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Memories of an ordinary volunteer fighter #5

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

Personal diary of Oleksa Melnyk, a Ukrainian volunteer fighter



Once in the Territorial Defence unit, I got out of my cozy nest and destroyed my own information bubble. So I saw how different people can be. How far I can be from understanding someone. How different the worldviews of people with a common goal can be. I will try to describe some interesting characters from my current environment in the Territorial Defence troop.

The first remarkable personality that I encountered was a dreamy civil roofer and military driver in one. We were on the night watch outside. He fought in the Anti-Terrorist Operation. At the time of the full-scale invasion, he was at his permanent job in Poland. He moved his family to Poland and then joined a Territorial Defence troop.

“I have friends at work. Patriots. When Easter comes, they will sing riflemen songs [the songs of the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, a Ukrainian unit within the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War — Ed.] patriotically, they know how to do it well, and they will stay there, in Poland. I’m here for some reason. And you, what for are you here?” he asked me.

“I have a wife, a child, a business here. I want to protect them. Yes, and it’s a shame to sit idle.”

“Yeah, that’s right. And they don’t have a family. And there is nothing to protect.”

A few days later, we were woken up in the middle of the night and asked:

“Who is motivated to fight?”

My first friend in arms volunteered. Then half of us volunteered. As for me, I was afraid. Not ready yet. Therefore, the volunteers went to the front to cover the rear of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As I’m writing this, none of them were injured.

Among those who dared to go to the war zone at that time was an old acquaintance of mine, whom I would have preferred never to meet.

“Oh, hi, you’re Aliosha, right?” he asked kindly when we met in the kitchen at the barracks.

“No, Oleksa. And you’re the bastard that ruined my life?” I said sarcastically.

“Why bastard?” my unwanted acquaintance was taken aback.

“You and your friends bullied me for a few years at school, would never leave me alone,” I reminded him.

“And you’re still angry at me?” he asked sadly, reaching out his hand to me as a sign of reconciliation.

“So, Aliosha, right?”

“Oleksa. And I don’t know your name.”

“Serhiiko,” he said, and I relaxed.

After almost twenty years of resentment and hatred for the monster I drew for myself, I saw a down-to-earth person in the same conditions and with the same motivation as me. Two days later, he went to the front line at his own request.

Our tactical training instructor is just like my abuser. This is a narcissistic rambler, dependent on human attention and with extremely high self-esteem. Nevertheless, a good man. A veteran of the Anti-Terrorist Operation. On his own, without having a salary for it, he comes on a volunteer basis for several hours to teach us how to run correctly with machine guns and perform various combat tasks. But half that time is spent on stories about the war and stories about how everyone wants him… and he’s a good fucker and everything… and they’re nasty sluts…

“No matter what checkpoint I come to, everyone is happy to see me, even though I give them the run-around. For some reason they welcome me, rejoice. Everyone except him,” he nodded at me with a smile, and everyone stared at my sour face. “What, you don’t like me because I make you run?”

“No, I just know people like you. You assert yourself at the expense of humiliation. You call your friend a pedophile all the time.”

“It comes from love. He doesn’t mind.”

“He just has Stockholm syndrome. He’s your hostage.”

“No, that’s different.”

Later, he decided to give me a call sign. He came up with a very original one — “Dovbush” [he meant Oleksa Dovbush, a famous Ukrainian outlaw, leader of opryshky, who became a folk hero, often compared to Robin Hood — Ed.]. He was terribly pleased with himself.

“That’s so hackneyed,” I commented.

“Still cool. All right, Dovbush, take the radio, you’re with the second group.”

I didn’t raise my hand, I didn’t pick up the radio. I stared at him blankly:

“I’m Oleksa.”

“All right, Oleksa, do it.”

At the moment, my name still calls me. It is unlikely that anyone in my environment has met another Oleksa in their life.

We have a funny, quite comic couple. This is a completely grey-haired middle-aged psychologist, very similar in appearance to the actor Oleksiy Horbunov, and a giant Cannibal, almost twice the size of him.

“Don’t be rude to me,” the psychologist often repeats. “Because you see him?” he points to the giant ogre behind him. “He hasn’t eaten yet and wants to fuck.”

These two are always together. And they are constantly doing, searching, exchanging, and changing something. When the order was received to promote three soldiers, these two became sergeants first.

But I still don’t know how to treat Kolia. Because most of the time I don’t understand what he’s saying.

“F*ck, b*tch, f*cking sh*t, fymveeing fuhuh vyfeeing, we were supposed to go to Scotland with her…

We listen to Kolia and nod as if we understand what he’s talking about, and he continues:

“F*ck, the f*cking b*tch, myfeeing sapso fyveeing, I had a Mustang too.”

This passage is particularly ingrained in my memory because I thought for a few minutes — what kind of Mustang are we talking about? A horse? A car? But we do not ask again and do not specify because the explanations will be just as vague.

However, Kolia was able to convey that he saw with his own eyes from his own yard how a rocket fell on the airfield near Kolomyia. He took out his family as quickly as possible and signed up for the Territorial Defence troop on the same day.

Ruslan the mountaineer has an interesting life. He travels around the world and lays connection cables under the ground or builds support structures for alpinists in the mountains. And in between business trips to exotic regions, he repairs or paints roofs in Kolomyia with the help of mountaineering equipment. He has photos of fascinating landscapes of high-altitude places that he constantly visits. Such a fantastic profession. I envy him.

In appearance, this is a rounded, completely not athletic man of indeterminate age.

Ruslan is interested in the history of Kolomyia, and during our joint duties for more than one hour he has been showing me old photos of my city, and telling me stories related to them.

But Ruslan remembers all the names of the streets of Kolomyia only during the Soviet times before decommunization, sings a lot of Soviet songs, and tells jokes about the party and life in the USSR. He is only 49 years old. At the time of the collapse of the peoples’ prison, he was 18 years old. He was already at the age of a murderer for the Chechen people. And it seems that those 18 years of living in that world formed him as a Soviet man, and this can no longer be changed.

We have a very experienced machine gunner whose baptism of fire took place in the ATO. He knows everything, he can do everything.

“Is that the f*cking army? Let me fight.” He was constantly saying, but did not go to the front line with volunteers when he had the opportunity.

At our first tactical training session, he started to attract the attention of our narcissistic instructor. “And this is not the way it should be, and this is superfluous, and I already know this, why should I do this?”

It turned out that he came to class drunk. He spoke poorly, saw poorly, and staggered. The instructor shamed him in front of the entire platoon, and the culprit admitted the mistake and disappeared to sleep.

It’s nice that this was the only alcohol incident during my entire stay in Territorial Defence troop. Except for the time we went to buy beer.


Did you like what you’ve just read? Share these stories with your friends and leave a comment or thank the author with an arbitrary transfer via PayPal to

His wife will spend the transferred funds on parcels to his place of service. Thank you!

Ukrainian Text by Oleksa Melnyk, a volunteer fighter, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jul 23, 2022

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