Since February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine with war, the battlefield has changed radically. The text below is from https://hvylya.net/analytics/282191-tri-dnya-v-okope-na-nule-ili-na-zapadnom-fronte-bez-izmeneniy-po-ukrainski (Alexander Nezvisky, fighter of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, May 11, 2023) in my translation from Russian.
The longest three nights and two days of my life so far
Recently I visited “zero” for the first time, and I must say that it was an experience… It all starts with unloading. In a matter of seconds, the unit must throw everything out of the car – ammo, water, things, etc. The car won’t wait, if you didn’t have time or forgot, that’s your problem. We barely had time to jump out of the car when targeted mortar fire began. And then you begin to understand where you are, and you also understand that the driver who urged you on during unloading with “kind” words is not an asshole at all, he just wants to live and if he had been delayed for another minute, it would have been the end of him and the car.
Then the fun and very educational entry into position begins. You walk for several kilometers in complete darkness off-road and learn. You learn that taking a cardboard box of stew here was a bad idea, and that taking water in packs was also a bad idea (they all burst during unloading). The ammunition should not be taken by the box, but distributed to all fighters. A separate matter is personal belongings, for example, I’m still at the “fucked up” stage of unloading: sleeping bag, sleeping mat, raincoat, gas mask, rubber boots. The pack of water I was carrying exploded after 50 meters and I could only take a couple bottles from it.
An enemy drone almost constantly hangs above you
And so you walk, and an enemy drone almost constantly hangs above you, and every 2-5 minutes it “arrives” and you fall, pressed into the ground. You meet our damaged tank on the road, you move on, and fear already grabs you behind your back. Where am I going? The tank was hit, and I have only a machine gun. But you’re going. Someone is lying on the ground and moaning: It’s cold, it’s cold, mom. The wounded man is waiting for evacuation, there is no one near him, because if drone sees him, then 300 will immediately become 200, and those who are nearby will too. And again fear hangs on your feet, preventing you from going further. But you’re going.
Why the hell did you guys bring sleeping bags?
That’s it, you arrived to the position.! Rather, go to a cozy dugout and get some rest. What, no dugout? No, this is “zero”, guys here, dugouts are rare. Three trenches balls deep, take positions. The enemy is in that landing and in that and behind that field, anyone can fly in from anywhere. An experienced fighter explained this to me, that he was already in position, and he was 6 days “zero” more experienced than me, but in fact, 6 days is a lot. You also receive instructions, no conversations except in whispers, no movements during the day. Why the hell did you guys bring sleeping bags? What about the balloon? But we didn’t know… You don’t need sleeping bags here, because it’s usually comfortable, but when the battle starts you won’t even have time to get out of the sleeping bag. And the five of us brought three bottles of water to the position, that’s enough for three days, plus two more flasks. We abandoned the ammunition along the way, it was hard. We’ll go get it later. We brought a little food, but you know, the appetite immediately disappeared somewhere.
Everything around lives its military life
It started to rain, and you are sitting in your position… well, let’s say “Swan”, on the edge of the trench and peering into the darkness, and it is peering at you. There is already a puddle under you, but you don’t pay attention to it, there is no time. Over time, the cold comes and you remember that your battalion commander gave you his “poncho” from the rain, so you put it on. Adrenaline doesn’t let you freeze completely, but it shakes you like you’re working with a jackhammer. And everything around lives its military life: artillery, mortars, tanks, drones, enemy, ours, everything flies, whistles, explodes so that the earth trembles and you along with it. A more experienced fighter from another unit reassures: “It doesn’t fly here so often, It whistles over us more often.” And you look around and don’t really believe him, craters, cut and broken trees are all around.
You wait for the morning like heaven
The “zero” training continues, you can already distinguish between our “cassettes” from artillery, from hostile ones from MLRS. You learn to freeze automatically when a drone flies by, maybe it’s ours, who knows. “Zero” does not subside for a minute. Over there at the landing a firefight started, a machine gun started working, it was obviously hard for the guys there. You wait for the morning like heaven, you don’t sleep, although an experienced fighter advises you to take a nap for at least an hour while he is on duty. But you know, when you’re soaked to the bone and sitting on the wet ground, you don’t really want to sleep, and adrenaline doesn’t allow you to do so. You continue to study: summer pants with summer thermal underwear don’t work here, but wet winter synthetic ones work, it’s a pity I sent them home back in May, I should have worn winter boots too.
It seems even mice cannot survive there
It’s morning, but it doesn’t bring relief. It turns out that what happened at night were flowers, but the berries begin in the morning. The orcs work for several hours planting everything, it seems even mice cannot survive there. Cassettes, mines, “Grad” rockets [ rockets from multiple rocket launcher “Grad”], tanks, guided bombs – everything is there. Ours also respond as best they can. And then the assault begins. At first you hear single bursts of machine gun fire, but after a few seconds everything starts firing, machine guns, machine guns of all calibers.
Shoulder to shoulder with your brothers
It’s finally evening. An experienced fighter says that the enemy don’t storm at night, that’s good. But he was mistaken, in the evening a Russian landing party in an infantry fighting vehicle appears out of nowhere, rushes straight into the position, there is a battle, the radio goes off. Later I learned that out of the 11 who disembarked from this “bekha”, seven were immediately covered by artillery. These are the losses there. But this attack did its job, the order is to take up a perimeter defense and you take up position, shoulder to shoulder with your brothers, your legs and arms are shaking, your finger is on the safety trigger, you peer into the weeds, and in your head, you are already mentally scrolling through the options of what you will do if you find yourself surrounded. You’re trying on decide whether it will be convenient to launch a ball from “Ksyukha”, the sun comes out. Lights out, ours have regained their lost position.
You remember that somewhere there is water and chocolate, eat a little, because there is not enough water, but it’s not so scary, it was raining, there are puddles, if anything we don’t die from thirst.
Every buzz of the drone is like a death sentence for you
And then for the first time a drone arrived with a “drop”, you see how the explosives flies on the heads of your friends. As if it missed. Alive? Alive! Ten minutes later it arrived again, this time with a grenade, and hit. We managed to jump out, and it flew in for the third time… Fear consumes you completely, now every buzz of the drone is like a death sentence for you. You peer into the sky and try to see this deadly bird, and it tries to see you. You need to see where it will throw a grenade in the trenches or nearby in order to know where to jump. There is again bad news on the radio, there are 12 enemy fighters in our direction, every weed or branch already seems Russian to you. Our mortar covers thickly, so those 12 of them remained there, as if they weren’t people, but just matches thrown into the flame. The enemy tank is working, our helicopters have arrived, which means things are not going well for us. The voices of Russians can already be heard. The tank is getting closer and you can mentally imagine how it wraps you around its tracks. A shot rings in my ears. How are the guys in the camp the tank’s working at? Ours are covering with cassettes, close, the debris cuts the branches above you, you don’t want to die from your own. It passed again, the sun set.
In three nights and two days I slept maybe 5 hours. You can’t sleep during the day, a battle could start at any moment. It’s cold at night, and you still have to dig.
Rotation, again these damned few kilometers, again drones, they see us. 200 on the side of the road. Lucky, there were no attacks… Almost lucky, the drone knows its job. Already at the end of the path they begin to cover with cassettes, you hug the ground as if it were your beloved girl, and you evaluate what is better to lose an arm or a leg. Lucky.
Soldier who didn’t run away from a position
I’m a lousy soldier, but better be a lousy soldier who didn’t run away from a position than a lousy soldier who ran away.
In general, I could talk about these three days for a week, but perhaps it’s not worth it. Somehow it seems to me that soon there will be new impressions and they will be even more… vivid.
Sorry for the mistakes and confusion, I am writing from fresh emotions.