АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova
14 September 2022
Georgiy Barilenko is a fighter of the Azov Regiment. He took part in the liberation of the Kyiv region, fought for Izium, and now he fights in the Zaporizhzhia region. The man and his fellow fighters narrowly escaped death from an enemy mine but, by a strange quirk of fate, it did not explode and no-one was hurt. He told the “Monologues of the War” project about his day-to-day life at the frontline and about the looting by Russian troops.
On the 24th of February I was at my home in Kyiv. Though I was born in Odesa, I live in Kyiv near Zhuliany airport. The explosions woke me up. I had realized that the war was coming. We had been preparing for it, our things were already packed and we had a plan. I got up and told my wife to wait. In case of an emergency either I or one of our friends should have come and taken them out. I went to the meeting. We had agreed on everything with the guys in advance.
At that moment I hadn’t been mobilized, we were just volunteers. We joined the ranks of the “Carpathian Sich” Battalion. We fight for Kyiv. Defending the capital mattered a lot at that moment; it was about our sovereignty. In a few days we had NLAW. We were formed into a few reconnaissance units searching for enemy armed vehicles and then firing at them.
We went in the Brovary direction, 25km over the frontline into a remote village, because we had identified a few Russian vehicles there. We got there by a roundabout route, through villages with no Russian troops. At one of the checkpoints we met our guys who were armed with axes, sticks and even a rifle. The rifle was ancient; I had no idea where they could have found it. They asked us: “Where are you going?” “We’re hunting for rushists.” “Is the head of the village aware of it?” “Probably not.” “WTF?. You’re driving around and no-one knows who you are.”
Finally, we arrived there and did some reconnaissance. We discovered that they were in a neighbouring village 3km from us. We decided to work on them the next day. We came to that village and they did so simultaneously. Their three IFV went around the village and fired at the checkpoint. We met AFU’s reconnaissance unit and told them about it. With this information they went to headquarters, and we stayed in the village.
There was a funny moment when we were lying down under the fence. I had an RPG-7 grenade launcher, and my fellow soldier also had a heavy gun. Suddenly two locals came out from behind the fence and asked: “Oh, guys, we have Molotov cocktails. Do you need some? We’re going to throw Molotov cocktails at them.” We were impressed and could only say: “Oh! WTF are you doing here?”
I woke up at the military unit and got the order to go for the gun ammunition. A few fellows and I packed ourselves onto a bus and went to take machine guns and other ammunition. We had to go back and unload everything, but plans changed and we all went to Irpin. When we arrived and opened the door, we saw only a forest and a road. The shooting started somewhere nearby. We lay on the ground in the forest. Scared dogs were passing by. So I was lightly clothed, so I was cold. I called a dog to me and calmed it down, getting myself warmer from it.
Someone hit their IFV and a duty fighter came to us to surrender. He was captured, but I didn’t talk to him, I had no desire to.
In one of the villages we saw the following situation: we came into a house and there were toys everywhere. It was clear children lived here. Broken window glass was scattered underfoot, there also was a doll house, and Irpin was burning in the background. Such a contrast: here was life, and now here is war.
We helped to evacuate people from Irpin after the bridge was blown up. There were a lot of stuck cars. Everything was like in apocalyptic movies. Then we went to clean Stoianka, a village near Irpin. People who lived there came to us asking: “Do you need some water? Or something else? Guys, they are here. Follow me, I’ll show you”. It was cool.
After the battle for Kyiv was won, it was boring for us to stay at checkpoints or somewhere nearby. We decided to go in the direction of Izium. The war is completely different there with big open areas like fields. We worked as air reconnaissance. We held our positions, flew and looked for enemy armed vehicles, then provided the data to our artillery. They worked according to the given coordinates.
Finally, the question of our status arose. The war had been going on for a few months. We needed some documents. I came to Odesa and called my friends. They said that they were near Huliaipole and invited me to join them. That’s how I became a fighter of the Azov Regiment.
We are holding our positions, looking for enemy positions and destroying them. Slowly but steadily we move forward. Recently we knocked them out, took their positions and entrenched. We found there a lot of things which have nothing to do with war: foundation cream, eyelash mascara, shaving machines, and women’s purses. It isn’t funny. We all know why they are here.
At one of the positions, when the wind blew, it stank. We went to check and found six dead Russians there. They were dressed in warm clothing, so they had been lying there since the spring. There was a toilet near them. It was in a field far away from villages. How did it get there and why? No one knows.
We were stood talking when a mine flew towards us. We heard it flying and we fell to the ground. It exploded somewhere nearby. Then we heard another one. It fell further away. We thought that it would be better to stay in the trenches for a bit longer. The third mine came, but there was no explosion. Only the ground trembled.
There were two trenches, and the mine hit one of them. The shell flew over the head of a fighter and dug 2.5 meters into the ground. There were three men in that trench, and two in ours, so there could have been five dead bodies.
We got out and checked: the fuse was still working in that mine, it was still smoking. We greeted each other on our birthday. We thought it was a 120mm mine, but the sapper who cleared it told us that it was a 152mm shell.
At 3am I was woken up by a fellow soldier with the call sign “Fox”. We had just arrived at the position and it was his first combat outing. He told me: “Someone is coming towards us”. I thought he had seen a rabbit or a marten through the imager. Then I checked and saw a few guys going along the tree line. I realized that they were special forces, and our positions were a little bit further away (our position was opposite them). I told him to keep looking and providing data. Then I took the machine gun and started shooting. Instead of retreating they moved forward. We shot, and one of them tried to escape into the field. They were also doing something tricky: holding blankets so we couldn’t see them through the imagers. They despaired in a moment.
It was a long fight for about two hours. One of them ran through the woods into a field. Our guys missed him and he started shooting from behind. Others were hiding and we couldn’t see them. Then Fox said: “I see legs sticking out.” They were covered with blankets so we couldn’t see them, but their legs were sticking out. Another fighter took the machine gun. So we beat them back.
Our guys went on the assault and we had to take the positions after them. An enemy machine gun started to fire and injured one of us. He was alive, but died while he was being taken to hospital. Another guy pulled the tripwire, but he quickly realized it and fell on the ground. Grenades exploded, but he had only shrapnel wounds. He is alive and healthy now. Some debris was gotten out of him, some was left. The next day he called us from the hospital and asked: “I’m ready. When are you waiting for me?”
People are psyched here. Everyone knows what they are fighting for. No-one has come to earn money. We often have to stop people, because they are eager to fight, but I realized that not everyone is ready for it. “I’m ready!” “No, you are not. Wait a little. You time hasn’t come yet.” They all have high moral qualities and strength of will. There is a 60-year-old soldier from Odesa and he fights well. There is a soldier with a disability group 2: one of his legs is shorter than the other. He is also doing well.
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