afterilovaisk.com
AFTER ILOVAISK is a documentary project aimed at preserving the memory and rethinking the tragic events that took place in August 2014 near the town of Ilovaisk, in the Donetsk region.
Photo: Yuri Velichko

Oleksandr Sarabun, codename “Vinnytsia”, “Donbas” battalion

Soldiers ran over to us, "Who is this?" "Who is this?" And someone said, "The wounded ukrops from Ilovaysk." The men shouted at him, "Fuck, you should have killed them, they had killed so many of our men!" They started recording video on their cell phones, and someone told them, “Did you think they were a sheeple? They are warriors, they know what they are dying for. And what are we doing here?” I thought, "Holy shit! A Russian man is saying such things."

Heorhiy Tykhyi and Ivan Liubysh-Kirdey

But the box was bad, and at some point the lower part opened, and a porcelain plate fell out to the floor and broke. In this silence, we heard this boo-boom! Everyone jumped to their feet because of the loud sound, we thought that the shelling started. I looked at this and said jokingly, "this is a sign of good luck!". And everyone started laughing. Thirty seconds passed, and an extremely fierce shelling began. We did not have enough time to get to this pantry.
If I were a screenwriter or a director, how would I show the tension people feel at war? I would shoot such a scene. It sounds like Hollywood, but it was happening before our eyes.

Oleh Zharikov, codename “Zhora”, “Donbass” battalion

In the evening, 3 pairs of our snipers came together to decide what to do next: either to leave or to stay. Everyone knew that if we were captured, snipers would not be among their favorites. I decided for myself that I would not leave the wounded. Everyone who was there made their own choice. Half of the Russians did not understand where they were. They believed that Donetsk was part of the Russian Federation, a kind of a regional center in the Rostov region. Then Motorola's men came, aimed their assault rifles at us, flicked off safety catches, and made us jump to "Khto Ne Skache Toy Moskal" [Whoever does not jump is a Moskal]. It all looked like execution by firing squad.

Codename “Pekar”, Oleksandr Pivtoratskyi

I remember those sunflowers as they beat me on eggs. There, on that bridge, were nearly 5 people between the wheels. The left side was covered, between the two spare tires, so it hit into the right one. I was in a bulletproof vest - it protected me from small fragments. A young guy jumped to us, he was probably 18. He was hanging below, I grabbed his arm: "Youngin, I'll hold you, just hold on." I saw fear in his eyes and he shouted, "What will happen to us?!" What will happen to us?” And I look towards the woodland, 30-40 meters away, and they ram right on us. And I realized he was over and there was nothing I could do. And I told him that everything would be fine, I saw him to calm down. He calmed down and died instantly. I saw he believed me during those split seconds.

Finogin Maksym called Lex

The Russians gave us an ultimatum: either we give up, or they shoot us with artillery. We decided to go out without weapons. There were many injured, who needed help. The Russians gave us their word that the day after they would transfer us to the Ukrainian side through the buffer zone and would take care of the wounded.

Codename “Chaba”, “Dnipro-1” battalion

When they grabbed Crimea, I realized they would come to (my - Ed.) home, if not stopped. There were many people saying: "We will fight after they come here." "No”, I said, “guys, it will be too late." Then we will partisan. We were rushing through the field, and then came across a kind of a steppingstone, a hump from the field to the village. An APC was going behind us with a bunch of people. And the APC (falls) from this steppingstone, guys from this APC (fall) under the wheels, and another APC behind it, they squeezed the guys' like tomatoes – squish, squish.

Viktor Savchenko, Codename “Instructor”, “Dnipro-1”

So we were told that we were leaving in Mariupol direction and there were already disturbances in Mariupol. When we were leaving, everyone was silent. The full bus of men, and the silence, everyone thinking of themselves. A young guy, a former police officer, sat next to me, took a loading case and tried to fasten it. I saw he didn’t know how to do it. He then asked me if I could show him. I was shocked. And before that Georgians just told us how to go into a room, how to cover each other, how to roll grenades. I realized there are many people on the bus who are probably holding the automatic rifle for the first time in their lives.

Ivan Rebar, codename “Khmara”

I was injured on August 24, when our “Uncle Petya” [Poroshenko] was organizing the parade. We mopped the first checkpoint, then the second one, the third one. It was either the fourth or the fifth checkpoint. I climbed into a trench, there was a dug-out and three "non-Russians". They started shooting at me. I fired back, and then got injured. I am grateful to the guys, of course, that they covered me, and shot them; only of them managed to escape. At least two of them stayed there.

Chernykh Vitaliy, codename “Fitil”

I also clearly remember how it was at school: the locals were hypnotized: they were thinking that we would eat their children. I am giving her (a local woman – edit.) my last combat ration and she is asking me: “are you going to eat our children?” Well, of course, I’ve come here with the only aim – to eat your children. We started moving to Starobeshevo and entered some village, we turned right and everything began… They were shooting from all the sides. I saw that everyone started going into a ditch. And there I had a soldier saying: “Comrade Lieutenant, let me shoot!” “My dear, start not just shooting, but firing with everything possible”.