“We are the same age as our country and we will defend it…”. The story of the Transcarpathians, who survived Ilovaisk and captivity

Next week marks the first anniversary of the most tragic page of the undeclared Ukrainian-Russian War – Ilovaisk tragedy. It affected hundreds of young Transcarpathians drafted into the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the first wave of mobilization – in spring 2014. They had to go through probably the most difficult period of the formation of the new Ukrainian army – to serve in a disorganized army, to rely on food and equipment from volunteers, to survive the hell of Ilovaisk entrapment, to suffer humiliation in Russian captivity, and, after demobilization, to fight with bureaucrats for their rights as combatants. Among them, there were Mykola Marchyshak from Uzhgorod and Mykola Deyak from Onokivtsi.

Mykola Marchyshak received a call from the military commissariat on his birthday – April 10, and the very next day, he was drafted to the army. Mykola Deyak and other 62 recruits from Transcarpathia were mobilized on the same day. They were taken to Volodymyr-Volynsky, where the 51st Mechanized Brigade was stationed, and after several weeks of training in Shyroky Lan in Mykolayiv region, they were sent to the ATO zone.

Active fighting near Ilovaisk began on August 10, when our troops tried to recapture surrounding villages from separatists. "A few days before the entrapment, I got poisoned with something and was in a hospital at the base in Dzerkalne. Every night, we were shelled with "Uragans", "Smerches", grenade launchers. On August 24, in the morning we saw at a distance of several kilometers a convoy of unmarked armored vehicles and trucks," – IFV driver M. Marchyshak says.

His fellow, IFV gunner Mykola Deyak adds that his unit was located near the village of Dzerkalne, between the farm and ponds. On August 25th, about 50 Russian vehicles got there and began to surround and bombard them with different types of artillery and tanks. The bombardment lasted 3-4 hours, virtually destroyed the farm buildings, defenses erected by Ukrainian soldiers and claimed the lives of several dozen Ukrainian fighters.

Groups of Ukrainian soldiers, who survived the Russian attack, were roaming Donetsk steppes. "In my group, there were about 20 guys and two wounded. We did not know where to go and tried to find the railroad to Dachne using the GPS in mobile phones. We were wandering fields and plantations for three days. We were thirsty, so went to the village to ask for water. A local resident, who gave us water, said that Russian troops were everywhere and advised to surrender" – M. Deyak says.

The prisoners were told to stand in a funnel near a destroyed house, all mobile phones, watches, precious chains and rings, documents were taken from them. 12 hours later, in a truck "Ural", they were moved through Rostov region to the city of Snizhne and handed over to the "DPR". The prisoners were lodged in the garages of the city police station – 50 people in a box. They had to sleep on bare boards. Twice a day they were given soup or porridge, and on the third day, they were taken to do "correctional tasks". The Russian officer, who was in charge of this sort of concentration camp, warned that for the slightest fault he would shoot them in the stomach and leave them die in pain. On the 21st day, 73 men were taken outside Donetsk and exchanged for terrorists. The next day, they were taken to Volodymyr-Volynsky, where the prisoners were met as brave defenders of the Motherland, and from there four Transcarpathians – Mykola Marchyshak, Mykola Deyak, Anatoliy Reichel and Vitaliy Furdela – were brought by MP Valeriy Patskan to Transcarpathia. The guys say that in Volyn they were met by thousands of local people, and in Uzhgorod – by several dozens. But the sincerity of the few countrymen, who came on September 17 to the square to honor them, totally surpassed the formal presence of thousands of indifferent people…

After a brief treatment in Mukachevo hospital, the guys, who survived the tragedy, were transferred to serve in military units stationed in Transcarpathia, and after the mobilization term had expired, they were discharged from the ranks of the Armed Forces.

Overcoming solidly built bureaucratic "roadblocks", the 25-year veterans spent a lot of time and efforts to obtain the status of ATO participants, one-time financial assistance, and land from local authorities. 

Life vectors of yesterday’s fellow defenders have radically diverged. Mykola Deyak is living together with his disabled father, postwoman mother, younger sister and two young nephews in an old, modest house, above which a blue and yellow flag is flying – the only one on Holovna Street in Onokivtsi. He says he would like to serve in the border guard service, but is afraid that they will send him to the ATO area again… He is quite avoidant in communication with fellow villagers, receives no assistance, does not have a permanent job, and it is unlikely that he will be able to find his place in this cynical, cruel world without the help of caring people.

Mykola Marchyshak, on the contrary, is getting firmly settled in civilian life. He has just become a part-time student of the Law Faculty of Uzhgorod National University, has applied and is preparing to the selection to a new unit of Transcarpathian police, founded together with fellow soldiers a public organization designed to promote the development of the country and to support other fellow soldiers. He not only radiates confidence, but also gives the reason to believe that such young Ukrainians, who had to grow up early and to survive severe hardships, have the abilities to build the future of Ukraine. 

The communication with the heroes of Ilovaisk inspires faith that for those young people, who were willing to die for the homeland, such concepts as "patriotism", "country" have a very specific value. "We are the same age as our homeland. Having defended it from invaders, we will defend it against the internal enemy too" – these guys say now. And I believe them much more than the official guarantors of our statehood…

Source – Den

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