АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Roman Klochko
23 September 2022
A 63-year-old ATO veteran with the call sign “Poet” Vasyl Blyzniuk was one of the 200 territorial defense fighters who defended Makariv in the first days of the full-scale war until the 95th Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine came to the rescue. The soldier told the “Monologues of the War” project about the local population’s support, the volunteers’ sacrificial work, the defenders’ courage, and the death of his comrades-in-arms.
My name is Vasyl Zinoviyovych Blyzniuk. I am a native of the Makariv district, lived in Kyiv for 20 years, and then moved to Makariv, where this invasion caught me.
On the night of February 23-24, I was working as a security guard at a Swedish-Finnish enterprise near Makariv. In the morning my daughter called, I learned that the war began, and we were talking about it. I heard the sound of a fighter jet behind me. I turned around and saw an enemy cruise missile flying 100 meters above me towards Kyiv. I immediately warned my daughter about it. On the same day, I went to the Makariv district enlistment office.
In 2015, I voluntarily went to the ATO from the Obolon district enlistment office and in the autumn of 2016, I was discharged. I was near Donetsk, in the Maryinka direction. The slogan “Ukraine above all!” matters for me, something resonates in my soul. I knew what could happen. I knew that I might be gone in a moment and warned my eldest daughter about it: “We may be talking to each other for the last time…”.
In the Union of Combatants in Makariv, we said 2 months before the full-scale invasion that there would be a war. And I was convinced that the Russians would attack from Belarus. We gathered to discuss our actions. People, my friends, urged me to go to the partisans, but what would we fight with? You can’t win much with guns. I thought that we should join the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They said that there would be chaos because the territorial defense existed only on paper.
When I came to the military registration and enlistment office on February 24, people were going there en masse so its employees couldn’t enlist everyone. I was refused because of my age (at the time of the outbreak of full-scale war Vasyl Blyzniuk was 63 years old — ed.). I was also sent to the 95th Brigade, but my friends asked me to stay in Makariv because I had combat experience and could help to organize a defense there.
In the early days, there was chaos in the city. The territorial defense had not been formed yet. There were not enough weapons for everyone, we managed to find weapons only for 3 platoons. The whole organization fell on our shoulders, volunteers brought us some grenades and ammunition through their channels. And there were Molotov cocktails, but you can’t win much with them.
And those people who came to us…Sometimes tears came to my eyes from their kindness…Makariv residents came en masse. Women were coming, asking: “Give us something to do, anything, we are going crazy, we cannot stay at home!”. And the men were asking: “Give us a machine gun, give us a machine gun!”. And what could I answer? Well, I do not have weapons for everyone, good people! Be patient. If we had weapons, we would have formed a battalion.
After the ATO, I got acquainted with Oksana Herasymenko, the head of the Union of Combatants in Makariv (in February 2022, Oksana Herasymenko headed volunteer activities in Makariv — ed.). I can’t tell you how much she had done! We had nothing but weapons. All the issues were solved by our volunteers. Boots, clothes, helmets, body armor — everything was provided by volunteers. The food that was brought to us at first was from them as well. I do not know how she stood it all! Also, Oksana collected intelligence data. I would have awarded her an order if I could.
Then the enlistment office opened its warehouse and gave us all the weapons they had — 20 Kalashnikov riffles. We took them. Russian vehicles were already buzzing near Makariv. It was passing day and night, and on the 28th the column began to enter the town by the central road.
Our situation with weapons was bad, we received the command “To fight”. And I understood how it could end. I gave the command, people grabbed cocktails, and my soul hurt so much… I understood that now those 200 people that we have would lie here… They would simply be shot.
And then a column of 80 units entered the city before our eyes and drove to the main street. We received a command not to touch them, and let them leave. I was very relieved that I would not be involved in the killing of my people.
We let the column pass and it went further, where the artillery shot them. There were no more of them in Makariv, but the Russians came to the outskirts of the city from Borodyanka. There, literally half a kilometer from Makariv, we had the Aerotekhnika enterprise and a very popular golf club. The Russians occupied that club and that enterprise.
We were lucky that we organized this defense so that the Russians did not know how many of us were in Makariv. We distributed people in platoons not to stay in a bunch so that we were not all covered at once. They were detecting us from quadcopters from above, they had their spies. But they could not understand how many of us there were. Otherwise, all the 200 people we had would have been crushed.
What impressed me? There was a lot of information from the civilians. My phone did not stop ringing until we had a mobile connection and the Internet. People gave coordinates and artillery was already working on them.
Those few days, from February 24 to 28, we were practically alone. And then the 95th Assault, 44th Artillery, and 14th Mechanized Brigades came. There were not many of them, but our situation became better, they helped us a lot.
On March 18, the Russians conducted a massive shelling. On that day, the officials from the enlistment office came to us and started to draw up documents. People from all platoons arrived there. I asked the guys not to leave the building but they went out to smoke… Perhaps, the Russians were looking for us, calculated, and hit us with a direct hit. There were about 30 direct hits. It is good that the ceiling of the building survived… If more people were inside, they would have survived.
Six guys were killed during the shelling. First platoon leader. Captain. My deputy, sergeant-major Vanya. And three soldiers.
People were very hurt. We recognized some guys only by their clothes. My deputy, sergeant-major Vanya, was cut by shrapnel, although he was wearing body armor. He bled out. There were three more wounded guys. Thank God, they survived, although crippled. They have already come from the hospital.
Some people were born in a shirt. I saw something like this… My friend Sasha was sitting under the wall when a shell hit just one and a half meters from him. One and a half meters from where the shell hit! I do not know by what miracle he survived. It hit him hard. I pulled Sasha out and he survived.
Or there was a case with me. Volunteers delivered humanitarian aid, and a child or someone put a picture in each bag. And I found a photocopy of Shevchenko’s portrait that fell. Well, I could not but take it — after all, I am a creative person. And Kobzar is my favorite book since childhood. I hung this portrait on the wall in my room, where I had weapons and ammunition. So I think that maybe this Shevchenko protects me. Because if a shell would have entered the window of my room, there would have been no survivors… But for some reason, it flew to the left. And the rest were already hitting the roof. I don’t know how I stayed alive. I didn’t think about it then. My soul was so empty and I wanted to protect our territory. That’s all I felt… And I took that portrait of Shevchenko. I have it at home now. War is a terrible thing. I have written a poem after 2015 but it is still relevant.
Here is only pain…
Our life is divided into steps.
It’s a war landscape —
Ruins and trenches.
A burned spikelet lays
On the breastwork.
It’s only one wrong step
That divides you from death…
And a sworn brother
Who gave you a drink of water.
We won’t let
Our enemy enter here.
Let our friends
Live in peace there.
In the spring,
Viburnum will bloom
In the meadow.
We are those
Who has to defend Ukraine.
We didn’t manage to bury those six killed guys in the cemetery because of constant shelling. So we did that where we could. Their relatives have already reburied them.
When I was collecting those killed by parts (to say honestly, we put them on a blanket) I feel some dullness…Not even a tear rolled down. I do not know why, because I am an emotional person. And I still can’t cry. Your mind is aware of what is happening, but your soul does not perceive it.
And there was no fear at all. I am bandaging Sasha’s legs under shelling, he is bleeding, I understand that now the ceiling can not withstand and everything will collapse on us, but still no fear. At least I had no fear. Perhaps, it was because I got used to this thought. This is war.
Some of the guys said they were crying, but I can’t. Maybe, when the war is over, I will cry as much as I can. I will go to the cemetery where my guys are buried. I came to the wake. I took a bottle of cognac, poured it into their glasses, and saluted, but I could not cry…
The war is hard to endure. An elderly couple was traveling in a column. Russians shot them to death. They had laid there for one week and a half as it was hard to get there.
The godfather of my child was riding a bicycle from where the Aerotekhnika enterprise was located when he was shot with a machine gun and that was it. His body was also lying for a week. It was impossible to take it as Russians were shooting all the time… Russians have done a lot of things. My friend’s acquaintance was raped and then killed…
All these days, when the fighting was going on, we were under great stress. At first, the Russians were not destroying the city so much, and then they were shooting wherever they wanted. They were just destroying Makariv. All kinds of shells were hitting — Grads and so on.
Communication with relatives did not last long. And then the Russians began to hit the cell phone towers. Our guys under fire connected those wires under fire and voltage. They turned on the electricity and established communication. And the Russians started shelling again.
The worst thing was that there was no communication between the units. We almost flew around the city! Because the faster you go, the less likely it is that you will be hit, the Russians were shooting. That was the connection.
All doctors have left, the wounded were coming, and there was no one to help them in the hospital. We had a medic, Inna. I asked her: “Child, go there”. And she said: “I will not go, you are my guardian angel, I will stay alive with you”. I said: “Inna, I’m begging you, my child, I’ll give you a platoon of machine gunners to guard you”.
I persuaded her to go to the hospital. They also fired there but people were undergoing surgeries until the military medics arrived. Until everything got better there, Inna provided first aid to many people.
There were no medical vehicles, they were damaged. So we converted civilian cars to transport the wounded. At that time, while the fighting was going on, we were in great tension.
I want to burn Moscow so much. After what they have done here, there is no pity for them! I haven’t been writing much poetry lately. There are a lot of emotions, a lot of anger after my boys died…
My Makariv, the soul of a poet,
I would have written you sonnets,
But the enemy trampled my hope,
So now I dream of revenge.
All that remains in my soul is revenge, only revenge.
But I cannot be taken to the army because of my age. My soul hurts because I know that I could help young guys. Even the volunteer battalions have an age limit. So I go to work, endure it.
I was building a house before the war, and now I can do nothing. There’s a lump in my heart. It is pressing and pressing… This war with the hated Muscovite should be the last for at least 1000 years! But to complete it with Victory, we must burn Moscow and raze it to the ground, and then sow it with rye.
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: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Roman Klochko