Kozubenko Ivan is undergoing rehabilitation at the Ukrainian Research Institute of prosthesis, prosthetic engineering and rehabilitation in Kharkiv. Six months ago year he served in the ATO area defending our country. He saw a lot and shares his experiences here:
– Ivan, tell us about yourself:
– I was born on February 23, 1969. I finished school, graduated from Civil Engineering College. I went to the military service in 1988-1990, got in a construction battalion in the specialty of master building works and in 1990 I entered the Institute at the Faculty of History as a civil historian. Until 2010 I worked in the field of education.
– How did you get into the ATO area?
– I went to work in a company and two months before mobilization, the company conducted a large reduction and later it went bankrupt. On April 30, 2015 I was mobilized.
I went to the training ground Yavorinsky in the Lviv region. There we were trained for a company sergeant, and after that was the direction. I got to the military unit 1603 in Dnepropetrovsk. The unit was located in the headquarters of the North Donetsk. I was given a call sign “historian” because I used to tell a lot. Then we moved to the Donetsk region and when it was learned that I had pedagogical education, I was offered a position: depot commander of battalion. I agreed.
– What won’t you find in books about the war?
– We have problems in the army, the problem of “Avatars”. An Avatar is a soldier who likes to drink to excess. And if it’s a drunken soldier with weapons in his hands, it’s very dangerous.
The atmosphere depends on the command. If officership is normal then the atmosphere is normal. But everywhere there is still a problem of drinkers. How they recruit? They recruit just for the check in the box: drug addicts, alcoholics, everyone. According to statistics I know up to 2,000 people were affected not during military conflicts, but by drunken soldiers shooting other soldiers.
There in the local villages there are people who are called spotters. Separatists pay them money, they collect information, give a tip via mobile phone. For Example, when Mariupol was attacked by fire first time. A police major, who works in Mariupol police, he has a mother pensioner living in Mariupol, he gives information, and separatists shell the city. Is it normal?
– How were you affected?
– Donetsk is a hot region. Our battalion was located in Pisky, Malyanka, now in Avdeyevka, and there is constant shooting. Last time two people were killed: the company commander and the driver, they stepped on a mine. I have also suffered.
On November 18, 2015, I, as depot commander at 20:00 waited for the chief of the guard to close the warehouse. We went together to the officer of the day, and I filled out a journal of the guard change. I went out to smoke and a 20-year-old man from Ivano-Frankivsk came up to me. I had no conflict with anyone there. He said to me that he will show me a surprise. He pulled out an iron grenade F1, tore out the joint pin, brought it to my face. I wrested from his grasp the grenade and threw it. As a result I suffered. All this took place in Dimitrov.
My right hand and a finger were shot off. I had a perforating wound, a lot of laceration wounds and fractures. I was immediately brought to Krasnoarmeysk. I lost almost 2 liters of blood, soldiers in Krasnoarmeysk donated me blood. Then I was brought to Dnepropetrovsk on a high-speed Intercity train. I was covered in blood and awoke in intensive care at a hospital in Dnepropetrovsk. Thanks to volunteers, nurses, doctors. After that I was taken to Lviv. There not only volunteers, but all people: priests, monks, farmers brought to eat and thanked me, even foreigners came.
– Did you feel the support of the state or just from volunteers?
– The volunteers visited us. So thanks awfully to them. At first, the volunteer movement was more large-scale but it then decreased. And there is a reason: the financial situation of people. The government raised the price on food and tariffs. Not everyone has the opportunity to help.
The state provided us with clothing. The prosthesis from Germany and the finger prosthesis provided me at the expense of the state. Thanks for it.
The war has united the people of Ukraine. During the war, we advanced in medicine and in the field of armaments as well. Ukrainians developed new types of weapons, which we did not have, which even Russia hasn’t.
– How did the locals react to the situation?
– When I went on leave in Lisichansk in the North Donetsk, it was a city that was occupied, I had such a situation. I was with my friend and with machine guns. The locals asked: “Do you come to shoot us?” I said, “No, we come to protect you.” I explained to them: “I have a house – the State of Ukraine, I have a family – the people of Ukraine. If a person comes with a Kalashnikov gun and breaks into my house, begins to kill and rape, which are my actions? I will protect my family – the people of Ukraine, my home – Ukraine. I do not go with a gun to St. Petersburg, Moscow. They had nothing to say.
– How well do the media report the actions that occur in the ATO?
– Now it’s conducted the hybrid warfare: it is economic, financial (the discrediting of our monetary unit) and information pressure. As far as I know, Russia allocates billions of dollars for the media to supply information to Europe, America. The figures, which television provides can’t be compared with what it actually is. I always said multiply these figures by 10 and this will be around that figure.
– What helps you survive?
– Family is the most important. I realized this after it happened to me. Here were fighters who lost arms, legs. Their wives abandoned them. It’s hard when you are marginalized. I always try and support the guys. Thank you to my family. They told me: “You survived and it’s the most important. Our goal is to put you on your legs.”
Thanks God that he saved my life, it means that I did not fulfill my mission, I must continue. Now it’s the restoration and rehabilitation, and later life will show.
– Is it difficult to return to normal life after ATO zone?
– Many soldiers acquire psychiatric disorders. Why? For example there is a friend with who you passed through the war, and suddenly he is torn to pieces. There is a situation when they drink because of fear, because they are in the trenches for ten months on the front line, and nobody changes them. Each loses their mind in his own way. I’m calm. It presses on the psyche, when you return home and people ask: Why do you go there, or why you did not stay there?
The psychologists say the rehabilitation period is two years. Because there are mental illnesses that may appear after some time, it happens that you see dreams where you are bombed. Each person needs an approach. Marina Kekhter with a professor of psychology at the university came to me, we talked. And they said that I have good speech, I know the psychology (I was a teacher over 20 years) and soldiers would listen to me more than them because I know everything from the inside and I’m suffered.
When different people with different congenital and acquired diseases come here from all over Ukraine they feel normal here. Because in the hospital everyone has diseases. And when you come out, people point the fingers of scorn at you.
– As a teacher of history, how do you think, what went wrong and what are the main problems in Ukraine?
– Maidan passed, the people wanted the best but we have a problem of corruption. If we overcome corruption then everything will be fine. A simple example, when it was needed to accept a single law on the visa regime “E-declaration of income of civil servants.” And what did they do? Postponed to 2017, to have time to hide everything, transfer to relatives, grandparents. A prosecutor receives 10,000 UAH, but he has villa on a million USD. The judges have cars of thousands USD. When the salary corresponds to what is really they have, then there will be some movement. Catch, chain and imprison them. We don’t have this. Even those people that were on the Maidan, wonder why they stand there for? It hasn’t become better, it’s worse now.
But I am an optimist. I believe Ukraine will flourish. We have very smart people. We have developed a machine gun Vepr which is superior in quality and capacity of a Kalashnikov. Kharkiv tank plant is considered one of the world’s best. We have potential, the people, but we don’t have the conditions for the realization of talents.
– Thank you for devoting time for us and sharing your story. Special thanks to people like you who are not indifferent to our country and our future, who defend Ukraine! TKT team wishes you a speedy recovery!
EDITED BY ANDY PROBERT