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Special Project 15:07 14 Jun 2022

"It has been three months since my contract expired." A soldier from Kyiv shows Donetsk cats and destroys russian orcs

On February 24, 2022, almost every Ukrainian woke up either from explosions or from calls from relatives announcing the explosions. But at the same time, on February 24, the war lasted for eight years. Only the scale has changed.

"Rubryka" covers the stories of those who defend Ukraine on the front line and in the rear. Stories of those who create the glory of the nation and those who bring death to enemies.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"Honey, I am sorry I told you I was conscripted…"

"At nine in the morning, a former colleague called me, but I did not pick up the phone because I recently woke up (I went to bed at 3.30). I immediately opened the news and saw that russia had decided to commit suicide and attacked us again, only this time more openly. I called the commander and asked if he would take me back to his ranks and where I should go."

Then there were quick packing and long attempts to leave the capital for the military unit.

It is what Oleksandr Osypenko tells about his morning on February 24. He is a historian from Kyiv. However, for the last three years, except for three months before the full-scale invasion, he was at the forefront in the Donetsk region. There he defends Ukraine again.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"It has been three months since my contract expired. I spent only three months with my wife. Honey, I am sorry I said I was conscripted, but I could not help it. I would have been conscripted anyway, but the waiting time would have been unbearable," Oleksandr wrote on his Facebook page when he told his friends how he was caught in the great war.

Now the man serves in the artillery mortar brigade, which works with the infantry battalion. Oleksandr has mastered the calculation and now calculates corrections for the projectile trajectory. He is also engaged in artillery air reconnaissance: he flies drones and teaches his fellows.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"The commander laughed that everything starts with machine guns, and I started with a cannon"

When russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Oleksandr was a student studying history in Kyiv. In 2015, he began to think about leaving school and starting the service. However, as he says, he "succumbed to his mother's provocations" from his mother, who persuaded him to study, and his girlfriend, who persuaded him to stay.

But in 2018, already with a Master's degree, Oleksandr finished some "housework", visited a friend in the now russian-occupied Melitopol, and joined the army in the fall.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"I came then with the reservists. That is, I did not have any preparatory courses. The senior officers on the battery trained me and taught me to be a spotter. There is such a thing as a senior gunner. They taught, so to speak, to spot where to aim the military equipment. And so, two and a half weeks later, I joined the army. I was already a spotter and fired from a hundred-millimeter MT-12 "rapier" gun.

According to military rules, one must shoot at least four rounds from a machine gun to swear the military oath. And my first shots were from a hundred-millimeter cannon. The commander laughed that everyone starts with machine guns, and I started with a cannon," Oleksandr recalls.

On his first rotation, the newly made soldier met his future wife. Ironically, when he served in Donbas, the girl lived in occupied Donetsk and was looking for ways to get out.

"We met on Tinder. She literally expanded the search range by just one day. At the time, she was in occupied Donetsk because she did not have the means, family, or resources to leave. In our country, people often believe that all those who remain there are separatists who support russia. People miss the point that you need to have some resources to evacuate.

My wife then wanted to move to Kharkiv. She was saving up money. We met as soon as I returned after the rotation because she had come to Kyiv. And then, about a week later, when I was given a vacation, we went on a trip to Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk. And we got married in Ivano-Frankivsk," Oleksandr shares.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"No matter how reasonable your opinion is, without friends, it will remain unheard"

"Good morning to you! How are you?" Oleksandr writes on Facebook at the beginning of each new day. And every time, he adds a photo of a cat (rarely a dog) taken by him on the front line to his greeting. And there is always a different animal in the picture.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

The man explains that there are always a lot of tails near the military. They seek food, kindness, and care near them. Some are abandoned, some are lost, and some have never had a home. In this way, the defender introduces a large audience to Donetsk cats. His page from the beginning of the service has become a full-fledged blog, where he manages not only to share opinions and find feedback but also to raise funds for expensive equipment for fighters in a few days.

Олександр Осипенко Обличчя оборони

"I just realized that if you want to convey an opinion, you need to have enough friends to spread it and tell about it. Because no matter how reasonable your opinion is, it will remain unheard without friends.

Sometime in 2020, I was first asked to get a rangefinder. I had never done it before, but I tried. And it worked out. Now I do it quite often. We need to help our units and other boys and girls. Moreover, sometimes I help just because I have good friends."

Oleksandr tells how he once launched a fundraiser for a freezer for a training center, where the soldiers simply had nowhere to store food. The amount was small, about 7,000 hryvnias, so the fundraiser was closed in one day. But in addition to this, another freezer was donated free of charge by a resettler from Crimea, who had her own shop there.

Cars, thermal imagers, or quadcopters fundraisers, Oleksandr explains, usually take a few days or a week. But with the start of a full-scale war, the process has accelerated, and the military does feel strong support.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

"I will return home, undoubtedly"

Fighting continues in Donbas, where Oleksandr serves. Defenders try not only to keep the defense but also to keep each other and do everything so that each of them has the opportunity to feel at least a little of the comfort they feel at home.

"When there is an opportunity, I try to cheer up the guys by organizing some delicious meals cooking. Not everyone has this opportunity. Some are on duty at SFs (special units, – ed.), in dugouts, and they do not have this opportunity, although there is also a kitchen.

We have a centralized kitchen, but cooking for yourself and your family is one thing. When you cook for a large unit of 50 people, and everyone needs to eat so that everyone is full and satisfied, it is hard to constantly come up with something super original with the same set of supplies. This is why, after everyone has eaten, you ask the chef to let us cook something for our small team — to get gastronomic pleasure, cheer each other up, and feel that you are at home. Making some usual salads and eating something that you can make at home, but can't here, is very uplifting," says the soldier.

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

Oleksandr sums up: people are the most important, so you must take care of them. When asked about the three things he will do after the victory, the defender hardly thinks:

"First, I will hug and kiss my wife. I will return home, undoubtedly. It is also the first. Although it is clear, it will not be so fast. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I will hug everyone from my family and friends. I will also de-virtualize with those with whom I did not have time before this new round of war."

Обличчя Оборони Олександр Осипенко

The material was prepared within the framework of the grant competition from the NGO "Internews-Ukraine" with the financial support of Sweden and Internews (project Audience understanding and digital support). The views expressed in this publication belong solely to the author.

Матеріал підготовлено в рамках реалізації грантового конкурсу від ГО

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