I meet Valeriy, a former soldier who had been fighting in Donbas for 3 years. He apologises for his bad English and tells me that he only learnt it after trekking through Europe a few months beforehand. He told me how he had walked all around Europe and spoke to people on the way, which taught him enough conversational English to get by. It was a strange thing to do, and I wonder if it was a coping mechanism, and to see the rest of the continent he felt most attached to. Unfortunately Valeriy was also very ill when I was speaking to him and we had to cut the interview short after he endured multiple trips to the toilet to throw up..
DOM- Did you think the war was going to be big?
VALERIY- When the war started we thought it would be finished in 3 months max. But it is still going on.
D- Why did you want to fight?
V- it is my country. It is my problem. I must stop terrorists in Russia from entering Ukraine. In the first year of war it was very… it was original war, very intensive. After 2015, 2016 and now… (He shows me a video on his phone of a battle with tanks shooting towards a building)
It’s a raid, you understand? We attack and win against terrorists [Rebel fighters in Donbas]. But when we start to win, Russian soldiers entered Ukraine and started beating us. They attack, we [went] back.
D- Why do you think Donbas wants to be independent??
V- In Donbas stay many Russian people. The Donbas people cannot think. They cannot make decisions because Russian military are staying in Donbas. It’s a hybrid war. [A term I hear mentioned several other times.]
D- When you talk, are you speaking in Russian or Ukrainian?
V- Ukrainian. Only Ukrainian.
D- But you understand Russian?
V- Of course. It is very cool because in war they can’t understand us but we can understand them.
D- Why do you prefer to speak in Ukrainian?
V- Because I am Ukrainian man! It is my language.
D- How do you feel about the Kiev revolution?
V- Revolution will be in mentality. This revolution in Kiev is the beginning. But after. It must be in the mentality of whole people of Ukraine.
D- So it was good?
V- I hope so.
Valeriy calls up a high positioned friend in the police force, who will be able to drive him back home after he is forced to go to the toilet once more. We end the interview there and I hoped to see him again, unfortunately time didn't allow us to. But I was able to interview another soldier later on.