers in the frontlines and at military checkpoints who need warm clothing, rainwear and heating equipment.

Ruslan Filipsonov is planning to work at the Military Academy; he will teach, but also wants to relate his experiences on the frontlines, especially the feeling of brotherhood and patriotism.

He is happy that Ukrainians have begun to trust the army. At the same time, he is hurt that not everyone accepts and understands the soldiers who are returning home from active duty.

“Unfortunately, there are cases when our guys have been demobilized, they come home and society doesn’t accept them. You can see it in public transport when drivers refuse to take them and ordinary people look at them and say: “Why did you go there?” And there are other examples at work – one guy came back to work from the eastern front and this bothered the other men in the office as they had managed to escape mobilization. Lviv is a peaceful city, but any sign of war hurts… We fought for these civilians; we sacrificed our lives and health. If such men were to enroll in the army, stand under fire at checkpoints, they would immediately get a taste of real war. Then people wouldn’t cry: “Why did you go there?” Who is supposed to defend our country? People think that everything is peaceful here, that this war doesn’t concern them. But, if our guys leave the checkpoints and come home, those separatists will soon be here, in Lviv. We’ve seen how people suffer in the Donbas, surviving without food, power or gas. People here are fortunate because they’re not aware of all that. That’s why it’s very insulting to hear such remarks.”

The Lviv City Council has promised to accommodate Ruslan in an apartment if a complex is built to house soldiers. As for now, it is only a promise…

“I hope we won’t be forgotten. I’d really like to see the government taking better care of us.”

In the end, Ruslan smiled and admitted that his heart was free and he is waiting for his beloved girl.

Donations for Ruslan Filipsonov’s medical treatment:

Pryvatbank card number – 5168742019770258 (in UAH). Cardholder’s name – Kateryna Ivanivna Filipsonova.

 

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Source: Radio Liberty

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  • Randolph Carter

    (Ukrainian fighter Ruslan Filipsonov) therefore finds it very offensive when he hears people saying: “Whatever were you fighting for?”

    “In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” ~Mark Twain