АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova
25 September 2022
Sergiy “Google” is a machine gunner in the 46th Separate Air Assault Battalion. He was injured fighting for the Kherson region and now he is being treated, but as soon as doctors allow, he is going to come back to the front line. When the war began, Sergiy and his brother worked abroad. They both refused to wait it out in the safety of Poland, so they came back to protect Ukraine from the occupiers. He told the “Monologues of War” project the story of his fight.
It was even funny. I have this personality trait of sticking my nose in where it does and doesn’t belong. I like reading. I hope I’m a highly intelligent person. At first the guys laughed at me: “You are lieutenant-colonel Google”, later they asked me: “Hey, Google, tell me about…” In fact, most of what I told them was true. And it went from a joke to my call sign “Google”.
I worked in Poland for the last five years. My daughter is already adult and my son is almost adult. My family needs money so I went abroad. My profession is a carpenter and I worked with my brother on a building site.
He called me in the early morning and asked: “Have you seen the news? I’m going.” “I’m on too”. He convinced me to wait a little bit in case we needed to evacuate our families and needed to help them to settle here.
I called him again in two weeks, and he was already at the front line. He told me: “You have to decide for yourself. What would you say to Nastia and Pavlick (Sergiy’s children – ed.) afterwards?” The same day I left Poland.
I arrived on the 17th of March and went to the military commissariat at once. I stood in line there till the very evening. Neither my wife, nor my mother believed that I could be mobilized. I received a call from the military commissariat on Sunday and on the 21st of March I was in the UFA. Somehow it happened.
My brother is a combat participant, ATO veteran. He served in the 80th Separate Air Assault Battalion in 2016. He was mobilized during the third wave. Two weeks after he was called up, I got a summons, too. But it was sent not to my address but to my mother’s address. She hid it and showed it to me only after my brother had come back. She did it in a month, probably. She said: “One of my sons was taken, another one has cut fingers. He is a carpenter and he can’t do military service”, so she explained to us. I resented her a lot. How was it possible that my younger brother had been there while I had been here? Now I think it must have been so.
We were in Bilohirtsi in the Kherson region. We arrived and our company had to take the positions there. Russian tanks were 700-800 meters away from us. It was quiet, so I called my mom to tell her that I was okay. I can clearly remember the silence that lasted five minutes. There was no shelling. Mobile data on my phone was turned off. I used mobile connection only, so they couldn’t detect us. Just as I started to call her, the shelling began. I told her: “I’ll call you back later”. I hung up and a few minutes later we were shot at by a tank. There were five of us. We were together from the very beginning.
No-one realized what had happened at that moment. Then Maks, a fellow who was in the trench with me, saw I was injured. “Sergiy, Sergiy what is with your head?” I couldn’t understand why they were asking me about my head for two more days. Later they told me that my helmet was blown away by the shelling. My arm was injured by the shrapnel – an open fracture. A muscle was torn by it, but tendons weren’t damaged. I started to examine my hands immediately because I’m a carpenter and my hands are my main tool. By the way, my head was not injured at all. So, the 27th of July is my second birthday.
Maks was injured, too. He is at a hospital now. Firstly, he put a tourniquet on me. Only later he discovered he was injured. I helped him with my left hand as well.
We heard screams nearby. Sania had lacerations on both his legs. His arm was also hit. His arm wasn’t torn away but we still don’t know if it will heal completely. Doctors say it will take at least one year to recover. Vania also was hit but, luckily, his injury is minor. A piece of shrapnel hit his kneecap, but he only has a burn. Igor was with him and he was badly injured. Doctors did all they could but he died, sadly. The five of us are the main loss of our platoon. It was caused by a single tank hit. Beforehand, the heavy shelling had continued for three days in a row, and it did nothing to us. And here it was. By the way, fellows caught the tank that hit us.
We are not friends, we are brothers-in-arms. We can be opposites in daily life but here we all back each other. The death of a brother-in-arms is impossible to bear. Most of us just accept it as a matter of fact and put it off for later. We will mourn them after we win. Now it’s somewhere inside us. It will open in due course.
I don’t claim to speak for the entire army, but only for what happens in our squad and what I’ve witnessed first-hand. Guys ride non-stop on Husky vehicles without rest or sleep. They either bring ammunition or get the injured people and dead bodies out of the way under heavy artillery fire. They don’t care about mines, aircraft, or tanks. They just do their work. As soon as they get a signal on the radio about injured people they go without question. Lights or anything else isn’t possible to use. 1.5 minutes to load and they flee from the evacuation point.
We have constant direct contact with them. They are 70-80 meters away from us. Mainly, the sabotage reconnaissance groups come out. We shot at them with every means that we have. As a machine gunner I shot from the machine gun, my comrades shot from RPGs. I’m not afraid. And to be honest, I have no pity for them and I’m not afraid of them. I have no nightmares. Mercy is for people but not for these creatures who caused so much evil. It does not fit into any framework.
We have trophy weapons. When we knocked them out of their positions, they left machine guns, RPGs. There were many RPG-7, submachine guns, cartridges, and ammunition. For example, we have enough NATO-standard grenade launchers, but we need to use them sparingly. At our positions we have two oursa grenade launchers and, for every other, we have trophy RPG-7s with a lot of ammunition. So, we have something for every tank or IFV that comes to us.
We work according to NATO standards. We were gathered together and told to forget everything we had learned in the Soviet Union army. I had done my military service in 1993-1994, some guys had done it even earlier. Do you know why I like NATO standards? During military service I had been taught the exact way of holding a submachine gun. I had been taught to aim this way and not otherwise. I asked my first instructor about the correct way of holding a machine gun, and he answered me: “According to NATO standards the most comfortable way for you is the correct one.” Of course, there are nuances that need to be learned. But in my opinion, NATO standards are more effective. There are two core principles: to work as efficiently as possible and to save the staff as much as possible. I don’t know if you cut it out, but for now NATO should learn from us.
We have many officers with combat experience. But we also have those who have only graduated from the military department, for example, the commander of our platoon. Still, he’s doing well. He came to us and said: “Guys, I’m a ‘paper’ lieutenant. I ask you to explain everything to me, I will listen carefully and learn.” And he learns; he has enough willpower. In his thirties, he commands men who are forty-five or even fifty. We obey him because we respect him. He has authority.
The enemy must not be underestimated: what Russia is and how many resources it has. How many mothballed weapons do they have, and how many mothballed weapons do we have? What psyched them? Mostly, they are scared people being suppressed by propaganda. They’ve come for the salary and have seen how we live here: “ Oh, my gosh, what a life you have!” But instead of going back and making a better life there, they say: “If our life is crap, so your life should be even worse.” It’s an inferiority complex.
Of course, they have some specialists. But they have propaganda instead of brains. In addition, they obey any order. “The order must be done immediately. Later I can think about if it was right or not”. Those professionals are well aware that they cannot win this war, still they cannot give up.
Russia uses scorched earth tactics. They destroy everything. Civilian or not, it doesn’t matter to them. They scorch everything they can. Only afterwards they come. Then they get slapped down by us, retreat and start again.
Propaganda can be very effective in influencing people’s opinions. My mom’s uncle was born in the Poltava region. Back then he did his military service in the Soviet Union army. He is a retired colonel. For many years he has lived in Belgorod. On the 3rd of March he called my mom to congratulate her on her birthday. He said in Ukrainian: “Happy birthday! How are you?”. She answered: “I’m in the bomb shelter now.” He said: “Svieta, you must be drunk. Sleep it off and I will call you tomorrow.” What can I say? And he’s a person with higher education, a colonel, who was born in Ukraine.
It takes MLRS, long-range artillery, and tanks to win. As I see it, we have enough Bayraktars. Also, NLAW, hand grenade launchers, small arms are more or less enough. But we need more heavy army vehicles.
I’m back at the front line. There was no question about it. I’ve recovered, and that’s all. Volunteers help us a lot. They can get anything from anywhere in the shortest time possible. What I value the most is mental support from them. I can feel that my deeds are not in vain, that people need it.
There are many wounded among my comrades, but no-one complains: “Well, maybe I’ll be discharged from the service.” Even those who will be discharged, and know it, say: “I’ll be back after recovering”. No-one even thinks about other options,
Someone has three or four wounds but still they are eager to come back. No-one cares about minor injuries. They just need time to be healed. War has one advantage: one can immediately see who is who. It sorts out people.
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: Anna Shliakhova
“The constant whistling of shells overhead was no longer so frightening, but the night bombing of the city was really terrifying.” The story of a man from Chernihiv who lived through the siege of the city