АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Nataliia Herasymova Gronskaya
9 July 2022
Stanislav Kukharchuk is a special correspondent of the “Inter” channel, who has been traveling to war zones since 2014 to cover the crimes of the Russian-Ukrainian war. His reports, filmed under shelling, were watched by the whole country. In 2022, the president awarded Stanislav Kukharchuk with the Order of Merit of the III degree, noting his significant contribution to the development of domestic journalism and the courage shown during the coverage of the events of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.
We went on rotation to Kramatorsk on February 20. And so, from the first trip to the shooting, I began to feel that something was coming that could not be stopped, something powerful and terrible. Artillery on the front line worked as never before.
On February 24, I woke up at 5 in the morning in Kramatorsk to the fact that rockets and planes were flying over the house where we lived and you understand that that’s all. It has begun.
In the first minutes, I thought it was happening in Donbas. And when I looked at the news feed, I was shocked that Kyiv and the rest of the cities of Ukraine were under missile strikes. The feeling was that the world in which I lived before had been destroyed forever and it would never be the same again.
In fact, the war has been going on since the spring of 2014. It simply became crueler, more bloodthirsty, the enemy finally revealed his face and moved the hostilities from Donbas to the entire territory of Ukraine.
I constantly told everyone that there would be a war. Even my military friends perceived me as a panicker. They assured that Russia would not dare to do such nonsense.
But the wound cannot swell indefinitely, sooner or later it will break through and pus will flow. As in any military conflict. We had it in a semi-frozen state, but it was there. People were constantly dying and being injured. How long could this all last? And on the 24th it broke through.
That day we were all overcome with despair. I am grateful to my colleagues – the operator and the driver. They were prepared for the inevitable. We called our relatives, told them how to behave, got together and went to work.
We went to the city of Shchastya in the Luhansk Region for filming. The first prisoners were taken there. But I had to join the live broadcast in Novoaidar, because at that moment the Muscovites in Shchastya jammed the connection.
On the way to the base in Kramatorsk, we were approached by two people – a mother and a daughter. They were pro-Ukrainian and, feeling that Russians could soon occupy this territory, wanted to leave. We took them to the train, which was still going to Bakhmut at that time.
When we moved with our equipment to the front line from Donetsk region to Luhansk region, endless convoys of civilian cars with refugees drove towards us. People fled en masse. I’ve only seen this in movies. It was an apocalyptic picture. And it added despair and understanding of the irreparability of this situation that has developed.
I have been filming reports about the Russian-Ukrainian war for 8 years. I do this to show that the ware is there, so that people do not relax. Well, honestly, not everyone understands that we are at war. We, representatives of the mass media, must be reminded that it is nearby and at any moment can break into your home with Katsap shells, rockets, aircraft, and tanks. This is the main message.
I don’t agree with the wording like “hot spot”. With this phrase, we separate the calmer territory of the country from the front-line territory. And our front, for a second, is on a line of more than one and a half thousand kilometers! This “hot spot” separated the country for the previous 8 years from the war, which seemed to be somewhere far away.
On February 24, I hope everyone understood that the “ephemeral hot spot” is spread over the entire map of the country! Therefore, you should call a spade a spade. For example, “wounded fighters or refugees did not come from a distant “hot spot”, but from a front-line Ukrainian city. Whether from the front line. Whether from the burning south or the east.
We can have only one “hot spot” – it’s Putin’s ass, put on a hot pan!
I’m used to seeing death. For a long time. This is a natural process that is aided by projectiles. A person dies sooner or later. You can’t get used to child deaths. I feel very sorry for children and animals. As for others, people make their own choices. Katsaps chose to go and die for Putin’s idea. Someone makes their choice without leaving the settlements that are under fire. The only bad thing is that they make such a decision for their children, who are not guilty of anything. This is our new reality and in the future society will perceive death as a normal process in the conditions of war.
But war is nonsense. And the deaths it carries are also senseless. It is clear that we are forced to defend ourselves, the military is dying so that we can live another day, and the katsaps are dying for what? What’s the point? I do not understand. Ideology, probably. The ideology of the ruling elite and pumped cotton wool brains. We will no longer see our defeat, God forbid, we will see victory.
“Russian peace” sows death, tears, fear. And so it will be until we destroy this Carthage or this Carthage destroys us.
This is a war for survival. Where katsaps come, there is no room for normal people at all. Either they will be killed, or at best they will leave for their lives. I talked with the displaced people and with those who were in the occupation, I know what I’m talking about. Therefore, we have to make maximum efforts to win. Because we simply have no other choice. Katsaps will turn Ukraine into a big concentration camp, where it seems that visually everything will be “okay”, and at the same time torture and political persecution will take place for every unnecessary word, for every tattoo, for the wrong phrase uttered.
“We have to fight. This is a war for freedom and it has been going on since the spring of 2014. It confuses me that there are people who, even after a full-scale invasion, don’t understand this”.
These people are everywhere. They even move their tongues to say that it is necessary to agree, to make some concessions. What is it about? What concessions can you make with a cannibal?! Isn’t that clear? Some are looking for an alternative. Some say that they’re tired of the war. And there is a lot of such population everywhere I happen to be. There are them in every city and village.
It is treated in only one way. By shelling. And it does not help everyone. They will still look for ways to justify their behavior and unwillingness to see obvious things.
I remember the city of Popasna. It was the middle of March, when no one was taking bodies from the streets: a person was walking, came under fire, died and is still lying on the ground…
It was the waiting room of Yuriy Anatoliyovych Boyko. He often came to Popasna because there was a rear. And his main electorate is mostly pensioners. And right on the threshold of the reception room lies the body of the old man, whose head was blown off by a shell fragment. And the body was sprinkled with a little snow. It seemed very symbolic to me.
It is natural to be afraid. The instinct of self-preservation kicks in. Here you either overpower yourself and complete the task, or your fear wins. I was afraid and still am. There were many such cases.
Here, for example, Popasna. They brought the mobilized boys after the exercises. They came to a war brutal as hell.
“The guys get into the car, and you look into their eyes, look into their faces and understand that in an hour or so only a half of these 20-30 fighters will return, and the rest will die. And you try to remember them, so that when you read a summary of the dead, you will remember those fighters. And it’s actually very scary. And they go there and also realize that not everyone will return…”.
Every morning I correspond with my friends in the east, every morning you simply write to them “How are you?”. You know it’s annoying sometimes: “Dude, you piss me off!”. But you write only to know that he is alive. You don’t need a reply, just to see that he viewed the message. And you know: he is alive! And that’s how you calm yourself down for a while. But from this list to whom I wrote, many are no longer among us…
When I look around the battlefield, I always look for some kind of trophy – a knife there or something. Of course, if our people are not among the dead. Volunteers are often asked to bring trophies and take a photo of where they were found. Then everything is put up for auction. In the West, trophies are well bought and the money received goes to help our army.
For example, from the extreme rotation, I brought a Russian field officer’s cap pierced by debris from a knocked-out Katsap T-72 and removed the first-aid kit from the tank. Also brought a military knife, it has already been put up for auction.
And if possible, we help our volunteers to make address deliveries. When we go on a rotation, we take the humanitarian aid with us, unload it in Kramatorsk and then take it to our guys on the way to the position.
Sometimes, during a meeting, military personnel talk about their needs, then I call the volunteers and they find everything and pass it on to Kramatorsk.
I am not a volunteer. I can’t put myself on the same level with them, because it’s hellish work. I am just a small cog that helps. The main volunteer is the Ukrainian people, who give money for all this.
Returning from the front, I try not to talk about the war. I deliberately do not raise this topic. Firstly, I’m tired. Secondly, most of my interlocutors still ask standard questions: “So what’s going on? Well, how are you? Is it difficult?”.
The person to whom you will tell about torn-off arms and legs, about bombed cities, destroyed destinies, about butchers, will not be touched by this. This is how man is created. One will listen for a couple of minutes and then lose interest. Because it does not directly concern them.
It is easier to talk about such topics with those who have experienced everything themselves. Their relatives or friends are there now, defending Ukraine. They will understand you, and I answer the rest with general phrases.
This war has been going on for a long time. As long as modern Russia exists, we will have war. There are active phases, like now, and there are frozen phases, but it will continue.
We will be forced, like Israel and Palestine, to constantly fight. Ukrainians will no longer be able to forgive Muscovites for what happened. And the katsaps will not be able to forgive us for their defeats. This war has reached the stage of personal enmity. This race has been going on for a long time.
Katsaps will try to attack again in a year, two or five years. As long as Russia exists as it is now, with the same system, we are doomed to war. And everyone should understand this. Unless a miracle happens and the katsapia falls apart.
When I come home from the front, it’s like entering another world. It is more or less quiet, peaceful here, but there are sirens. People walk the streets, stout uncles sit in coffee shops with beautiful women, drink coffee, laugh. It’s normal, but it’s out of balance that healthy men aren’t at the front. It seems like an injustice. But I reassure myself that they also have the right to rest at the end of the working day. I reassure myself that they work, pay taxes and support the economy, which is also very important. Because not everyone should be a soldier! Someone has to work.
Just ask yourself: what am I doing to end the war? Because it should be completed by the people of Ukraine. Me and you.
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: Nataliia Herasymova Gronskaya