“I am still listed as missing.” Uzhgorod resident Dmytro Holovaty miraculously escaped from the “Ilovaisk mousetrap”

31-year-old Uzhgorod resident Dmytro Holovaty in 2004 served 8 months as a peacekeeper in Iraq, however, he could not have imagined that he would have to go through war not there but at home. Dima miraculously escaped from the "Ilovaisk mousetrap". Currently, he and other wounded soldiers is being treated in a military hospital in Mukachevo, had some operations on the hand. He still cannot control injuried fingers and constantly hears noise in the head. But the worst thing is that he just can not sleep without sedation, because every night he dreams again and again that he is attacking…

The father of two small children received the first call in the spring – he had to come to the recruiting office and register. The second call invited for medical examination, and the third one, with the requirement to report the next morning, was handed over to Dmytro right near the house, where recruiting officers were waiting for him.

– I was not going to evade the service, only asked to serve with my friends, wth whom I served in Iraq. But I was sent to the 24th separate mechanized brigade based in Yavoriv in Lviv region. I was settled in some room with old iron beds without mattresses.

From Yavoriv Dmytro with other guys went to Rivne military ground, under the authority of the 51st Mechanized Brigade. They lived in tents with rough boards instead of beds. Several Transcarpathians turned around and went home right to the prosecution office. They were already going to announce them deserters, but they soon returned, and then all the soldiers instead of mattresses and pillows were given… hay.

"Nobody told us not to use cell phones"

– Our company commander was only 27 years old, he starred in the television advertising. Absolutely clueless, he walked around with a book from Soviet times, did not know even how to dig a trench and where the car carburetor was. We learned from each other more than from those officers who only cursed at us. We spent about a month at the ground, even had a chance to shoot a little. Then we loaded the equipment and departed to Dnipropetrovsk. There, we were given ammunition, two grenades, a grenade launcher. We did not receive body armor, harnesses, helmets, boots, medicine – I had to buy all that myself.

On the way from Dnipropetrovsk towards Donetsk, old ladies were marking us with crosses, people were waving, some were crying, some were throwing bottles of water. We arrived at night at some hill – our artillery was there. The battalion commander did not say anything, just disappeared. We waited near the vehicle, and then laid there on the ground to sleep. In the morning, we saw that the field around was black from "Grad" shelling. We were ordered to dig trenches, and then scouts came and said that 17 tanks were approaching. The battalion commander ordered to put 10 IFVs on the hill, and sent 4 vehicles to search for those tanks in the fields. What a nonsense – to send 4 IFVs to search for 17 tanks! But we went. We were driving in the fields until the evening, near one of our roadblocks, one vehicle broke down and was left there. And the rest began to return to the base.

We turned off the light, drove back through the fields – and were ambushed. One tank was hit – we picked up the crew and went on. Then we saw that there were no other vehicles, we were alone under fire. So we decided to retreat. After 3 kilometers, the vehicle got into the mud, it began to sink. We tried to drive out, and then jumped off the vehicles and began to flee. Out of the eight guys, only three got to the cow barns that were nearby. We were afraid to call each other, we decided to wait till the morning in a sunflowers field. We spent the night there, alternating each other. Tried to call, but there was no connection. Somehow we managed to send ‘sms’ to friends. Thus, all were found except for one gunner – I still do not know what happened to him.

We decided to leave the field – and came across a hut. An old man ran out of it, begging to not go into the house because "militia" would kill him. We said we would hide in the barn. There, we began to call our company, and they said that the company commander had left them on that hill and they did not know what to do, had been under fire for two day. They then decided to retreat without order, went in the direction of our roadblocks and almost got under friendly fire. The fact is that all vehicles of the Ukrainian army and volunteers was marked with white stripes, white marks were also on the sleeves of soldiers, but no one told us about these markings, no one told not to use phones. We did not know anything, – Dmytro says.

"I just asked God for a chance to see my children one more time"

When the guys realized that the brigade would not come to help them, they decided to break through. Perhaps because of the large number of phone calls, their location was spotted by militants. They began to shell the old man’s house, in the barn, a cow was wounded, a house next door caught fire. The guys removed the batteries from cell phones and fled from the village. They reached the road and after a while came across vehicles of the "Azov" battalion. They picked up the guys and took them to the village of Ahronomichne where the command of their 2nd battalion was stationed. The battalion commnader was not particularly happy about them.

– There, we were sitting in the trenches for four days. We were constantly shelled from tanks, mortars, "Grads". During that time, not a single officer came to us to ask whether we were alive or had wounded soldiers (and we did!), whether we had anything to eat, drink, whether we had ammo. Every day the attacks were becoming closer and stronger. We could not even raise our heads from trenches. On the fourth day, they came up so close that they could throw a grenade into our trench. We did not know what to do because there were no radios, no ammunition, no food. At night, we managed to ran to another trenches and contacted the battalion commander (he was in the village in one of the cellars, drinking milk). The battalion commander said that the terrorists promised "green corridor" the next day and we would leave. In the morning of August 29, a convoy of police, volunteer corps, soldiers of the 51st brigade began to form in the village. We got into an AFV and drove off. When I saw whom we were fighting there, I was stunned! There were about 400 Russian soldiers with modern vehicles against us! The command warned us not to shoot no matter what. They said the Russians would be provoking us. Indeed they shot, but only at wheels. We did not respond.

The worst thing started when we turned on the fork – as we were later told by the Russians, in the wrong direction. It is unclear why this happened, but suddenly shelling from all sides began. Our vehicle was hit, the driver abruptly turned and ran into a tree. The tree fell on my head, I fell under the vehicle. The guys fled in all directions. I could not get up, shouted my friend Sasha to help. He came back for me, picked me up. Together we ran, and people were falling, shells were bursting around. There were many wounded and dead. Sasha and I jumped into the bus that drove past, carrying soldiers. But after two hundred meters, a bullet hit the driver, and a shell hit the bus itself. The door was open, Sasha and I were at the exit, so we managed to get out of it. The other guys started to burn, some were torn to pieces. It was a nightmare!   I somehow lost Sasha could not find him, ran on. I jumped on a vehicle, but it was hit too – ran again, got into a truck. I hid between the cab and body. I shot back from there until I was wounded. I did not feel the pain, even shot with that hand. As we drove on a hill, the truck was also hit. I fell on the road, a shell exploded near me and a splinter got in my leg. I was lying, it was already silent around. Then I saw a man bandaging the wounded. I crawled over to him, called him – he bandaged my hand. I do not remember his name, but I really would like to find and thank him. He was a military medic from the "Peacemaker" unit. Then we saw a Russian vehicle coming in our direction. They were finishing off whoever was alive in the "corridor". Some guy yelled, "Help!" – and they shot him with an RPG. And then, silence…

Our doctor raised the white flag with a cross. They shouted him from afar to drop the weapons and approach them. We were left to lie on the ground and just prayed that they would not finish us off. Some guy was laying near me – he asked what my name was. I answered, and he said: "It was nice to meet you." I can not tell what I felt at that moment. I only asked God for a chance to see my children again, – our countryman shares painful memories.

"Three of the wounded prisoners died in our hands"

– The doctor came back, he said that they were Russians and they would take us prisoners if we surrender. We got up, I helped the wounded walk. When got to the top of the hill, we saw the horrible scene: everything was burning, everything was strewn with corpses. A truck with people was burned down, some wounded were screaming. There were about five hundred corpses, so many (the official number of killed soldiers during the retreat from the "Ilovaisk mousetrap" is 107 Ukrainian soldiers – Ed.).

Initially, Russians treated us very badly, saying that we were mercenaries who came to kill residents of Donbass for money. And they were very surprised when we told them the truth. They even asked if it was true that we, "Nazis", eat children. They were Russian contract soldiers, scouts and para-troopers. Their battalion commander was not a bad guy. He said that we were to blame because we took the wrong turn, without white flags, and tanks were spinning cannons in all directions. The battalion commander then even allowed our doctor to go to pick up the wounded and ordered his men to help carry the wounded. Also he apologized to us.

In the captivity, the hardest thing was to deal with wounded. The doctor could do little to help because he did not have the required medicines. The Russians brought us their analgesics, but they were of not much use. Three wounded did not survive the night, died in our hands. There was one guy, whose abdomen was torn. He was screaming the most, crying, constantly asking for water, but he also died by the morning. Another one had only half of the head left, lost sight. He also suffered very much. On the hill, there were seventeen prisoners, in the village – eighty-five. Some have managed to escape in small groups. The rest remained there in the fields. I’m still looking for Sasha. He is listed both as a prisoner and a missing person. Actually, I am still in the missing persons list, although I have already told volunteers that I was found. I also do not know the fate of my crew – Dmytro looks down.

Source – newspaper "Uzhgorod"

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