АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova
2 August 2022
They fought for each meter of Mariupol and Azovstal while the rest of the world witnessed their herculean fight. Bogdan Krotevich is one of these fighters. He is from Crimea. After the annexation of the peninsula, he joined the Azov Regiment. He began as a soldier and now he is the Chief of Staff, the First Deputy Commander of the Azov Special Operations Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard. After they were ordered to surrender, he is in captivity on the territory of russia. Sandra Krotevich, Bogdan’s older sister, told the project “Monologues of the War” about her family, why the situation on Azovstal was so unbearably hard, and how we can return our defenders from captivity.
From 1989 our family lived in Crimea, in Simferopol. We moved from Kiev to the peninsula on the advice of doctors. I needed the favorable climate of Crimea for asthma treatment.
My brother was fond of painting since childhood, he studied at Simferopol music school, learned English and German. After finishing school in 2008, he entered the Marine Transportation Program of the Kyiv State Academy of Water Transport and moved to Kiev.
Bogdan wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and to become a captain of a marine ship. Our grandfather worked as a marine mechanic at first, but he was caught by a strong storm twice and nearly died. Though he moved to work on river ships and stayed there for 20 years. Our grandfather had only daughters, but he always wished for a son who would follow in his footsteps. Finally, he got my brother Bogdan, his grandson.
It happened so that Bogdan was also passionate about marine work. It allows him to travel the world and earn well. But he has no opportunity to work on his speciality due to the war.
In August 2014 our parents moved to Kyiv due to the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war. I moved to the capital in 2010. There I graduated from the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management first, and then from the National Academy of Internal Affairs.
I served as an officer of the Kyiv’s patrol police for a while. It was created as a part of the police reforms. I decided to work there, because I wanted to set an example of the changes in the police system of the country under the war.
“Bogdan always has a pro-Ukrainian position. He took active part in EuroMaidan demonstrations. He was only 20-year-old when Crimea was annexed”.
He couldn’t accept that military forces that swore the oath of allegiance to Ukraine, betrayed her and went over to the enemy. Actually, they gave up Crimea almost without a fight. That’s because he firmly decided to protect our home and became a volunteer in the Azov Regiment, even though he had nothing to do with the army and never held a gun before.
He went to Azov Regiment headquarters and did everything needed to join it. Then he faced us with the fact. We had literally 2-3 days to find and buy all the mandatory military equipment for him: army boots, reflex sight, a military set and other basic things he needed. Surely, we fully supported his decision, because every citizen should protect his country, sovereignty and territorial integrity. First and foremost, he went to protect his family and stop the enemy before the war could come to our home.
There was a training ground of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Kyiv region. They were sent there for basic training. It lasted for about 2 weeks, after that they went to the East of Ukraine. It was the beginning of Bogdan’s service in the Azov Regiment.
He began as a soldier and rose to the Chief of Staff, the First Deputy Commander of the Azov Special Operations Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard. He received the rank of major.
He took part in the fighting in the ATO area. In 2015 he fought at Shyrokyne and was defending the Svitlodarsk salient in the Donetsk region in 2019. He took part in the defence of Marinka and Krasnohorivka in the Donetsk region.
From the beginning of the russain full-scale invasion of Ukraine he started defending his home again. On the eve he had been convincing us to pack a grab-and-go bag; and on the 24th of February he sent us a message with recommendations on how to escape from russian shelling.
At the beginning of the full-scale war he was at the base in Urzuf near Mariupol in Donetsk region. After they were ordered to defend the city, they relocated to Mariupol. They knew how to defend the city. For 8 years they were preparing for it. All the units that were there, namely their Regiment and related divisions should have defended the city according to their locations. That’s because they all were in Mariupol.
It happened so that the circle began to narrow after a Marine unit surrendered. They became vulnerable to attacks, so they had to relocate to Azovstal one after the other.
The Azov Regiment was the first as they planned to do so in the case of the encirclement. Then, after many others units were also surrounded by enemy forces. Azov forces planned and conducted the reunion with them.
First, they could have defended Azovstal for much longer, if not only bombs constantly dropping on them. Second, they had no plan in case of a full siege without any supplies. Third, they had supplied food and medicine only for themselves and it wasn’t supposed to be shared with civilians and other units.
They fed numerous civilians and other units that were rescued from the surrender including the Marine, the Ukrainian National Guard, Border Guards, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, etc. It was hard. They started intermediate fasting, that is they ate once a day.
Also, the water was scarce. A missile hit the water reservoir, so they had to resort to drinking technical water that was not suitable for drinking at all. There were a lot of injured people.
They died of shock and pain, they had no pain-killers or antibiotics. Many of them had limb gangrene or sepsis. But until they were ordered to surrender, they defended it the best they could.
Bogdan has never complained, even when I tried to find out something about the situation. He always answered the same way: “What’s the point of it?” All the men in our family have always been brave and laconic.
The only thing he told us was: “If we had ammunition, we can fight as long as needed”. It means, they didn’t even think that they need food to survive. It never bothered them.
In March the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded the order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky III degree to Bogdan Krotevich for personal courage and selfless actions shown in the defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
On the 20th of May he wrote to me that he would have no connection and since then we have had no news from him.
We have founded the Association of the families of the Azovstal defenders. Kateryna Prokopenko (the wife of Commander of the Azov Regiment) and I had had instructions from our defenders about what we should do in order to exchange the prisoners of the war as soon as possible. We became the co-founders of the Association. It was founded to facilitate interactions between government and foreign organizations for developing a plan of measures to facilitate the return of the prisoners.
We want everyone to remember about lots of men and women from Azovstal who were given the security guarantees and the guarantees of returning back home in a due time.
Then we have set up one more fund for supporting families and returning fighters.
When Azovstal defenders were taken into captivity, there were more than 2500 of them. Now only 93 of them are back. So, we needed to return much more people. And we realize that the commanders will be returned in the last turn.
There is no information about the commanders. We know nothing about where they are and what the conditions of detentions are. We know only that they were taken to the continental part of russia. We constantly addressed the Red Cross, but they replied that russia denies access to prisoners.
We have addressed a lot of departments and organizations. But, it is necessary that every official makes efforts to save them. It’s sad that we can see only the considerable efforts of our intelligence.
The Association of the families of the Azovstal defenders asks all of you to keep talking about our defenders.
We have to remind those in power that men and women from Azovstal were promised to come back to Ukraine shortly.
To ensure that our leaders devote every effort to this issue’s solution, foreign missions have developed a number of actions that will make it possible to return the prisoners.
Everyone in their place has to do their best, because we are the nation of adamantine heroes, mighty fighters with a spirit of steel. They bravely fought for their country. Now it’s our turn to do everything possible for them.
It’s hard now to scroll the news everyday waiting for something good. Only non-stop working doesn’t let me fall apart. I work remotely in the civil service at the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. My parents now live in the country, so they can spend time on nature and reassure themselves. We trust our Armed Forces, we believe that our defenders will be back and Ukraine will win.
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: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Anna Shliakhova