Photo: Maks Levin

Anna Ilyushchenkova, codename Murka, “Donbas” battalion

I went to war as a health professional in July 2014. I had information that there was a real need for health professionals in the “Donbas” battalion. I could not stay in Odesa while the guys were dying there.

Until 2014, I had been doing some business, and medicine was more like a hobby, for a few hours a day. 

From the very beginning of the conflict, I was helping in the military commissariat. Once a brother of a KIA came to us and asked hysterically to enroll him, so that he could die like his brother. And when we calmed him down a little, he said,

“You sit here in your white coats, and there’s no one to even put the wounded on a drip there.” I remember these words until this day.

I was surprised how this could be true. I gave this man my number, and sometime later I got a phone call and was asked whether I could come. My vacation was just beginning, so I agreed, because I had given a promise. This is how I got to Kurakhovo.
I didn’t say anything to my relatives, because they would have started to dissuade me. I called my son, when I was already on my way. I was going there for a while.

The first anniversary of the Ilovaisk tragedy, a meeting on Mikhailovskaya Square, Kiev.
August 29, 2015. Photo: Maks Levin

In Ilovaisk, the main problem for me was that I was an anesthetist, but not a surgeon. If there had been a surgeon in Ilovaisk, then Kushch and Kotik would have most likely survived. There was a catastrophic lack of people who knew how to use a scalpel.

As for health professionals in Ilovaisk, there was a psychotherapist Dryn, Mary and I, paramedics Yar, Veterok, Mikhtey, and Koshka — they all did a great job. In the last days, we did not have enough solution, did not have enough nalbuphine (an analgetic – editor’s note), there were little haemostatics, but we had enough syringes and bandages. I tried to leave as much as possible for the exit.

“Murka” assists Ishchuk, codename “Kushch” in the basement of the school. The wound was fatal.
August 25, 2014. Photo: Markiian Lyseiko

I almost do not remember the time before the exit. All the days mixed up, and it was difficult for me to determine what happened on which day. I remember how we fell asleep on August 29, how Filin said that we would set off at 4 a.m. Filin came up and said that we had to look for transport for ourselves, because the medical evacuation vehicle was smashed. Veterok started searching and agreed with “Dnipro-1” that we would leave with them. It so happened that Veterok, the guys from “Dnipro”, and I left Ilovaisk at 6 a.m. – it was already starting to dawn. We were driving separately from the “Donbas”, which had departed earlier.

If “Shakhtyorsk”, “Kherson”, and “Dnipro” had not left, I think Filin would still have stayed in Ilovaisk. He was constantly holding back and said that there was no agreement yet, that there was no telling yet.

“Murka” (left) and “Veterok” (center) assist the wounded local.
“Therapevt” (right in the doorway) advises a woman,
which is hiding in the basement of the school from shelling.
August 27, 2014. Photo: Markiian Lyseiko

We did not go to Mnohopillia, as I thought we would, but to Ahronomichne instead, and stood there for about an hour. We even plucked some red apples there. I had a walkie-talkie, on which we heard from the guys that they were planning to battle their way through. Then it was already clear that they wouldn’t just let us out. I still cannot understand why we didn’t decide to come back; we could have saved more people.

About half an hour we drove more or less easily, we drove past some checkpoints where people waved at us, and we could not understand what that meant. In Mnohopillia, Dryn and Nestor joined us. Then the shelling began in some small village. We jumped out of the car and then jumped back in.

Then the madness began: people were shooting from all sides, and we were in the middle of the field. Taras drove across the field, over bumps, at a frantic speed, we overtook the column. Thanks to Taras, we slipped by, and everything was already exploding behind us.

Photo: Murka writes in the journal the nature of the wounds and callsigns before the evacuation of the “300s” on August 26, 2014
author Markiian Lyseiko

“Dryn”. Photo: Maks Levin

At some point, I felt I received a wound in my side. Everyone got out of the car quickly, but I could not get up. Veterok came back to take me, thanks to him I am alive. Then that car exploded. Veterok continued to drag me. I knocked out. When I regained consciousness, I saw Dryn, Nestor, and the guys from “Dnipro” walking with their hands raised. I realized that they ran into a forest, and the enemy was already waiting for them there and began to walk them out.

Dryn had a wound in his “bottom”, Nestor’s leg and arm were wounded, Veterok had an arm wound, and we were told that Taras was dead. Then I remember that Veterok helped me, he began to bandage me.

I cannot understand where I got the bullet in the back, the arch, the spine. I do not remember where I got a fragment in my left thigh, in the hands: I don’t remember this moment at all, there was no pain at first, I only felt it about an hour later.

At the site of the execution of the Ukrainian military in the “green corridor”, near Novokaterinovka. September 2014 Photo: Anatoly Boyko

Veterok dragged me to everyone else, and first of all our enemies began to take everyone’s phones away. I regained consciousness when I saw Veterok digging a trench. After some time, an armored personnel carrier arrived, Veterok took the medicine, they loaded me into the armored personnel carrier, which was extremely hot.

The entire field was strewn with bodies. The car started: Veterok and Dryn were crying. We reached some village, they carried me to a tank, I asked them to leave Veterok with me, but they refused. I was taken somewhere, pulled out at some checkpoint, put on a drip, and given anti-inflammatory medicine. Some Aleksey from Ivanovo with a wound to the stomach lay near me. They once again drove us no one knows where, across the fields. I had been given an injection of a good painkiller, because I did feel pain, but it was dull. On our way we stopped and picked up the guys. It seemed to me that we drove for a very long time.

We were brought to a very cool hospital, a Russian one. I realized that they were Russians because of their words, “Why do you need all of this? You’d better come to us, to Baikal, to our lakes, rather than fight here”.

 I had yellow stripes on my clothes, and they noticed this when they were loading me into a helicopter. As soon as they saw the stripes, they returned me back and threw me to the ground.

The nights were very cold. In the morning FSB employees interrogated me, they said themselves that they were from the Federal Security Service. They knew our guys’ codenames. During the interrogation, I said some nonsense about going to my sister, that my sister lived there, but I didn’t get there, that I was there accidentally and did not know any codenames.

At the site of the execution of the Ukrainian military in the “green corridor”, near Novokaterinovka. September 2014 Photo: Anatoly Boyko

They wanted to exchange us, but there was no one to take us away. Two days passed, they drove us for a very long time and threw at a checkpoint. There was also a colonel from “Dnipro-1”, Lyonya from “Dnipro-1”. I was left at three checkpoints, and at the last one there was already Alina, Prizrak, Aleksey. They kept me there for two more days, where I lay on bare ground.

The last time I received medical care was before they carried me to the helicopter and at the first checkpoint. Alina and I were given dry rations to eat; men were kept in a separate pit. The next day they said that the Red Cross would take us. We were carried to the road, but no one came, so they brought us back.

Some man driving a Zhiguli car offered to take me to a hospital. I was exhausted and was ready for anything in order to get to a hospital, but Alina did not want to let me go, she said that this was a separatist. In the place where we were kept, there was no medicine. Then we also stayed in Starobeshevo for a long time. When we entered our territory, Koshka?? met me, but I did not recognize her at first, because she had aged a lot.

On September 1, on the hot line my child was told that I was dead, they messed something up. Then we were taken to Rozovka, and from Rozovka to Mechnikov (Mechnikov Hospital, Dnipro – editor’s note) by helicopter. I am grateful to the doctors from Lithuania, they took me and saved my leg, because it was already starting to get infected.

Photo “in memory” before the release of the “green corridor”. August 28, 2014. Photo: Maks Levin

I had a gunshot wound in my lungs, a bullet got stuck in my spine. There is still either a bullet or a fragment somewhere near my liver. There are also minor injuries that I do not take into account. In general, I had more than 6 operations. I returned to Odesa in February 2015. I started walking in Lithuania, but with a stick. Even though I was told that I could not get out of bed, I got up, was walking, loosing consciousness. 

When I was brought to Rozovka and was bandaged, I asked whether I would be able to dance. I really like to dance. I knew for sure that I would survive.

The story about Lithuania was interesting, because only war veterans or ATO participants were taken there. “Kalash” from the “Donbas” confirmed that my name was on the order dated August 11. First we flew out, and then we had to transfer the documents. “Kalash” disappeared, they just forgot about me. I am grateful to the Consul (Ukrainian Consul in Lithuania – editor’s note). He kicked up a stink, invested in me. I was the patient whose treatment was most expensive. I had the largest number of operations, and there are no documents and confirmations.

Having obtained a certificate from the “Donbas” battalion, I started obtaining a certificate confirming the status of a war veteran. Only two years later there were some changes in this regard. “2+2” TV channel made a project where they visited all the offices with me – there was no help from the state at all. Certificates issued to me in Lithuania were not accepted there. We began to appeal to people’s deputies. We found an article according to which you can notarize a certificate issued in Lithuania, and then it would be possible to get a sick leave certificate in our clinic. For a long time, we were looking for a person who had a license to make translations from Lithuanian. I still have this certificate. Nobody paid me the sick pay; I just wasted my time.

Meeting with fighting friends, the first anniversary of the Ilovaisk tragedy, August 29, 2015, Kiev. Photo: Maks Levin

In December 2016, I obtained a certificate confirming that I was a war veteran, but there has been no payments. I underwent rehabilitation only thanks to my friends who are volunteers.

This year, my son graduated from a naval lyceum, he is interested in IT, but still has not decided what to do in the future. 

I am currently supervising the program of the provision of assistance for war veterans and their families, which was organized by the Norwegians: training in IT technologies, creation of business projects, hotel business, development of business plans. There will be a contest of business plans, and those who will be selected will receive support for the next 10 years.  I am also a volunteer.

In 2014, when it all began, I believed, and still believe, in the future of our country. Especially after visiting Lithuania: they also had their own revolution, they managed to break that system, people there live better than people in our country.

But the deception still continues here. We had a case recently: a person’s leg was amputated, and he was deprived of the third category of disability. Of course, when we got involved, he did receive a certificate confirming his disability. But money talks everywhere. It makes me terribly sad that the guys died there, that they were fighting for the bright future of Ukraine, and we take extremely small steps forward. I understand that there are changes, but they are too small.

At the grave of “Franco”, who died near Ilovaisk. 2015 year. Photo: Maks Levin

As for Ilovaisk, the most difficult moment for me is that I could not save Volodymyr Ishchuk, I did not perform drainage. I was explained by phone from Kyiv how to do this, but I hesitated to do this and did not take the risk, and I could have saved a person. I was reproaching myself for not watching surgeons’ work when I had been an anesthetist. 

My whole business has fallen to pieces. While I was gone, the goods expired, everything was lost. I am currently trying to restore everything. I still have some contacts, and some people found out about me from the TV.

I also lost my home, since I could not pay for my house because of the loss of business, and I was kicked out to the streets. Thanks to our volunteers, we found a room in a psychological and rehabilitation center for immigrants, where I currently live with my child. But you can only stay there for a certain period of time, namely for four months. And they have already been keeping me there for a longer period of time, since I have nowhere to go. I will try to earn money.