Girls at War part 1: Lyudmila

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October 3, 2015 – 

Vera Kostamo, Novorossiya – 

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski 

“Girls at war”

Over a year ago, Sasha, Lyudmila, Yulia, and Margarita found themselves in the very epicenter of the war in South-East Ukraine. Each of them made their choice and stayed in the country. The prosecutor became a sniper, the builder now covers a group of sappers, the student takes wounded from the front line, and the schoolgirl can dismantle and assemble a rifle in 20 seconds. War is not at all about women. It’s about death, humiliation, loss, fear, and pain. Why did they, just girls, go to war?

Lyudmila: “I left the front after my son was killed.”

“More than a year ago, at the beginning, my husband went to the militia. He didn’t tell me anything, and I thought that he is working in the same place. I was engaged in humanitarian aid, and brought food, clothes, and medicine to militiamen. On July 21, 2014, I came to the battalion and became a platoon commander. After half a month – foreman. After a month – deputy company commander. Now I am the deputy battalion commander for personnel work. 

I didn’t tell me husband anything, but we accidentally bumped into each other in the unit, and he saw me dressed in uniform. 

I have two injuries and a contusion. I held Spartak (the industrial zone) at the front, and in Yasinovatoy I drew fire towards myself. I went with 6 people from my brigade to investigate, and two times we were surrounded, were able to escape, and brought the guys with us who also retreated. I worked with the Dragunov sniper rifle, and since school I’ve shot well. I can work with maps and handle medical assistance. 

We had to take guys with severe injuries away from the frontline. More than once I drove a car to Donetsk under shelling. I left the front after my son was killed on February 11. The battalion commander decided that I would be needed more there. The guys all listened to me, understood me, and valued me. I never studied military science, but the ability to command was handed down from my ancestors. 

The guys called me different things. Somebody called me Lyuda, another Aunt Lyuda, and another Mama. The boys were of different ages, from 19 to 68 years. For me they’re all kids. Even those who are older, I consider kids. Everyone wants understanding and warmth. 

I couldn’t imagine wearing a military uniform, taking a machine gun, and going to the front line. It seemed like that could only happen in movies. Who could have imagined that one day, we would wake up and there would be war in our native Donetsk. For me, it’s wild. Just like it’s wild how I drive through the city and see people rushing to work, shopping, mothers walking with their children in parks, but I’m going to the front. There are a lot of women on the frontline. I explain it for myself like this: men are divided into two types: there are those who go to defend their land, and there are those who left or left and return, now saying that they defended the Homeland. Someone bought an ID, someone bought a medal. Women came to replace these men. Around 30% of men left, and 20%  don’t want to fight. We call them sofa kings. 

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When you drive through the city at night, you see a lot of men in open cafes. I am often asked when the war will end. If everyone stood up and came to us at the front, it would have ended already long ago. Girls wouldn’t die, they would sit at home with their children.

I am mother with several children and already grandchildren, and I am fighting. My husband says to me “your place is at home” and I reply “Who is in charge? You command at home, and I command at war.” My husband dreamt about a wife with a gentle character, but I’m like a tank. That’s how it came out. He asks me “Do you need this? Drawing sniper fire onto yourself? There are men.” I answer that I studied in the Soviet Union, and they taught us to defend the Homeland. Everyone – boys and girls. 

Yes, a women should be weak and feminine at home, but on the frontline – only strong. If the guys see that I, a woman, am confidently standing in a trench, they won’t run. Women are always stronger than men on the frontline. Stronger in spirit. There are such men who, when wounded by a piece of shrapnel need to call an ambulance. But the girls are silent. I myself was operated on when I received two shrapnel wounds. At the time, I didn’t know how to do it and lost consciousness. 

I have some friends who share everything with those who need it more…Not one of them rebuked me because I’m a woman with children who is on the frontline. 

My children also support me. They call a few times a day. 

“Mama, how’s it going?”

“Everything is fine.”

“And dad?”

“Also good.”

The youngest child in our family is five. He tells everyone in kindergarten that dad and mom are soldiers, that they’re defending Donbass.

“Mom, are you defending us?”

“Yes, son.”

“Defend well, mom.”

“Mom, are you already going? The commander called you?”

“Yes.”

“Say hi to the commander.:

I had a friend with whom I studied in college. We were good friends and supported each other. He is now serving in the battalion “Aidar,” and once he wrote me a message: “Don’t be offended, but if we meet in the trenches, I’ll shoot first.” Each person has their own choice, only I don’t understand what they are fighting for.”

Girls at War part 2: Sasha, Yuliya, and Margarita

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