At the beginning of the war, Yurii with the call sign «Kalmar» («Squid» in English — ed.) did not have a final position — he admits that the understanding of the extent to which the Russian Federation destroyed the lives of Ukrainians came only with time. However, after a full-scale invasion, there was no doubt left — so the man went to fight for his country.
Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces
Before the start of the full-scale invasion, the life of Yuri, a military man with the call sign «Kalmar», was not associated with the war — although he served in the Soviet army, the man connected his life with a private company, where he repaired car engines. The man tells «Vchasno» journalists that most of his life he spent in Kharkiv. He also lived in the Crimea, but the city in the northeast became his home. He was mobilized from there, and now he is one of the leaders of the unit in the Donetsk Separate Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces and goes through the hottest areas of the front with the fighters.
«I came to be mobilized in Kharkiv — I could not join the army due to health problems at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, but already in the summer, in June, when I solved these problems and became fit, I went to serve. Now I have been in the army for over a year. I never had combat experience before that. Although I served in the USSR army for 5 years. All the experience I got here here, in the war,» the soldier says.
«Kalmar» notes: that among his acquaintances, there are enough people with a pro-Ukrainian position and those who do not understand the war. The majority of people from the second category are those who are used to the USSR model of existence. Therefore, for them, the struggle for sovereignty contradicts the usual «scheme», where everyone is united into one whole. And, unfortunately, even the collapse of the Soviet Union had little effect on changing the consciousness of these people.
«Many people who served in the army during the USSR do not share the position of Ukraine, because the post-Soviet model has stuck in their heads. After it, they simply do not understand anything else. And that’s for sure — the older generation simply does not understand what is really happening through the prism of what they have experienced. I didn’t understand it right away either. Awareness came gradually — through the information, communication with colleagues, friends… And even then, everything was difficult. In my family, everyone agrees that everything that happened after February 24, 2022, is over the edge. The fact that the Russian Federation attacked sovereign Ukraine is disgraceful and unacceptable. But I didn’t come to this conclusion from the very beginning of the war — back in 2014, I didn’t understand what was happening and I didn’t have the same position as now,» the company commander of the Donetsk Territorial Defense honesty explains.
The «break of consciousness» for Yurii happened a little bit later — as he himself says, «in the queues and in the cold» due to the Russian attack.
«When your relatives and friends lose their loved ones, it affects you a lot. And it made me think»
Most of the man’s acquaintances and friends accepted his decision — both regarding his position in relation to the Russian Federation and his decision to join the army and fight for Ukraine. However, there remained those who were skeptical about the desire to go to serve.
«I can’t blame them for not understanding me. But I am an adult man and I have the right to make my own decisions. No one forced me, I wanted it myself. Maybe there are people (I'm guessing) who, like me, have changed their perspective on everything that’s going on. Perhaps it was partly because of me that they went to war. I can only guess about it,» Yurii explains.
In our conversation, «Kalmar» notes that in order to be a company commander, it is not enough just to have a rank. First of all, he had to become an authority for others for high-quality performance of tasks and combat coordination in the company. Especially considering the fact that among his comrades there are many young people who are mentally significantly different from the older generation of soldiers.
«I am pleasantly surprised by our youth. To be honest, I never thought that such a large number of boys and girls are ready and able to perform combat tasks and are ready to give their lives for this, that they will go voluntarily to serve in their years. It’s hard to understand because they shouldn’t do that — they still have their whole lives ahead of them, and they need to not sacrifice themselves and go to war but live their young years. And in order to manage such an army team, you need to have a set of qualities, in particular, to become an authority. Neither the stars on the epaulets nor the position will add respect. You just have to earn the respect of your subordinates. However, did I even think that I would go to war and lead a company? Of course not.
But the peculiarity of our brigade is that our boys and girls did not run away from the East, from their home, they stayed here to fight for their homes. And as a result, we all return our homes, we have no other options. And it is the most difficult for all of us to get used to the fact that we are far from our relatives. This is really the hardest thing — to be away from your children, loved ones… It is much harder than everyday conditions. We can get used to the latter, be in any conditions in snow, rain, and mud," the soldier says.
Yurii notes that no matter how brave the soldiers seem, they are afraid. It’s terrible for both commanders and soldiers — everyone who values their lives and the lives of their fellow men. However, he is proud of his boys and girls — because almost all of them have an inner core that does not allow them to pass and step back.
«For a while, we were in quite comfortable conditions and for some time we did not come face to face with a real war on the battlefield. What we have seen on TV is actually very far removed from reality. That’s why this moment of truth, when you face the real war, is decisive. I can’t hide it — of course, it’s scary for me, for us in general. And it was scary then, before, and now, and it will be just as scary ahead. But over time you get used to it. Although in the first minutes new fighters are so scared that sometimes they can stand still, they can even refuse to perform their combat tasks. But they are human beings. If the fighter is adequate, the man inside has an inner core — he will find the strength to overcome fear and move forward. And this applies to both young and older soldiers — they have the same reactions,» «Kalmar» says, shrugging his shoulders.
The soldier notes: that sometimes he is surprised by how his comrades behave during the battle. Some joined the army and faced many fears, including the fear of dying, going into battle, etc. However, during the war, they were able to readjust themselves — and that is admirable.
«I am proud of the fact that I have fighters in my company who at the beginning were generally afraid to go to combat zone. It was extremely hard for them. And now they do it better than trained military personnel. And you can rely on them, completely entrust your life. It’s fascinating. Because the success of any combat task depends on the confidence and trust of those who are next to you. Any warrior proves himself differently in such conditions. But the most important thing for me, as a company commander, is to understand and trust each other. Because in battle there is no way to calculate how this or that person will behave. You just have to be sure that your brother will cover for you, and be there for you. That he will come to the rescue in the moment of need,» Yurii notes.
«Kalmar» notes that one of his main rules as a company commander was to never underestimate the enemy. You must always be prepared that he will be stronger, better, more prepared than you.
«My first missions to the combat zone was… mixed in emotions. The desire to resist the enemy at any cost, to withstand, helped back then. And it’s quite difficult — when mines fly around, everything explodes, and you see injured or killed comrades — it’s insanely scary. But if there is an inner desire to win, you go on, get up and go forward again. But at the same time, it is necessary to evaluate the opponent — and never underestimate him.
You cannot assume that the enemy is more stupid than you. It is better to believe that he is, on the contrary, more subtle and has a much larger material and technical base than you. But that shouldn’t stop you from fighting either," «Kalmar» says.
Military notes that now Ukraine has everything for victory. And the most important thing is the people: soldiers and those, for whom they are fighting.
«Why do I love Ukraine? It is the same as asking why you love your wife. I just love my country. This sky, these steppes, forests,» Yurii says.