By Alyona Dryha
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Yulia had a birthday recently. Unlike many of her peers, she doesn’t dream about a Tablet or an iPhone. Blowing out the candles, Yulia was thinking about her mom. For a month now, her mother has been serving in the Donbas Battalion. Yulia is worried about her but is also very proud.
To maintain their safety, volunteer soldiers of the Donbas Battalion do not disclose their last names and hide their faces. They refer to each other by a callsign. Lyudmyla was immediately dubbed “Builder.” After all, she worked at a construction business before Donbas.
“I’ve been with the battalion for about a month,” the woman retells. “I really wanted to help my homeland. I read on Facebook that volunteers were needed. I used to be a nurse. I realized that my skills would be useful during the war. I wrote there, and three weeks later I was invited to the base. Around the same time, there was combat near Karlivka (on May 23, the Donbas Battalion got ambushed by separatists, [and] five soldiers were wounded and five more were killed in a clash with insurgents–Author’s note). Together with a friend from Donetsk Oblast [region], we asked the battalion for a car and went to look for wounded soldiers.
Through joint efforts, we found the guys, provided them with first aid, and brought them to the hospitals. Afterwards, Lyudmyla was reassigned to the battalion training camp in Novi Petrivtsi near Kyiv. Our heroine underwent combat training alongside men for three weeks. There are not many women in the battalion. Lyudmyla says that they feel great in the company of men.
“We have a real brotherhood,” she says. “There are many people from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, from Kyiv. And there are plenty of fellow countrymen from Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.”
They were taught by true professionals every day in Novi Petrivtsi–soldiers who went through the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. Lyudmyla is now able not only to provide medical assistance, but she can also be useful in combat. Instructors taught [her] to disassemble machine guns, to move correctly, scout [an area], and shoot.
“We are leaving for the East tomorrow,” she says. “There, we will be distributed. I think I’ll remain a nurse.”
Acquaintances condemn Lyudmyla. They talk as if she went to risk her life for the sake of money. She breaks off all communications with people like this. After all, Donbas is a volunteer battalion, and none of the soldiers are currently receiving a salary. [Her] motives were not of a material nature.
“I have a keen sense of justice from childhood. That’s why I could not sit at home,” she says. “Moreover, Pavlohrad is not far from Donetsk Oblast. And I don’t want to see separatists in my hometown. I have two children, I want everything to be fine with them. That’s why I will stay with the battalion until the very end.”
Faith that they are here for the right cause helps Lyudmyla be away from her home and children. She is confident that every woman can do a lot for the good of the homeland now. It is not necessary to go and serve. Any support of the country’s defenders is important–not only material but moral support as well. For Lyudmyla, the best minutes of every day are conversations with her mother, sister, and especially her daughter.
Together with a representative from the Donbas Battalion, a correspondent of Zorya came to wish Yulia a happy birthday. Of course, a new dress and ice cream as a gift from the battalion won’t replace a mother’s embrace for the girl. But given her fourteen years of age, Yulia understands everything:
“Mom left two days before the last bell [last day of school],” says the girl. “But I am not offended, because she left to defend our homeland. Of course, at first I cried a lot–I was very afraid for her. But she always asks me on the phone not to be afraid and to be a good girl. Over time, it became easier.
In our class, everyone understands that there is a war going on. A classmate’s dad went to war. We all comfort her together, as she cries often. And I’m also very proud of my mom.”
The children communicate with their mother every day by phone and via VKontakte [Russian Facebook]. Modern communications not only help them hear her but also see her. Thus, Misha and Yulia recently saw Lyudmyla in uniform for the first time; however, only in a photo. The children dream that their mom will be back soon and that the three of them will go to the seaside–or at least for a barbecue and maybe take a walk to nearby Dnipropetrovsk.
Yulia is planning to become a veterinarian and open an animal shelter in the future. A seven-year old Misha dreams of becoming a soldier like his mother. But he hopes to serve during peacetime.