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“War Is Already Underway”: How Volunteers Serve in the Ukrainian Army

“War Is Already Underway”: How Volunteers Serve in the Ukrainian Army

by Yuriy Marchenko, May 26th, 2014

The author of this material is a soldier of the Ukrainian army who signed up as a volunteer after the Crimean events began. He asked not to indicate his name, in order to have the opportunity to honesty talk about how the service looks from the inside. is publishing the volunteer’s direct speech. 

I am a solider. On March 1st, when our extraordinarily brotherly friends burst rushed to spread good and flourishing to the humiliated Russian-speakers, I ran to the military commissariat and signed up as a volunteer. On May 17th I got the call, on the 18th I became a soldier. The first wave – they prepared mobilisation. It was ready and began on May 15th. Formed a group at the command point myself, went with it myself, and started serving in the Kyiv battalion together with it.

This entire process was presented as a crawl through bureaucratic clouds to militaristic happiness. Now I am in the active armed forces, which I am extremely happy about. Everything as usual – the battalion was formed in record time – within a week, which, to my mind, is a record for Ukrainian realities. At the moment training and skill development is underway – shooting, physical training, equipment. Overall, the communicators are developing radio stations, the medics are learning how to give treatment, and the grenade launchers are firing automatic grenade launchers at the hills. All of this collides with regular irresponsibility and stupidity on part of the higher commandment, which is so reminiscent of sabotage and treason, that the conclusions seem obvious.

The contingent of my co-soldiers is varied. There are bellied men, and thin-legged hipsters. The skeleton are those who had served in more or less normal armies, the airborne forces and border workers. There is a catastrophic lack of good specialists, which is conditioned by the army, which had been lost within the last 20 years. We are learning everything as we go and by themselves.

At first the conditions were simply monstrous. When we came, there were cold and empty barracks, it was impossible to sleep – cold, the mattresses were crap, they only gave us linen on the third day. We lay in our clothes, our teeth chattering. Besides, we had to set everything up ourselves. I saw for the first time how captains and majors dragged around beds and bedside tables. Now it isn’t bad. Mattresses, linen and pillows were brought to us from “Yaroslav” company, very good quality. The food is cantine, it’s survivable. The biggest problem is the shower. There is none, they took us to the sauna once. But the people understand the destruction of everything. They do not waver.

The schedule is as follows: rise, exercise, breakfast, then training – either theory in the barracks (an officer sits down, gathers the soldiers around him and tells them useful things), either practice in the field. The theoretical training are reminiscent of a giant workshop – imagine an expo, where at every stand they are conducting a different lecture. Personally, I like it very much. Then lunch, training again, dinner, free time and sleep. Nobody is pressuring us with protocol.

The polygon is just a polygon. We are shooting everything we have. However they promised us a mount of ammo, and in reality they’re withholding. But in comparison to the emergency army, we are just the dogs of war. Within half a day of the polygon we learned to sleep with the noise, as the racket there is just like at the front.

As the battalion has been formed 75% of volunteers, nobody has to be explained everything. Various fledglings of “screw all this, I have a wife and children at home” are being uprooted mercilessly. 12 people were sent home, some because of health, some because of family reasons, and simply inadequate and whiners came. Here the bad job of military commissariats is obvious – they would rather quickly close the issue and report their achievements, and then you do everything you like with these vacuum cleaner sellers. A single such cretin is capable of a lot of things, therefore they got rid of them.

I cannot explain to myself why I am here. The thing is, all the words that are used for this are not in fashion now.

Regarding the events in the Southeast, I think the following – there is an entire layer of politicians which have spent ten years feeding the people fairy-tales about Banderites and robbing them. Then they got scared for their wallets, and decided to sell peace in the region to the new government on guarantees of personal security. For which they used the regular contingent of idiots, small criminals and Lumpens, and, of course, Uncle Vova’s support. But the situation has gone out of control, and now we have a criminal rebellion of degenerated, diluted with hysterical grannies and stupid hooligans. And special departments of the neighbouring enemy, who is humanly taking revenge for the bird we flipped them. This is the social low, the dirt under the fingernails of the Ukrainian nation. Give a thousand Euros to each one of them and they will go to sleep with the portrait of the long-suffering Bandera under their pillow.

I am 90% sure that soon we will be sent there. And 50% sure that a full-fledged war with Russia will begin. God help us do our duty and survive. It turned out like this. These things are difficult to speak of otherwise.

Overall, everything has been lost in the army, and that which hasn’t been lost has been rendered useless. One thing remains – military spirit, unity and belief in ourselves. Every post of a successful blogger in a comfy armchair about how the enemy has to be understood and overall, “we’re for peace” is a shot to the very heart of the Ukrainian soldiers which are at the moment lying in stuffy barracks and listening to the snores of the neighbour. The mood is important. Screw the pacifist moods, screw the overly-intelligent analysis of the one and same. Since I ended up in the army, everything became extremely simple – these are mine, these are enemies. Kill. A magical feeling, especially after the intelligent reflection during Maidan, when I tried to comprehend both.

And nobody will be able to sit it out, the contemporary doctrines of “internal war” don’t presume such a thing. When the unshaven guys which we called “bydlo” (and you did call them that, don’t deny it) beat you for a can of meat, you will give everything in the world to return and get the chance to destroy a dozen, but save a million.

But it will be too late.


Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina

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