They were united by Donbass, war and death

By Dmitry Rodionov

Feb. 10: The head of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), Leonid Pasechnik, accused Ukranian President Vladimir Zelensky of the deaths of four militiamen as a result of the shelling of the village of Zolotoe-5 — as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, on whose orders they fire at residential areas of Donbass.

It’s like this: the presidents of Ukraine are changing, the Minsk process is sluggish, and the shelling continues every day, and every day more are killed.

Every day fighters are on the front line; every day, going on combat duty, they do not know whether this day will be their last.

Meanwhile, each of them has his or her own life, name and destiny. And it is often completely different from the picture war films draw for us. And there may not be any real professional military there, among them.

Three years ago, on February 8, 2017, a former supermarket security guard, Mikhail Tolstoy (Givi), was killed in Donetsk. Killed vilely, stealthily, because in real battle Ukrainian militants did not succeed for more than three years. Givi’s funeral brought out more people than gathered in Kiev on the “Maidan.” It was a very poignant sight, and I am infinitely sorry that Novorossia cannot render the same honors to every warrior, although many of them are no less worthy than Givi, Motorola, Zakharchenko and Mozgovoy.

Every day on the calendar of war is someone’s death. For me, February 8 is not only Givi, whom I personally was not lucky enough to know. For me, this is a memorial day for the three soldiers of the Volunteer Communist Detachment of the Ghost Brigade, for whom the war ended five years ago — in 2015, at the very beginning of the Debaltsevo operation near Komissarovka in the LPR.

Vsevolod “Kovyl” Petrovsky, 04/11/1986 – 02/08/2015.
Evgeny “Taimyr” Pavlenko, 11/02/1979 – 02/08/2015.
Sergey “Senya” Kornev, 07/30/2013 – 02/08/2015.

A beautiful moment fell to them
Among the dashing gods, It
was a different birthday,
One death day.

These lines were written by Russian poet Alexander Kharchikov — about a completely different war. But they always come to my mind for some reason.

The three fighters evacuated a wounded scout under enemy fire. A shell exploded just a couple of meters from them. The most paradoxical thing is that the wounded man survived. But the three who tried to save him did not. Moreover, for two of them it was literally their second or third combat experience. Completely different people, from different cities, who had not known each other before and, if not for war, would never have. They were united by death, which no one ever expects, but which in a war can come from anywhere and at any second.

Petersburger Yevgeny Pavlenko went to war in December 2014. He wanted to go in the spring, from the very beginning, but it did not work out right away.

Pavlenko left his two daughters aged 5 and 7 at home where he worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature. A joker, a prankster and an intellectual — this is how his friends characterized him. He was an activist of a well-known party, which, among other things, became famous for its active participation in the volunteer movement in Donbass. He participated in daring direct actions, including in defense of veterans in Latvia. At the same time, a true St. Petersburg intellectual, he loved the city very much, knew everything about it, very zealously resisted any destruction of old Petersburg. When he worked as a teacher in Russian language courses for foreigners at St. Petersburg State University and the University of Herzen, he took his students to secret and non-touristy places in the city, telling them history and urban legends.

Moreover, he did not tolerate any injustice. This feature led him first to politics, and when the genocide of Donbass began — to the war. At the same time, he was too serious to just break loose, thought about his decision for a long time, and prepared.

In the end, he left without saying anything to anyone at the end of 2014. In accordance with his beliefs, he found himself in the Volunteer Communist Detachment of the Ghosts.

For Yevgeny Pavlenko, the war lasted a little over a month.

Donetsk fighter Vsevolod Petrovsky fought almost as much. He only got to the war earlier — after all, it came to his house. First he was a war correspondent, then a commissar in “Ghost.” Before the war, Petrovsky was quite well known — a poet, historian, journalist, political activist. It is interesting that in his youth he supported the first Orange Maidan [2004-2005], but soon became disillusioned with it, began to search for the causes of what was happening in the country, read books — and as a result, he became one of the founders of the famous Borotba organization, which is now banned in Ukraine.

Of course, living in Donetsk, he was in the thick of things from the beginning of the “Russian Spring”, from the first days of the war he volunteered, made reports from the front, worked in the Ministry of Information of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), was a war correspondent for Strelkov, then came to [Ghost Brigade founder Alexey] Mozgovoy and left for Alchevsk.

He could have left for the United States from the very beginning, where his parents live, but how can a true patriot leave his land when war comes to it?

He and Pavlenko were united by the fact that both had no experience, and for both the war ended without really starting. But war is a lottery, and a person with experience can spend a week, and a person without experience can survive to victory.

Survive to victory — everyone dreams about it, then gets to the war. Not everyone’s dream comes true. When three rescuers of the wounded near Komissarovka died from a shell exploding next to them, they could not have known that they would not come true. And if they did, would it stop them?

They could not know that in ten days the banner of Novorossiya would rise over Debaltsevo, and one of the bloodiest, large-scale and significant operations of that war would end.

And, of course, neither they, nor even those who rejoiced in this victory, remembering the fallen and raising circles for new victories, could know that a complete victory was still very, very far. That many years of incredible tension lie ahead, when there seems to be no war as such, but each year comrades die from enemy bullets and shrapnel that fall upon the peaceful cities of Donbass.

We can’t know them all by name. But we must preserve the memory of the feats of those who paved the way for victory with their bodies, not for a second wondering if they were doing the right thing. If not for them, Donbass would not be standing tall for the sixth year in a row …

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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