October 4, 2015 –
Vera Kostamo, Novorossiya –
Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski
Aleksandra: “We’re becoming hardened here.”
“I didn’t even make the decision to go to the militia. It came to me. I took a weapon in my hands for the first time when I was 12. I went shooting, mountain climbing, hiking, and did orienteering.
On October 24, 2014, I came to the battalion. I covered the elite infantry – six sappers. How many times the guys had to clear houses: we couldn’t even manage to go to the base, drink a tea, and go out again. We got called when homes were hit. Then hospitals, schools, and cemeteries.
The guys cleared out all of Yasinovataya. More than 600 fields were cleared in spring so that people could sow. After the war, we’ll have to defuse a lot of territories, enough to last for years. We still find shells from the times of the Great Patriotic War.
When I was first given a training grenade, I was so afraid, that I thought I would break a fighter’s head when I threw it. I’m not afraid of shooting small arms, but I treated explosives cautiously. Now it doesn’t matter. I can sit on anti-tank mines. A person gets used to everything.
Every fifth fighter is a woman. There are so many, because women can’t sit at home and just watch. Many women came from the occupied territories. They helped men at home and carried food to block posts. Now it’s impossible to stay there.
The men treat women at the front line with respect. I haven’t seen a single case of rudeness towards girls. A woman is a mother, a sister, a wife. That person to whom many come and tell everything that’s bothering them. Everyone wants warmth. Many haven’t seen their families in over a year.
We are getting hardened here, we look at death from a philosophical point of view. God has measured out – you survive not a minute more, not a minute less. You believe in fate. There’s already no fear, but more than a year ago there was. Emotions don’t remain, and it is necessary to be abstract or one can go crazy.
In Debaltsevo, the guys saw the basements where civilians hid and where grenades were thrown. After this, there are no emotions. Over the past year, there have been many heavy days, but one particularly horrible.
I led a convoy, and in the buses there were 85 children, 20 babies with their mothers. At the time, two planes bombed Lugansk. One left, but the second came on combat course. It descended to a certain height and turned on full afterburner. only the fact that we went between two landings saved us all. The cars were jolted up off the ground. The nozzle of the aircraft has two ultramarine circles, and I will remember for ever. Even on the roofs of the buses was written “children.”
After some time, we tried to stop, but they shot in front of us. Then Sverdlovsk came under “Grad” shelling and they “worked” for 40 minutes. At 11 P.M., it was as bright as day. The children hid in ditches. We searched for them in ditches with flashlights.
When we reached the border with Russia, the children exited the bus with their mothers, gathered in one group, and sat down on their bags. It was terrifying to look at them. I though, “Why, Lord?”
The war changed everyone, and it really brought us together. In Pervomaysk, people shared everything. If you had a piece of bread, but your neighbor didn’t, then of course the piece was broken in half. One big pot on the street cooked for everyone, and everyone sat and ate. There was no light, no gas, no water. Not a single home entirely in tact.
I had to take wounded from the front. I didn’t even consider how many I took out. They’re all natives, and they’re alive. Thank God.
The thing you fear more than anything is a call from doctors. You take the phone and there: “Your fighter has been taken to trauma.” You jump in the car, come to the hospital before the ambulance, you wipe your tears, and beat your head with your palms because you understand that he, this kid, needs your support. He’s burnt up, and you tell him: “Smokey, everything will be ok.” After resuscitation, he regains consciousness, sees you, and kisses your hand: “Thank you for being here.”
And you sit near and wait as relatives arrive. Not only friends, but brothers appear. I call mother every morning, and she tells me: “Daughter, take care of yourself.” What should I tell her? If it’s necessary to cover someone, I won’t think about myself. I didn’t come for awards or fame, but just to protect my land…I can’t leave this war. I don’t know when it will end.
Yulia, a med student: “If I wasn’t a medic, I wouldn’t have come to the battalion.”
I came to the battalion on June 29, 2014. There was an acute shortage of medics, and they asked me for help, so I started to work as a volunteer and I stayed. During this time, I had to deal with everything from acute infections to severe bleeding and injuries.
My main task is to provide first aid to the wounded, and transport them from the front line to the hospital. In critical moments, I don’t think about fear. There is a goal, and it has to be achieved. Only then do I worry and analyze: “Did I do everything right?” I never believed how many guys asked for help, sometimes one or two a day, and sometimes dozens. The largest number of wounded under my watch was 14 people. I had to work with them very quickly. Of course, there is no time left for my affairs and hobbies. In the morning, I go to university, and then work afterwards. For me as a student, it is a massive experience.
If I wasn’t a medic, I wouldn’t have come to the battalion, as I’m not useful for anything else. I can’t imagine myself with a gun in hands. I don’t know if I’m brave, but I haven’t run away yet, and there haven’t been any such thoughts.
My parents say that I grew up a lot this year. My outlook on life changed. My attitude towards studies is now entirely different. I try to remember and understand everything that is taught at lectures. Practice convinces you that everything depends on you, and no one will help. Everything in life isn’t so simple. If I’m here, that means I’m needed. There weren’t even moments when I regretted my choice. As long as I’m needed, I will offer help.
Margarita: “On our badge, the flag of Gorlovka, a gun, and a slipper are embroidered.”
I started in the “Amazons” military preparation club since sixth grade, and now I’m in ninth. I started gradually working in stores with gas masks and protective kits. Everything was really interesting, and I participated in school and regional competitions, and all the clubs were in the May 11th parade in Donetsk. In regional competitions, we took second place and beat a team of 27 boys. “Amazons” set the record for disassembling and assembling a machine gun – 17.5 seconds.
After school, I want to be a designer, but maybe I will go on to study in the cadet corps. I haven’t decided yet. When the war first began, it was very scary. It was hard to imagine that there might be a war here in Gorlovka. Over time, all these events have begun to bother us, and we just get used to it. But it’s impossible to get use to it.
In our club are 15 girls, and we’re all friends. On our badge, the flag of Gorlovka, a gun, and a slipper, because we’re girls, are embroidered. The boys act normally towards our pursuits. All classmates are interested, and they ask about weapons.
War is no place for a woman, but if I it comes to it, I will defend my Homeland.