With Cracked Skull He Walked 10 km Through the Russian Occupiers: Story of a Warrior Who Was One of the Last to Leave the Occupied Mariupol

Andrii had eight exit wounds. His legs, side, and neck have bullet marks. He was in the hospital for two weeks and escaped from there to help his comrades and get them out of the «hotspot». Being wounded in the battle for Mariupol, in order to get out of the encirclement, Andrii had to walk 10 kilometers through the occupiers, find the strength to smile at them, and repeat the legend that he is the «neutral» taxi driver. At the same time, hoping that Russians will not recognize him — a legendary warrior, who even appeared on TV in the show of Russian propagandist Skabeeva.

Photo: Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

Mariupol resident Andrii with the call sign «Skala» defended his city from the first days of the full-scale invasion. Before that, he already went through the Anti-Terrorist/Joint Forces Operation in the east, but in 2018 he decided to return to civilian life. Andrii worked in the «Azovstal» plant as a brigadier but left to continue service in the Mariupol Military Registration and Enlistment Office. There he became the deputy chief of staff of one of the battalions of the military unit. That’s how he got into the brigade of Donetsk Territorial Defense — and already there he met the beginning of the big offensive of the Russians.

«When we were leaving the cemetery, I thought: 'We are completely surrounded.' It became clear that there is no help to wait for»

Andrii admits that no one expected the massacre that the Russians committed in Mariupol, not even the experienced soldiers who shot rows of occupiers for several hours, without stopping even for a few minutes.

«We took the first battle as a brigade on the approaches to Mariupol at the Old Crimea cemetery. I was seconded to the reconnaissance group of our battalion, and our guys were defeated by the occupiers at that time. Those who remained had to be taken out of there. And when we got to the spot, the occupiers started shooting at us with everything they had. But we managed to get everyone out. Two guys who were with us were wounded but also got out. Our group worked very well.

But I remember that when we were leaving the cemetery, I thought: 'We are completely surrounded.' It became clear that there is no help to wait for, even though we really needed it," Andrii recalls.

At the same time, surrounded by Russians, the guys from the brigade caught the first occupiers who were sure that the city was «theirs». It was funny and senseless, the soldier says.

«Our guys were standing at a checkpoint and saw a car coming towards them marked with the word „Bread“ in huge letters and a „Z“ sign on it. And just for your understanding, at that moment in Mariupol, there was no bread at all for two weeks. He drives in — and the car with the one behind the wheel is „welcomed“ by our guys. As it turned out, the Russians had already started saying that Mariupol had been captured. And this one believed it and got caught at the checkpoint. It’s good that at least he brought us bread,» «Skala» smiles.

Photo: Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

«The bastards dropped an aerial bomb on a house near which a civilian was… There were not even atoms left of him. It tore him apart»

Despite a smile on his face, Andrii admits that every fight was like the last for his comrades. Almost everyone was ready for this — because they understood what the occupiers would do to every defender who did not surrender to them.

«On March 15, we went to clean up Novoselivka. There were many orcs (Russians — ed.). We began to work on them, we were successful in fighting them… Until the bastards called the planes. We were near private houses — not among them, near… But these bastards dropped an aerial bomb on a private house. There was a civilian under the house at that time. Not even atoms remained from him — he was completely torn apart…

One of ours was also injured, and others received a concussion. And I broke through the metal fence with my own body. Behind me was a guy who is still in captivity — he broke through the brick fence… And that’s only from the shock wave. Then they started working on us with tanks. By the way, they have this tactic: when they can’t do anything to us, they just burn down that area. Even if their people are there. They just don’t care about their people or humans overall," the soldier says.

Andrii notes: you can’t underestimate the enemy — and he never did it, realizing that it’s better to be prepared for the worst. However, he and his comrades often meet with the confusion of the enemy.

«Perhaps they were trained somewhere, but on the battlefield, they are often… confused. Among them, specialists can be counted on the fingers of the hands. Of course, they fight, in the process, those who survived learn something new for themselves, but… They have tactics that can be clearly seen in Mariupol — «meat assaults» when they simply throw «meat» (soldiers — ed.) at us. In Mariupol, it happened that the gun overheated from the shooting. It was really overheating, because they were coming and coming.

I remember how we walked through Mariupol with a captured Russian past the central market, and there were many dead people — old women and children. Young people are faster — they oriented and hid faster, but the bodies of children and old people lay in the middle of the street. You are holding that occupier and the thought in your head is «What should I do to you for that?». I ask if this is exactly what he wanted — and I hear another «It's not us, it’s not me.» There was a desire to do something to him, but I refrained. Just gave him to the boys. Safe and alive," the soldier recalls.

«I spoke with our soldier who was released from Russian captivity a few days ago. He said that they were lucky to drink water from the tap because usually they were forced to drink water from toilets and puddles. No joke. They were fed with rotten pasta. As this guy told me, it felt like the bastards were specifically waiting for everything to go sour, and only then gave it. And here we create good conditions for them!»

«The hardest thing is to smile in the face of those who you cut and blew up just a few hours ago»

Andrii admits: the most difficult day of the battle was the one when he had to make a decision to leave Mariupol.

«A fight is a fight with all the blood, noise… It is hard to understand that there are your brothers there, but you can’t get to them, because the walkie-talkie doesn’t work… You get closer to them — and your people start shooting at you because they do not know that it is you — there is no connection between you. Even the uniform did not help, because at that time the Russians often changed into our clothes, and we had to recognize each other only by the call signs that were voiced out on the walkie-talkie. Without it, no one knew whether it was yours or not…

About 7 officers and soldiers from the National Guard, «Azov» and other brigades gathered that day, and together we decided what to do next. Ammunition was almost at zero — the last few days we simply took it from the occupiers. Then even I got my hands on their fashionable AK-100. And the hardest thing was to decide to leave. Because you leave — and your guys stay there, in other sectors. And you feel like you betrayed them. It was the hardest. Although we did not hide anywhere, we continued to fight, and we did not sit back — but this is a disgusting feeling…

And it was hard to look at the bastards when we went out. For a few more hours you killed and cut them, and then I had to pretend to be a taxi driver and look at him with a smile, saying «Hello» in Russian, because there was an order to get out alive," Andrii says.

Photo: Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

It took a long time for The military to leave the encirclement of the occupiers. In a state of concussion, he had to walk 10 kilometers through Russian checkpoints, in Berdyansk he bought a car on his last savings — it became his cover in the legend of the «peaceful taxi driver who drives people». At that time he had a cracked skull. It was impossible to hold back nausea — and when the occupiers asked why Andrii was vomiting, he answered: «It's a smoke inhalation — the house was on fire.»

At one of the checkpoints, when I was taking civilians out to join my comrades, the Russians stopped me. Undressed me, as usual. They ask if I served. I said no. Again they ask why.

I have had injuries since the time of the ATO: a broken leg, a head injury… I tell him: «I was a teenager — I fell off a motorcycle, my leg was broken — then I was not accepted into the army.» And he says to me: «What, they don’t take someone with a broken wing into the ranks of Nazis?».

I couldn’t hold back and said: «I don’t know about the Nazis. Do you take?».

They barked at me «Get the hell out of here» — well, I went on.

And I had a clutch failure in these «Zhyguli» (old Soviet car — ed.). So the occupiers pushed me from their checkpoint so that I would wind up and drive away from there. I laughed then: «Slaves are pushing the master.»

«Those idiots stole the toilets from the apartments — in front of my eyes they took it out of the entrances and loaded them into cars»

«Skala» adds that the jokes about the Russians and the toilets they stole in Mariupol are actually not jokes, but real situations. Andrii and his comrades witnessed many things — when the Russians robbed the house. Then, together with the mountains of things and small appliances, they took out ordinary toilets, which were stolen from the bathrooms of high-rise buildings.

«I personally saw how orcs took away TVs and routers from people’s apartments. And one says to the other: «I took this — I want the Internet at home.» They grabbed webcams… They don’t even understand how to use it, but they grab it anyway. These vermin simply drag everything they see — because for them it is some kind of novelty. And for us, it is a common thing for any house — and even in villages. And they do not have this in their cities 20 kilometers from Moscow.

I remember how we cleaned the sector and found an occupiers' inscription in one of the apartments: «Who gave you permission to live well?».

At least first wash yourself, read at least one book in your life, to begin with, and then think about who you need to «liberate». Because our people simply got together and removed their president, our average salary was more than 20 thousand hryvnias, at that time it was 700−800 dollars. First of all, liberate yourselves, narrow-eyed army," the soldier says.

Photo: Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces

«At every intersection in Mariupol, our relatives or our boys died. And they were brothers for each of us»

Andrii admits: because of his participation in the war and moments that cannot be disclosed, it will be difficult for him to return to Mariupol. The biggest obstacle is a moral one: at every turn, his comrades died or were wounded. He saw the bodies of innocent women and children killed by the Russians. And although Mariupol is his home, he does not think about returning there completely.

«Next to me are people from whom everything was taken away. Most of us are from the Bakhmut district, there are guys from Mariupol and the district… In other words, these are people who were deprived of everything. Someone lost half of the family. Someone lost a child, a brother, or a beloved woman. Almost all of them have nowhere to live. It’s not even motivation. It is more like a holy war for each of us. Even in the last battle, where I was wounded for the last time (January 19, 2023), our guys first started to pull back due to the onslaught of orcs. And when I arrived, I asked: „Guys, where are you going?“ There is a home behind our back». And everyone stood still. Then we had two killed comrades, out of a dozen wounded. But no one ran away or surrendered. Although when we raised the copter to look at the landing, where the Russians were standing, there were 1.5−2 companies of them. And there were a little over 20 of us. And these are not really people anymore. After what the Russians have done to us, we are machines that are ready to kill right here and now. The enemy will see no mercy," Skala emphasizes.

At the same time, the warrior adds that his comrades want to end the war above all else. Expelling the Russians is the main task for anyone whose life the occupiers have interfered with. And if for this they have to expel a soldier of the Russian Federation into the Taiga, «closer to the Chinese», this will be done by every soldier of the Donetsk Territorial Brigade without exception.

«Mariupol is the place where my normal life ended, where my unfulfilled dreams remained. And I will take revenge for it. I will never give up — because I will never let down those who stood next to me and died in those battles. Fight till the end, no matter at what cost,» «Skala» promises.

Author: Alina Yevych

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