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

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”.

Volodymyr Ishchuk, codename “Kushch”, “Svitiaz”

Was deadly wounded in Ilovaisk on August 26, 2014 . Mom says that she went to see him off, and he turned around, wiped away his tears and departed. He knew where he was going. Vova attended our church. He often prayed. He had a prayer book with him. The Moscow Orthodox church is near our house and the priest is his friend, they both are of the same age. They were friends; he was helping a lot near the church: to mow grass, plant trees, he was singing at the church choir. And this same priest was burying him.

Khorunzhyi Artem, codename “Grek”.

Summer, everything was burning, and there was still grass on the side, which had not been burned yet. In fact, that was a pretty good summer day; bullets, debris, and shells were constantly whistling above your heads. And you lie and think - maybe you should fall asleep? Well, in this particular situation, there is nothing you can do. You cannot move too. Captivity itself was really terrible. Every day someone was beaten up, they broke people's bones. Nobody knew when all of this would end. You are always on that hook that maybe they would exchange us tomorrow. Or maybe the day after tomorrow. There was some absolutely fantastic gossip.

Codename ‘Filin’, battalion ‘Donbas’

I am very sorry that Ilovaisk is perceived as a tragedy. Since with such tragic perception, we forget about or do not see all that bravery and heroic activity of our combatants in Ilovaisk. Right, people perished, got into captivity, went missing. But we all knew why we went there and realized the possible consequences. We must commemorate those who perished. Ilovaisk should be depicted as the great battle in which people showed the best traits of their character. That was heroism. That was the turning point. Ilovaisk launched Minsk agreements. Ilovaisk compartmentalized it all: what could be done further and what we could do. And people throughout Ukraine say that Ukrainian fighters, people, citizens can protect their country.

Oleksandr Deineha, codename “Chub” [wisp of hair], “Donbas”

I thought that a man who did not serve in the army was not a real man. Thus, when there was such a situation in the country, and when the aggressor came and the hostilities began, I understood that I had to go. Moreover, in the internal troops I had served in the military unit "3027", where our "Donbas" battalion started to be garrisoned. Knowing that I had the necessary knowledge, I joined. I personally spoke with sergeants, rank and file, and a junior lieutenant. All of them were representatives of the Russian Federation. They did not deny this. This besiegement cost us great losses: the dead, the missing. Not only did we destroy the enemy's machinery during those hours, but I saw with my own eyes a Kamaz in which they (the Russians – editor's note) gathered their KiA (dead people – editor's note). We even helped them to load the dead into the Kamaz.

Alexei Rubets, call sign “Aknod”

"No independence to any country was given without blood. We took this country back 23 years ago, now our task is to defend it. And one must pay for it in blood. Go, son." The worst thing about all this was that I promised my daughter to be with her on September 1, when school begins. During the time of my captivity, all these 4 days, I was blaming myself for having failed in my promise. She could not forgive me for a very long time. Probably, she is sulking because of me until now. We made peace though. When I left she was a child of nine, and when I came back, almost an adult girl visited me at Mechnikov (Army Hospital). I can only imagine how they lived while I was gone; Lena went to the hospital to identify by tattoos whether it was her husband or not.

Kravchenko Kostiantyn, Codename Hrisha-Pravosiek

" And how could I keep away from the war when moskals came to my place? " And I caught three mines. The first one was when my finger was torn away, and trousers were in blood, I wanted to place some painkillers there. I was taking out the syringe, and here is the second mine: it broke my arm. I could not make the injection. I already even could not raise the gun. And when I was moving to the school with the broken leg, the third mine fell and there was a blast wave at my back.

Nickname Moskit, “Donbass”, Kherson

"And they were waiting for some kind of mythical “Pravyi Sector”, which was supposed to enter Ilovaisk. They did not hide that they were Russians. They were persuaded that some Bandera men would kill for the Russian language. My communication with them in Russian was a hacking pattern. They could not put together that picture that was in the head and the one that they saw before their eyes.”

Kharchenko Eugene, called Red, battalion “Donbas”

Killed on August 29, 2014 during a battle in the "green corridor" When the coffin was in our home, people came, looked at me and asked: “Why had you, Natasha, let him go there?”. And I replied: “You knew his character, why do you ask me such questions? I let him go there so that you could stand here freely”. He was very active, very accurate in all senses in this life. He was always involved. A fighter for justice." - mother

Liashuk Maksym, “Svityaz`”

Killed August 29-30 during a battle in the "green corridor" I told him, ‘This is a real war. Think of your wife and son’. And he answered, ‘Dad, what will I say to my son when he asks why our country is so small?’ Those were boys with unbroken spirit. I remain in contact with his comrades. And those who are no more – according to their dearest and nearest – those boys were true patriots and devotees. They had a sense of purpose; they believed that it is possible to change the country.