“When I shout “on the floor”, you fall down immediately, understand?” Pilgrim puts on tactical gloves on the front passenger seat of our intelligence Cruiser.
“I understood, but there’s no place to fall down,” I’m on the rear seat, in armor and helmet, surrounded by assault rifles and other military trinkets, I look at the “floor”, with doubt, trying to figure out how is it possible to fall in this little crack between the seats, and how will it save me if something happens.
“I said “on the floor”, so get on the floor, I don’t give a f*ck, if you want to live, you’ll fall.”
The Cruiser jumps like crazy on the potholes of a route, destroyed by army vehicles. All around, to both sides of us, smoke is rising from the earth due to the last strikes. In front of us, already too close, the explosions are thundering like heavenly drums.
“Nemo! To the right! Right now!” yells Pilgrim. Nemo, our driver, sharply turns our Toyota, and we break at the speed of 100 km/h through one of the gates of the oil refinery. Unintentionally, I fell to the side and painfully hit my shoulder against the rifle magazine. When I hardly get back and fix my helmet that had slipped, I see that now we are riding through the factory area. An epic view: big fuel cisterns are burning around us, the clouds of black smoke covered the entire sky, and something is constantly exploding around us.
“Buddha, look, we are in hell!” Pilgrim is shouting ahead. Nemo holds a driving wheel, tilting his head in the helmet to the windscreen, and we are racing across all this sh*t.
We lost the connection with Alex’s evacuation brigade an hour ago. The shelling of the oil refinery zone started two hours ago. We left the base twenty minutes after the connection loss, and in twenty-five minutes we were rushing under fire to the position where the guys were on duty.
In the morning this position was still relatively safe, but soon it transformed into a real hell.
After overcoming two or three kilometers of the giant factory area in a couple of minutes, through rattle and fire, we drove out of the opposite side. Aside, behind the concrete fence and down for a little. Here we saw our camouflaged ambulance. It was intact and left in the bushes, near a small house with broken windows. The side doors were open, no one was inside or around the car. Nemo slowed down about thirty meters before the ambulance, and we quietly drove up closer.
“Sit here,” Pilgrim ordered us and slowly, like a cat, got out of the car. The driver and I carefully opened our doors. I pulled up the assault rifle closer to me and grabbed it. Pilgrim came closer to the empty VW Bully and looked inside, turned to us, and shook his head.
I glanced aside and suddenly saw in the bushes, about twenty meters, the blue color of a paramedic uniform. In a second, our guys in helmets came out of the covert.
“Why didn’t you leave the position, when the situation had changed? It’s not just a red zone here, it can’t be possibly any redder!” asked Pilgrim when we joined the guys and found ourselves on a little lawn. There was a blanket on the grass, a half-empty bottle of water, and an opened pack of energy bars. The crew: Corsair, an armored vehicle trooper, Bo, a driver, Alex, a doctor, and Scar, a driver — all gathered with us in a heap.
“Where can we go?”
“We can’t raise our heads here! For a minute it calmed down, but then they covered us with fire again,” Bo tried to smoke, standing on his knees, as we all were.
“It calmed down because Buddha and I had arrived, so bow to us,” joked Pilgrim in his ordinary manner.
“On the five hundredth blow, I stopped counting,” Corsair bent his head down like every one of us after another whistle. “By the way, the communication is completely dead.”
“Uncle Buddha, it’s a complete sh*thole here!” Scar said, looking at me with his sky-blue eyes while chewing a cookie. Alex nodded at him: “It awful here. And there, in ten meters,” he pointed at the factory fence, “And there, twenty meters max,” he poked in the other direction, “And over there is real hell,” he pointed at the oil refinery fence, behind which were explosions and black smoke.
“I’m already tired of praying,” Scar supported him, smiling.
“How did you manage to avoid strikes for so long? In the future, if you lose connection, immediately leave the position once there is a threat to the sub-subunit. Understand?”
“Understand, but it is quite a nice place here,” Alex bent down after another explosion.
“It was a nice place, but now it is a real Russian roulette here, not a position.”
“Here we are close to the soldiers with the wounded, five minutes overall.”
“Nothing will happen if it’s in ten minutes, but at the same time everyone will be alive,” answered Pilgrim. “Well, let’s stop waiting until our G-5 will be struck in this Battleship, we move now,” Pilgrim nodded at Bo. “We’re ahead, you’re behind us, with a distance of about two hundred meters,” Bo nodded, “We are riding right through the factory area, without stopping, at the maximum speed. All the bypasses around must be already plowed with the strikes, so there is only one way to the route — through the factory, the one we drove on our way here, hope it’s still okay. If they shoot at us or at you, the others don’t stop. Understand, everyone?” Everyone nodded.
“If you understand, mister doctor, then let’s move!”
We were standing in a new safe position, in a yellow zone, where we literally flew by the route in some very long five minutes and forty-eight seconds. We were smoking and laughing, discussing a new all-inclusive for the brigade, that looked like a shabby old bus station a little off the route, behind which we hid Bo’s ambulance. It was calm there.
“Boys, listen, I’ll tell you the truth,” Pilgrim looked around at all of us, “I have been in the military intelligence for many years and have seen different people at the war. But I’ve never met bigger daredevils than you, my fellow medics. Bloody hell, I’m scared of you myself.”
May 11 at 06:38 a.m.
Ukrainian Text by Danil Safronov. Translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — May 27, 2022