<b>Ivan Zhuravlyov, from Cherkassy region</b><br>
Main Military Hospital, Kyiv
When the Crimea was virtually taken from us and when it became clear that Luhansk and Donetsk were next to follow, I got enrolled to the second battalion of the National Guard. After some training in Novy Petrovtsy, they sent us to Slavyansk where we spent almost 40 days working at the road block stations, in Bylbasovka, and near Slavkurort. We were among the first who entered the liberated town and hoisted the flag on the local administration building. It was very surprising to see people coming to us and saying thank you. Some of them even reproached us for not liberating them for so long. We didn’t expect this attitude, as it was very different from what we had been told.
Then we had a rotation. After we came home, they sent us to the first battalion, but we decided to join the armed forces instead. My friends and I ended up in the 42nd battalion of anti-terrorist defense. They told us to go to the direction of Saur-Mohyla and hold out there for two or three days until replacement. However, two, three, four days passed, and nobody came to replace us. We watched everybody retreating, while we received an order to keep our position. We found ourselves in the face of constant shelling and tank attacks. There was practically no time or opportunity to get some sleep.
On the seventh day we almost ran out of water and ammunition. Several people, including me, were wounded, but we had no other choice but to keep on fighting. Timur Yuldashev was among us. Although his eyesight was badly damaged, he kept on fighting relying only in his hearing. Finally, we decided to retreat, when a civilian car managed to get through to us to take away the wounded, including me.
We understood that they wouldn’t let the car back, but on the other hand, the rest of the unit wouldn’t be able to retreat together with the wounded. So, we decided to take the risk. That was a hard trip indeed. Suddenly, a BTR appeared on the road right in front of us, and the last thing I remember was that we were all thrown out of the car. When I came round I understood that they were beating and frisking us. They took me prisoner and killed the others.
I was put into a car and taken somewhere in the direction of Donetsk. Once they stopped to dress the wounds. First, they brought me the building of National Security Service, then to hospital, where they stitched me up, and after that back to the first building. When I still had my stitches on, they didn’t interrogate me, but after the sutures were removed, the interrogation began. They would beat me and torture me all the time during the whole month. Four weeks. After that they exchanged me for somebody else apparently. They told me that I was sentenced to be shot though. It was only when I saw some journalists and people from OSCE, that there appeared some hope.
However, being prisoner is nothing compared to the terrible feeling when you know that my friends are still there and I can’t help feeling guilty about it.
I am a common man and I wanted to protect my country. I didn’t want the Crimean scenario to repeat in Luhansk and Donetsk. I didn’t want the war to happen in my motherland. I haven’t thought about my future life yet. If I am still capable of military service, I will back to war.