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How a Donbas miner became a partisan

How a Donbas miner became a partisan
Article by: Mykola Mykolaienko
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

I’m recreating this narrative  from memory. Siania, as he called himself, said that his patience had snapped and that he “was beginning to fight against the trash that had arrived in the Donetsk area.” Since this account is recreated from memory, it is possible that several details may have been lost or perhaps misunderstood. However, if Siania is still alive, he is a partisan. Of that I am sure.

Well, you served in the Soviet Army so you can understand me. My biography is simple, like two pages of an open book. I’m a miner. My father worked in the mine. I was ten when he died. My mother had a hard time raising the three of us. My father was a simple GROZ ( coalface miner) and my mother had graduated from an institute of higher education and worked as a teacher at the school. Her students were always running around in our house. She had fallen in love with a simple miner and remained faithful to her first love until death. My sisters have grown up, have married, and are now looking after grandchildren.

I went to military school in the early 1970s and graduated. I ended up in military intelligence. My last position was as commander of an intelligence squadron. Then I was wounded during the Soviet era.  We were spreading socialism and internationalism all over the world. I was discharged for health reasons. It took me a long time to find myself in civilian life. My wife died during the riots in one of the “fraternal republics.” My son was also an officer, in the Russian army. He was wounded in Chechnya and   became disabled. He didn’t even get a normal pension. Well I came back with him to the Donbas — we were two invalids. I found a good job here, but I lost my son. My old wounds began to bother me. My heart couldn’t stand it.

Now I think that if he were alive today he would be fighting against his fellow soldiers. He really hated the Russian army. He told me quite a few things about what was going on there in the 1990s.

When the Euromaidan revolution began I didn’t understand it. I simply could not understand the rebellion, even though I hated Yanukovych, perhaps more that all the Maidan protestors put together. A con cannot be head of state. I know the  backwoods of Donetsk. I have lived among the miners. I know their families. They are drunks, even the women drink, and many do not work. They engage in idle talk, play lotto or cards. After cooking dinner for their husbands, they rush to gossip with neighbors. How much mud they slung at my mother. She was not one of them, this teacher. When I watched the rallies for Yanukovych on TV, I could see my countrymen and women who were willing to sell their mothers for a glass of vodka. And they were even paid.

This filth then became the “biomass” that gave rise to Yanukovych. He is a model for them. From con to president. From deadbeat to prince. Everything that they were not able to realize themselves they saw in him. Like in a soap opera. Unfortunately, Ukraine did not understand and even partly supported this monster. And the officers of the army agreed to submit to this con commander-in-chief. All our problems stem from this fact.

I can see now how the army is fighting …. The generals who were scum have remained scum. Here’s a fact for you. The crisis and the escalation of the fighting began in the beginning of July — right after Girkin’s departure from Sloviansk. I tracked the develpments in the area.

Immediately after the Ukrainian generals allowed “Strelkov” (Igor Girkin) to leave Sloviansk, he used all his means to prevent the capture of Donetsk through flank attacks. Since “Strelkov” first  arrived in Illovaisk on July 7, there were some 300-400 militants based there plus additional forces in Donetsk and Mospyne. Donetsk should have been surrounded by much larger forces. The Armed Forces of Ukraine had inside information about the movements of the separatists, but they never acted on it. Information about the numbers and weaponry of the enemy was not utilized. There was not a single attack carried out in places where Girkin and the other leaders were based.

I want to emphasize that if they had not allowed them to escape from Sloviansk, the whole war would have gone differently. However, all is not lost. The army must advance. Perhaps with losses on our side, but certainly also with very significant losses on the Russian side. I’ve heard the intercepted radio communications and I can assure you that the Russians do not want to die. They came here simply to make money. I’ll tell you one instance. I was in Russia recently. I was waiting at the bus station in Rostov, and I saw two soldiers standing. I came up, introduced myself: “I am a professional soldier,” I said, “I served in the Soviet army. I saw combat. I see you’re from the front. What’s the situation like?”

They accepted me as one of theirs. I quickly learned that all of them were from Nizhny Tagil. Contract soldiers. Last summer an alarm was raised and the soldiers were sent for training to the Rostov Oblast. One of them told me, “I’ll never go back to the Donbas. It’s possible to earn money in Russia as well. Over there instead of  money, you’ll get to travel on ‘Cargo 200.'” (code for vehicles transporting soldiers killed in action — Ed.).

Another soldier from a “volunteer” group said: “I resigned from the army when I saw that the war in the Caucasus was only a ‘war for money’ where there can be no winners. I arrived in Crimea. After the return of the peninsula to Russia, I went to the Donbas, which was already engulfed by war. I decided that the time had come to remember my profession and to try to unite efforts of people who do not want this region to become fascist. However, the “Crimean scenario” did not work for us. And you know, the residents resisted. We imprisoned them, tortured them, killed them. But all that was to no avail.”

The guys were already quite drunk and spoke openly, with anger. They were going away. And I was going back.

And now, after this conversation,  it is also time for me to think about how to live. I’m not prepared to leave Donbas. This is my land. My father and mother are buried here. And so is my son. The land must be defended. It is impossible to remain neutral. It is not enough to blame the bad generals — they must be pressured. And those who can fight must do so. There is no alternative. Partisans take care of their own weapons. Some have hunting rifles, others something else. Everything else can be taken from the enemy.

Later I read a news report about the partisans. On December 2 the partisans carried out a raid. They destroyed a mobile unit in Petrivka, in the Donetsk Oblast. The enemy lost at least 10 fighters. Perhaps my chance acquaintance was among these partisans.

Mykola Mykolaienko, engineer, Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast, January 16, 2015

Photo: AFP — “DNR” militants, November 2014

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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