27-year-old Dmytro Dmytryshyn was a military driver for 7 years that saw him suffer numerous injures and fractures, and even survived a landmine explosion.
Each time, after recovery, he went back to the front lines.
After the last leg fracture he suffered in combat, Dmytro found himself in a Russian captivity that lasted for a months. The prisoner’s exchange happened but he returned to his military service again. And then came another crippling injury. This time he got serious burns and lost his leg.
The military record of the Lunansk native and welder by trade, Dmytro enrolled in the Army in 2016. He served most of his military service in 53rd Brigade, apart from a brief stint at Kholodny Yar and 59th Brigades.
His unit was at the forefront at Mariupol. ‘There were inconceivably much equipment of theirs, some 6 dozen tanks. Somali battalion, tons of armor vehicles. They pummeled us with Sonetspok, Grad, Sau missiles,’ says Dmytro.
His unit had a painful experience when the Russian tanks launched a breakthrough.
‘We tried to mount the separatists’ tank and I was almost atop, when my fellow soldier got blown up apart. I got the leg injury. Our boys dragged me back to the trenches.’
If the unit commander hadn’t called for surrender, they wouldn’t got out of there alive.
‘He put up a sack on a stick and came out. Asked not to shot as we had 300s,wounded. We were ordered to go out one by one. .. I had my leg broken. I could see they had a hand grenade in hand ready. But all of us who went out, 11 men, stayed alive.’
The Russian troops used Dmytro and his fellow soldiers as a live shield to get to Petrivske and later to Donetsk.
‘The conditions at the commandant’s office were awful. 16 men hankered down in one cell meant for 8’.
The Russian officials had his fingerprints, checked his tattoos, and took away his personal stuff like a necklace with a little cross- those were never returned.
After a while, he was taken to Olenivka prison, with a short stopover in Dotesk where the captives are regularly taken to the local Angels alley to be chided over local kids killed during the conflict.
In Olenivka, the Ukrainian POWs were forced to be part of the place repairs. The ordeal included singing the Russian anthem, and, unsurprisingly, different tortures.
Dmytro said he went though 6 days of abuse. “They put me on the DIY- electric chair.. asking the same questions. But can an ordinary solider tell?’
He was also threatened with an automatic rifle while his grilling was taken on camera. The food was scarce – it was ‘water’, said Dmytro, along with a slice of bread once a day.
Then came the day of a new prisoner’s swap. He overheard the word Uspenka, a place at the Russian border and guessed they were going to be exchanged.
‘IN Donetsk, in a commandant’s office, they tied up our hands and put bags on our heads. We, all burnt and with broken bones, some in plaster cast or with bandages. We were banned to talk,warned that if one of us opens a mouth they would stop and a bullet would come.’
The captives suffered for thirst and hunger and had a hard time breathing with bags over their heads.
‘We were hand-cuffed to benches on a Kamaz truck. We were like sardines, packed there, had to sleep that way. . We wer taken to the air field and when we were there they started to intimidate us. Made us go down on our knees ‘you act like a bunny, go hop on your fractured foot’- I had to hop up the passenger loading steps.’
Dmytro was part of the Ukrainian POWs who were swapped at Vasylivka – ‘they put us in a line face to face with their [POWs] and we went toward each other].
While in Kyiv, he got a foot treatment in the hospital and as soon as his foot was okay, he dropped the crutches and headed back to his unit. In mere 11 days. They were stationed in Donetsk region.
This is where he got hurt in a landmine explosion again. ‘We didn’t get to the enemy’s position some 1,5 km -got blown up. The mine exploded right under my feet,’ says Dmytro.
He is now back in hospital. He got serious burns and the limb is gone. He is on a waiting list for prosthetics.
Dmytro says if it were not for the leg issue, he would go back to the front again.