АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
5 September 2022
Maksym “Zviryok” is a serviceman of the National Guard of Ukraine. Now defends the East of Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, he liberated Gostomel, where he lived. During the task, he saw with his own eyes how his house was burning. Maksym told the journalist of the “Monologues of the War” project about his service at the front, about the most difficult moments and about his plans for the future.
The first death was very disappointing. Under Gostomel, we had 300s, but there were no 200s. When we were pulled away from Liman in the Slavic direction, part of the group went to storm one of the villages. It flew to the headquarters there; we think that it was sent there. Three soldiers died, including the commander. The guys from our group were silent for several days after that. Everyone was simply digesting. We understood that this could happen someday, but still, no one was ready for this.
In general, Ukraine is one of those countries that protect every soldier. The loss of one person in our battalion is a tragedy. Although everyone realizes that this is a war, for us even every 300th is a big loss. And so everywhere: Armed Forces of Ukraine, NSU, Police, and State Emergency Service. People are our main resource.
I was lucky, because I got into a great team. I can’t call it a platoon, because we are a team. It is clear that there are orders, but there is no strict military discipline, this is what I “obey”, “execute”. We know what we are here for. If you need something, they will help you. We are all brothers. We work like this: there are groups that are at zero, and there are groups that are on a stretcher. We are not constantly stressed 24/7. For 20 days your head is pounding, and then for a few days you have the opportunity to rest, read the news, and spend time in peace and quiet.
Now we are working in the Slavic direction. Before that, about a week ago, we were near Liman, we were taken out of there, because the orcs began to actively advance. Another brigade of ours went there, and we went on.
I slept at home. At five in the morning, my project manager called and said: “Maxim, get up, we are at war.” At first I did not understand what and why. I was in a slight shock. I got up, looked, really – turntables, landing, missile attacks. All this was audible. But I was skeptical: I thought, well, a day, well, two. I could not think that this was really a full-scale war and that it could drag on.
On the 24th, I left for my girlfriend, stayed with her for two days, and on the 26th, I already went to the Military Commissariat. There they told me to wait for them to put me on the list and call me. They still call me. I waited a day or two, I understood that there was no point, I called the Territorial Defense, they said that they were staffed and they didn’t need me. I was advised to contact the National Guard, because they seem to be recruiting there. Well, I went. Literally in 30 minutes, I passed the medical board, talked with a psychologist, with intelligence, then the commander came to me, and I had an interview with him. By the way, I didn’t do the military service, I hadn’t been to military training before, and I only graduated from the military department in 2013. I was taken.
I got into a battalion in which almost all contract workers, that is, professionals. Partly, volunteers and mobilized people were recruited there. I was surrounded by highly motivated people. It helped me a lot. All charged. In the first days, they read the news, and they were like, “Let’s just let us go.”
Finally, we were sent to the fortifications of the 72nd brigade, which defended the northern front – Gostomel, Vyshhorod, etc. And immediately we received a baptism of fire there – we came under heavy mortar shelling. We were ironed for probably one and a half to two hours. They were able to enter only on the morning of the next day, but by a different route and in small groups.
It was March 1. Then I saw how the fragments were flying, I smelled gunpowder. Now, as soon as I smell this smell, memories immediately come to mind. Thank God that out of 120 people who were traveling, no one was injured, there were only a few 300 people, but not seriously. Then I watched for a month how the russian plowed every square centimeter. They have such a tactic – why are there so many destroyed houses across the Irpin River? They chose a square on the military map and on this square all the buildings were destroyed.
We were located near the Gostomelsky Bridge, we had a point there. I stand somehow and watch my house slowly burn. I am on one bank of the Irpin River, and the house is on the other. Well, about 800 meters, maybe a kilometer from me.
When I drove to the girl, I took some documents and a couple of t-shirts with me from my things – my brain refused to believe what was happening. Everything else I have completely burned. We stood there for a month, and I waited for a month to go in and take at least something. There were sacred things, very valuable to me, different gifts. In the first days after the liberation of Gostomel, civilians were not allowed in, but I could enter. And when I came home, I saw that only one of the three floors remained. It’s sad, but as the commander says, thank you for taking the iron, it’s not scary.
We had no contact battles. We shot those who tried to cross the bridge to our side. I don’t know what was in their minds then, but they tried to cross in groups. They came up with different schemes, for example, one person wore a sapper’s suit, and for example, the others hid behind that person in the suit and walked across the bridge like that. It didn’t help them, of course.
They have different motivations. Among them there are wildly zombified people who really believe that there are some Nazis here who want to attack russia. I read such a speech; I don’t remember it verbatim, but something like this: “do you really believe that we, a country without nuclear weapons, with a much smaller army, were preparing an attack on a nuclear country with a huge army?” I am a person who analyzes information, if I were them I would wonder if this could be true. And they don’t think. Propaganda does it for them. Skabeeva, Solovyov. There is no critical thinking, they just follow commands.
The second part of people deliberately comes here to kill. There are such people. They just, unlike the first ones, are very aware of everything. And the third category — they just need money. They have no other work. It’s no secret that you can make good money in war.
I can’t believe they weren’t told where they were going. That they kind of thought it was training. I am sure that they knew what their combat mission was, that they were crossing the border of another country. They just didn’t know that they would die so quickly. Riot police were at the head of the first column that entered Gostomel. That is, not the military, but riot police. Weapons are rubber pistols. Russian troops are already behind them. But the riot police were the first, so it’s either a tactical mistake, I don’t really believe in it, or it’s the idea that they will have to come in and only control the order. That’s all. It will not be necessary to conduct hostilities. Our guys stopped that column. They saw their weapons, looked at what was in the first-aid kits, and there: activated carbon, analgin, bandages. That is, people were completely unprepared for fighting, especially long ones. And this story about the dress uniform is true. Then the pink color faded from their eyes.
We had a minibar at home. The first thing I saw was that they were blowing up everything. The most valuable things were on the second and third floors, and they burned down, so I don’t know if something was stolen from there or not. I think they pulled it out. They couldn’t unscrew the TV from the first floor, and the PlayStation was taken away. Washing machine is there.
When the orcs retreated, our military began to enter there and demined. We were no longer needed there. We were pulled out of there, and within a week we were sent to strengthen our part of the battalion in the East. They have been here since the 14th year.
I never thought I would miss work, but I want to pick up a laptop instead of a machine gun. I worked as an IT specialist in a bank. We have a great friendly team. I am constantly in touch with them – I find out what’s new.
In addition to work, I had a lot of activities – I was constantly doing something. I traveled a lot, I like to go snowboarding. I was engaged in sports, I used to take naps in the car. I have no post-victory plan, I just want my life back before the war – I miss it very much.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk