Interview by David Hudziec
October 3: Ludmila Dobrzyniecka has been a member of the presidium of the Communist Youth of Poland (KMP) for eight years. During the election primaries that took place in the Lugansk People’s Republic on October 2, 2016, she was one of a number of international observers, so she could get a look at the operation of the state in Lugansk. This is very important, because for more than a month Ludmila has been guarding with arms in hand the borders of this country, which may change at any moment, in any direction – and in the event of losing, the 28-year-old from Warsaw would at best end up in a Polish or Ukrainian prison, or at worst, be killed.
Why did the Polish communist decide to come to Donbass?
Basically, I was thinking about it from the very beginning of the war, but I waited for the communists here to give a signal that they need support. For a long time, however, I did not come into contact with those who fight with weapons in hand. That changed a year ago when I was contacted by people from the international team InterUnit, which is part of the Ghost Brigade (Prizrak). They called for strengthening their ranks, both for combat and for organizing humanitarian aid. Initially, I approached this appeal carefully; after all, someone had to give them my e-mail, so it could be a provocation.
It took a while – about six months — to clarify the issue, before Ludmila was convinced that InterUnit actually existed and enlisted people. She decided to come, but she was still not sure whether she was suited for the militia life. The solution to the situation was the International Anti-fascist Conference in Krasnodon [in May 2016], to which she was invited. At that time, she visited the soldiers of the Ghost Brigade.
They showed me the worst possible sections of the front. People lived there in dug-outs, without water – living in conditions where they went long periods without the opportunity to wash — water was too precious. I remember one of them said to me: “Do not forget that we are fighting for freedom. We fight for the people and a society for them, and not for our ambitions.”
After returning to Poland she was determined to return; she only wanted to tie up certain things, to be able to set off without any debts, etc. Soon, she told her friends from the front that she intended to come to them. However, they were convinced that the war was already over and the unit was no longer needed. They were wrong. Ukrainian shelling resumed killed civilians – the war returned with new force.
No one assisted her journey. Ludmila herself had to arrange a visa to Russia, and to pay the fare. “Unfortunately there are not foundations for such things,” she laughs.
At that time, the nationalists destroyed the grave of Boleslaw Bierut [Polish communist leader and president of socialist Poland from 1947-1952]. After a week I arrived and spent the whole weekend cleaning what they had written on it. On Sunday a journalist of TVN, who happened to be visiting the grave of his grandfather (mine is also buried on Powiązkach), noticed me. I asked him not to write that I am a communist – I did not want to provoke people to further unnecessary acts of hatred. Even people who consider Bierut a bad man praised the cleaning of the graffiti, because you cannot destroy someone’s grave – unless it’s Banderovite monuments, she adds.
However, despite the fact that her face was hidden in the TVN report, one man recognized her. He unleashed a media storm. At work they had enough of this, despite the fact that Lyudmila was considered a very good worker – the scandal harmed the image of the company. Her boss, bearing in mind Dobrzyniecki’s merits, proposed termination of the contract by mutual agreement and payment of the equivalent of three month’s salary — now were funds for the trip, and “a little money to have, just in case.”
First, I was sent to the section of the front where we were stationed opposite Polish mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side. Some of the people were surprised that a Polish woman came to support the Donbass, even laughed that “Yours are over there” — but these were just jokes. In InterUnit women also serve, though few, they were just surprised by my nationality.
“Why don’t Poles respect history, why do they lie? After all the time we fought together against fascism, now even this is forgotten,” Ludmilla often heard at the beginning of her service.
But she was welcomed into the ranks. Soon she received a uniform and began training. And spending time on the front line. Five days without bathing, digging trenches — women in the military do not have lesser responsibilities. At night, better to be safe than sorry – this is the time the enemy attacks. That’s when mortars begin to fall.
We also came under fire from the enemy. One night was very scary, because they came very close to our position. Generally, you only have to be afraid of them at night. During the day they mostly drink. Our lines are on a hill in front of them — and we see what they do. They often fight amongst themselves.
Luckily, before leaving I was advised to buy a winter sleeping bag, because the nights are getting colder and it is difficult to sleep in the tents.
Ludmila realizes that the Lugansk Republic, with the exception of symbols, doesn’t have much in common with communism.
Communism cannot be built immediately, and above all the people themselves have to want it. First you must create something for yourself — socialism, and everyone defines it in their own way. Besides, with the term communism each also understands something different — it is not a doctrine, a dogma. I believe that if the communists in Poland want to change something, we must start with ourselves. Speak less and do more. Fight for the people. Most of them are too stuck in books, and do not help people. They don’t do physical work, they don’t understand physical fatigue. They make the mistake of not wanting to change themselves, and that’s where change should begin. Here, however, there is discipline – you are here for the people, and you have to remember this. Poles want to change the world through the Internet, and here they really work.
What does Ludmila appreciate most about her new life?
The feeling when you go out in uniform from the base to the town ruined by bombing, and the kids there, the residents, have respect for you, work hand in hand. Even when you say that you are from Poland – they respond very well. Civilians in general are perhaps disappointed by the attitude of our country, but there’s no animosity, no hate – unlike for us.
Polish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for another Polish volunteer who did not hide his stay in Donbass, Dariusz Lemanski, but nothing similar has been done to anyone serving on the Ukrainian side. Ludmilla is aware of the dangers flowing from this situation. She understands the threat of being imprisoned in Poland, but insists that “this is only due to EU commitments. I keep my fingers crossed that the EU will collapse,” she says.