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Marine Commander Sukharevsky: We’ll never give up Mariupol!

Vadym Sukharevsky near Vodyane
Article by: Iryna Gorbaseva
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
33-year-old Vadym Sukharevsky is one of the best known commanders in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Major, Commander of a marine battalion of the 36th Marine Corps Brigade, Vadym continues to serve his country in the war zone.

On April 13, 2014, he disobeyed the General Staff’s order – “Hold your fire!” – near Sloviansk and saved a group of SBU officers from certain death, a story that has turned Vadym into a living legend. He was the first Ukrainian serviceman to open fire on the enemy. We recently met with Vadym after he had spent an afternoon talking to students of the Faculty of History at the Mariupol National University.

Vadym Sukharevsky
Vadym Sukharevsky

-The army is a mirror of our society, and children are our future. We soldiers may look very serious to you, but we’re people like everyone else, and we’re absolutely open. Our words and our stories should shed light on the situation and the information war in our country, especially in front-line regions like Mariupol. We want to talk to parents and their children, dispel the myths spread by the enemy, namely that we’re out to kill locals. We want people who don’t understand what’s happening now to think for themselves and form a correct point of view.

– Our meeting with the students was great! Savvy, active young people… interested, spirited and patriotic. It inspires us and makes us more aware of who we’re fighting for. Students are our future elite. I believe that it’s namely our young people that will build a strong country where there will be no need to fight, where we won’t have to worry about our neighbours in the east, west or north.

Vadym Sukharevsky and his mates at a meeting with students of the Mariupol National University
Vadym Sukharevsky and his mates at a meeting with students of the Mariupol National University

– Vadym, you’ve become a legend! How do you feel about that?

– I don’t like that word. This is war and I’m just doing my duty. Time will tell how well or how badly I’ve executed my obligations in different periods of this war. A legend? That’s not the real me.

– Tell us about your men. What do they mean to you?

– Generally speaking, the army is an institution where men are able to develop and train the qualities inherent in all soldiers. Men who enlist already possess these qualities. A marine is also a soldier, but you have to prove yourself to serve in the Marine Corps. So, I say without a doubt that I’m in charge of all my marines… definitely.

– Who serves in your battalion, and what’s the mood among your men? Are they allowed to go home often?

– My boys come from all the regions of Ukraine. There are also guys from the occupied territories and they’ll stay until their towns and villages have been returned to Ukraine. They’re very motivated. We also have some women serving in our ranks. There are no obstacles in the army. True, they’re mostly cooks, communications operators and health instructors. But, we have a woman who’s a grenade launcher. She’s 23 years old. And no matter how hard I try to transfer her to a safer job, nothing comes of it. She can’t see herself working in another place.

We don’t go home very often. I’m from Transcarpathia, and the last time I visited my parents was last spring. Never mind… it’s our duty.

Oleksandr Kindsfater, press officer for the Mariupol sector (left) and Vadym  Sukharevsky (right) near Vodyane
Oleksandr Kindsfater, press officer for the Mariupol sector (left) and Vadym  Sukharevsky (right) near Vodyane

– You probably joke around a lot with your men. Is there a standard joke for young recruits?

– A standard question for a young marine is “How many stripes are there on a sailor’s shirt? Some of them start counting… (Vadym laughs). But in fact, they should know that there are only two – a dark blue one and a white one. Well, a lazy marine may have three… some dirty marks.

– How do marines relax? What do they do in their free time?

– We’ve got a lot of friends that visit us quite regularly – artists, musicians, and performers, such as the hip-hop group TNMK and Tartak frontman Sashko Polozhynsky. Vakarchuk has also visited us. Taras Zhitynsky will be performing for us soon. He’s come up with some kind of instrument that looks like a guitar or bandura; he voices cartoon characters and movie stars; his voice is often heard on the screen. We sometimes have time to relax and enjoy other things. Of course, we don’t forget about religion and we talk a lot amongst ourselves.

– Vadym, how do you stay so calm and self-controlled?

– That’s a rule in the army. Whatever the situation, smile and you’ll feel better!

Vadym Sukharevsky holds a souvenir – a tetrapod, symbol of the defense of Mariupol
Vadym Sukharevsky holds a souvenir – a tetrapod, symbol of the defense of Mariupol

– How do you view Ukraine’s position in this military conflict? What will the outcome be?

– I believe in our strength, I believe in what we do. Our government’s policies are correct, I support them. The outcome? Victory, only victory… in any way or form, whether it’s an offensive or a political decision. In any case, this means that the enemy must return our territories and leave our country.

– We rarely hear our leaders and commanders addressing the people who live in the occupied territories. What would you say to them?

– To those waiting for our arrival and the return of their lands to Ukraine, we say that we’ll be with you very soon. To those who are against us, we quote the popular phrase:  “Чемодан. Вокзал. Россия” (Suitcase. Train station. Russia). Life won’t be easy for them after we’ve returned, especially if they’ve betrayed us or fought against us.

– When you were guarding the roads to Mariupol, the residents slept peacefully. Will you stay here?

– Our permanent deployment position is in Mariupol. We’ve become part of the local landscape.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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