Военные мемуары “Я был на этой войне “/I was in that war
I’m running. The lungs are about to explode. I’m deadly out of breath. I have to run a zigzag, in our brigade we call it to run «a screw».
Lord, help… Help me. Help me keep this furious tempo. That’s it, if I get out of here, — certainly give up smoking. Flick, flick. Is it really sniper? I’m getting down and crawlling, crawlling out of the firing limits.
I’m lying. The danger seems to be over: it is no sniper, but probably just “randomy”(original Russian word is a kind of such slang, meaning the stray bullets — O.B.A.).
So, now recover my breath, orient myself and move on – to look for the command center (hereafter also the abbreviation «CC» is used to name it — O.B.A.) of our brigade’s first battalion. Just a couple of hours ago a report from them was received informing they had caught a sniper. It was clear from the report that he was Russian and, in his own words, came even from Novosibirsk. Fucking home boy. I together with the recons set off on two APCs to get “the clapper” (a kind of the Russian military slang word to name a POW that can tell some important information – O.B.A.), my yokemate had stayed in the brigade’s head shack.
When approaching the central train station, the burnt and maimed tech (hereafter technique, armored vehicles, the other words, analogues to the Russian slang to name the tanks and APCs are also «box», «armor», there is a slang word «fist» for the tank also – O.B.A.) and many dead bodies are turning up. The bodies of ours, of our brothers-Slavs, all the remains of the Maikop brigade (the 131st brigade — one of the first units entered Grozny — O.B.A.), the one that spooks (hereafter the name of the Chechen militants, original Russian slang word sounds as «dukh» and comes from the time of the war in Afganistan, the Afgan militants were named by the Russians «dushman», the same meaning as «mujahideen», the soldiers made the shortening with the first two letters of it and transformed into «dukh», meaning in Russian «spirit» – O.B.A.) had scorched and shot down on the New Year’s Eve 94-95. God, help me break out… They told, that, when the first battalion had fought the “demons” out of the station building, as a respite happened, one of the fighters, having attentively watched the environs, started howling like a wolf. Since that moment, everybody has been keeping aside form him — a rabid one. Now he charges regardless of obstacles like a bewiched one, there are nothing terrible for him and nothing scaring him. And there are enough daredevils like that one in every unit, both of the enemy and of ours. Eh, Russia, what’re you making with your sons?! We wanted to send the fellow to a hospital, but no way – we can’t even take out the wounded ones, and that one, though being a crank, can still fight. On “The Continent” he would definitely flip his lid.
Literally in a couple of blocks we came under furious firing. The spooks were pounding from above, madly – about 20 guns – but disorderly. With a couple of fighters I had to leave the APC and force our way through to ours. OK, the men had already got accustomed a bit, had been under fire. And at first I could howl as a wolf, just like that fighter. The soldiers were not mature: some ones rushed forwards, but I had to take the others out of the tech and from the trenches only with the kicks and cursing. As for me, it was no problem, all that is behind me, in Baku and Kutaisi – 90th, Ts’hinvali -91st, Moldova – 92nd(the nations’ conflicts on the former USSR territory — O.B.A.) and now again Chechnya – 95th. We’ll sort the things out, just let me get out of this hell. But only sound. If I’m a disabled person, I’ve got a nice toy in my pocket – RGD-5 (a type of the Russian hand grenade — O.B.A.). That’s enough for me. I’ve seen enough what kind of civilian life is provided for our crippled heroes of the past wars having obeyed the orders of Motherland, Party, Government and of devil knows whom else yet during the “reinstating of the constitutional order” on the territory of the former Soviet Union. And now again, we are hammering our own Russian land on somebody’s routine secret order…
All this sped through my mind in a few seconds. I looked back – all my fightes are lying not far away, looking around. Their mugs are all black, only the eyeballs and the teeth are shining. And I’m surely looking no better. I nod my head to one of them and indicate another one the advancing direction – forwards, in zigzags, “screw” and rolling. But our jackets are designed not for somersaulting. The sweat is streaming over my eyes, the clothing is steaming, I’ve the bloody smack in my mouth and feel the pulse in my temples. I’ve devilish plenty of adrenalin in the blood. Now the short bounds stepping on the fragments of bricks, concrete and broken glass. We carefully avoid the open street areas. ‘re still alive, gloria Tibi.
Zapp… Zapp… again! Fuck, is it really a sniper? We’re ducking into the nearest basement. The grenades are on stand-by – who or what is waiting for us in there? A pair of dead bodies. The uniforms seem to be like ours – Slavs. I motion, that one watches the window, and I myself stand close to the doorframe. The second fighter kneels down near one of the fallen soldiers, unbuttons his jacket and vest, takes off the identity card and tears off the cord with the personal number from the neck. The same is made about the second one. It’s indifferent for the lads, but their families must be notified. Otherwise smart alecs in the government won’t pay them their pensions, reasoning that fighters have been missed in action and who knows, maybe have even went over to the enemy side.
– Have you got the papers? – I ask.
– Got’em – private Semeonov, nicknamed “Semeon”, answers. – What’s our route now?
– Now, via this basement, we’re getting to the next street, and then to the first batt (battalion — O.B.A.). D’we have radio contact with them? – I’m asking my radiop, private Harlamov. His nickname is “Glue”. His arms are long, sticking out of his sleeves, like sticks, no any uniform size fits. His hands are disproportionately huge. As you see the guy at the first time, you get impression that torn off gorilla’s arms were sewn on to a man’s body. And nobody can rememer why he was named “Glue”.
Our soldiers are Siberians. And all together we are “makhra”, formed from the word «makhorka» (the name of cheap tobacco — O.B.A.). In the books about Great Patriotic War (22.06.1941-09.05.1945, Hitler Germany against USSR — O.B.A.) and in the movies, infantry is called “the battle fields queen “. In real life, however, just «makhra». And one individual infantryman is a “makhor”. That’s just it.
– Contact the boxes too, – that’s me about the left behind at the railway station APCs, – ask how they’re hanging.
Glue steps back from the window and starts buzzing into his handset, calling for the first battalion’s CC and then for our APCs.
– Everything’s OK, comrade captain, – radiop reports. – “Mound” is waiting for us, «boxes» were fired upon and rolled back for a block distance.
– Fine, let’s go, or we’ll frost down here, – I wheese clearing my throat. At last my normal breathing is recovered, I spit with green and yellow slime – consequence of my many years smoking. – Eh, mamma told me: “learn English”
– And my mamma told me: “Do not clamber into wells, sonny”. – Semeon continues.
There are no signs of the enemy’s activity in the window at the other side of the house, and we run in short rushes, stooping down for almost four times of our normal height, in direction of the train station. The aircrafts are flying over the city casting the bombs and shooting at somebody’s positions from an unreachable height. There is no single front line. The combats are as the hotbeds here and there and sometimes turn into some kind of cheesecake: spooks, ours, spooks again and so on. In one word, there is a madhouse, almost no any unit co-operation. It’s especially difficult to work with the internal forces. In the end, all this is their operation, but we – «makhra» – are doing their job for them. Oftenly it happens that we storm the same objects, having completely no idea of each other. Sometimes we even point the air force or artillery onto IF-men and they – onto us. In the darkness we make shooting at each other and capture our soldiers.
Now we are going to the train station, where about the Maikop Brigade in almost full complement was wiped out. Vanished into the night, with no reconnaissance about the approaches and about the spooks’ complement and number. No artillery runs. When after the battle maikopians relaxed and began to fall asleep – that was not joke, no any sleep for a week and only adrenalin and vodka as the supporting remedies – the spooks came up and shot them down point-blank. All as it was by Chapaev (Vasily Chapayev/Chapaev/, 1887-1919, a very popular Soviet commander in the time of the Civil War in Russia, 1918-1922 who died during an unexpected night attack of the white forces — O.B.A.), who had set no guards. And here either the sentries fell asleep or spooks quietly slaughtered them. Everything was on fire, all that could burn and even all that couldn’t. It seemed like the earth, asphalt and the houses’ walls were ablaze due to the spilt fuel. The people were rushing about in the firey inferno, some ones tried to fire back, the others helped the wounded. Some ones shot themselves not to get into the spooks’ hands. Few ones tried to flee – no one of them must be blamed for that. What would you, my reader, do in that hell on the earth? No answer. That’s it, then do not you dare to blame them.
No one exactly knows how they were dying. Com-brig (commander of the brigade, colonel Ivan Savin — O.B.A.) with both his legs broken made commanding up to the end, although he could have retreated to the rear. He stayed on the post. Lord, guard their souls and our lives…
When our brigade fought its way through fighting hardly to help maikopians, our tanks had to huck through piles of our Slavs-brothers’ dead bodies… And when you see as the tracks of the tanks and APCs chop and hummer the human flesh, how the leading wheels coil intestines of the ones just like you; when a head pops open with a crunch under a steel caterpillar and all around it is sprayed with a grey and red mass of brain – the brain of maybe unaccomplished genius, poet, scientist or of just a good lad, father, brother, son, friend, who hadn’t chickened out and had come there in that shitty Chechnya and, maybe, up to his last moment, didn’t realize at all what had happened; when your boots are slipping on the bloody mucus – then the important thing is to think of nothing, and to concentrate on the only one: forwards and survive, onwards and survive, save your men, because the fighters, whom you lost, would come to you in your night dreams. And you’d have to write up their death notices and body identification reports.
I would not wish my worst enemy to do that work. I’d rather choke in an attack, blasting from my beloved AKS (sub-machine gun of Kalashnikov, hereafter also «subgun» – O.B.A.) left and right opening my eyes wide, than write those horrible papers in a mud hut. Why are all these wars? Although, honestly, no one of us has so far really understood what has been occuring there and what has transpired there. The only goal is to survive and complete the task saving as many of your men as possible. If you don’t do that, they’ll send the others, who, maybe, because of your inexperiency, cowardice and desire to go home, will drop under machine-subguns’ fire and will be ripped up to the pieces by the frags of the grenades, mines, or be captured. That’s all because of you. Do you feel a kind of madness due to such a responsibility? I do also.
Glue noticed some moving in a window of the five-story building, next to the station plaza, succeeded to yell out: “Spooks!” and rolled back. Semeon and I too took cover behind the nearest heap of the broken concret. From behind of his corner, Glue opened up shooting with his subgun at the window, and we began to prepare feverishly the launchers for shooting.
Ah, what a wonderful device is this underbarrel launcher, called lovingly: “launcher”, “launchy”. Although, weight of the device is a bit too much – about five hundred grams. It is mounted under the subgun’s barrel. You can fire straight into the target or launch in an overhead trajectory. It’s actually a small tube with a trigger and a safety pin. There is also a back sight, but during the first days’ combats we became adept at it so much that now easily can do without it. A standard launcher marked GP-25 lets you easily throw a grenade into the smallest window or send it over any building when necessary. In a straight line it throws to about 400 meters, its frags’ hitting area is of about 14 meters. A real fairy-tale. It saved countless number of lives in Grozny. How would you drive out the riflemen, snipers from the upper floors during a quick combat in town? No way. You could try to call for an air strike, artillery and then you must pull out, or try to contact your own «boxes», which, by the way, can be easily scorched by the antitank gunners… And so, every soldier has his personal launchy and he can drive out the ugly foe by himself. The launcher’s grenades possess one other incontestable advantage, namely: they explode on impact. Imagine a combat inside a house when an enemy is situated above you on the upper floors and you throw the usual hand grenade with a time-delay of about 3-4 seconds after releasing of the cotter-pin. Now, count – you break loose the cotter-pin, throw it upwards, but this bitch meets some obstacle and falls right back to you. Only later on about January, 15-17, they delivered for us the “mountains” grenades, or as we called them, “afgan” grenades. This thing explodes only when it meets something hard. Before that moment, some local Kulibin (Ivan Kulibin, 1735-1818, Russian inventor of the 18th century — O.B.A.) created the next thing: if to bang the launcher grenade at the heel, then it activates to be ready, and then you throw the darling far away. And, meeting an obstacle, it explodes mowing down everything alive in the closed room.
Then Semeon and I began throwing our grenades into the window where Glue spotted motion. Semeon was able to hit the target at his first attempt, I made it with my second one. The first damned one met the wall and exploded, causing collapsing of a large plastering piece and making a huge cloud of dust.
Making use of this, all three of us, looking sideways at the five-storey house, crossed running the open area, then, sprinting and crawling, in two blocks distance, were able at last to reach ours.
The dupes being frightened imagined we were the spooks and nearly shot us down.
They lead us to the battalion CC where at we found our com-batt (battalion commander — O.B.A.).
Mature is our com-batt. He is not a very huge man, but as commander and personality is great. I won’t hide the fact that our brigade is lucky about the com-batts. I will not describe the merits and deficiencies of every one, to say shorter – all are the real men. Who was on the service, was in combats, would understand what I mean.
The first battalion’s command center was situated in the railway station’s basement. As we entered, com-batt was desperately cursing somebody on the field phone.
– Fucking hell, where are you charging, idiot? You, schmuck, they are enticnig you out there, and you boldly buy it with your nestlings. Make cleansing up, cleanse up all the area around you! To have no any spook in zone of your responsibility! – Com-batt was yelling into the receiver. – Pull the “boxes” out of there, let “makhra” work! You yourself – stay on the observation post (hereafter also «OP» – O.B.A.) and don’t stick your head out of there.
He hung up the receiver of the phone apparatus and saw me.
– Good-oh, – he smiled.
– God bless you, – I said shaking his hand.
– What’s new in the HQ? Let’s go eat, – he offered, merrily looking at me. To see a familiar face during a war is always a delight. That means not only you’re lucky, but your comrades are also.
Being still in the heat of the fight, racing and shooting, I knew: if I didn’t have a drink at that moment, didn’t calm down, the slight nervous trembling would shake me. Or vice versa the half-hysterical condition would catch with the wish to gabble endlessly… So I accepted his offer with gratitude.
Com-batt set on the shell-box and softly called: “Ivan, we’ve got guests, come on for a lunch”. Then the first battalion’s executive officer captain Il’in appeared form the next cellar room. Thin and lean fellow, the mainest volleyball player in our brigade, although at his job pedant and perfectionist. In peaceful life always smart, wearing perfectly ironed and shiny uniform, now he looked barely any different than any other one. The same sooty, unshaven, having slept not enough.
– Good-oh, Slava, – he said and his eyes shined a little. We were almost of the same age, only I was a senior officer of the brigade’s HQ and he was an executive officer of the battalion. Both of us were captains. We had already had frendship relations since a long while, our wives and kids were friends.
I didn’t conceal my emotions and went straight for a hug. Slowly, my nerves were playing off and I was turning a bit hysterical after my short journey.
I didn’t worry about my fighters, they were situated amoung ours, thus would be wormed and fed.
– You’ve come to take the sniper, Slava? – Com-batt asked me.
– Precisely, who else, – I replied. – How did you manage to grab that s.o.b.?
– This dork has been making troubles for us since three days, – Ivan turned grim. – He made up a nest near the station and showered on us over the plaza, knocked down three fighters and wounded our first company’s into his leg. We had no possibility to evacuate. We fetched the medics over here, they operated here.
– And how is he? – I asked. – I’ve already heard that story about the medics, well done, no comments, but what about the company’s: will he live’n’walk?
– Yes, he will, surely, – com-batt merrily confirmed, – I let him rest for now, the only problem is about the platoons officers, you yourself know it well, so the commanders are too-yearnies (such unflattering word was to name the institute graduates on the two-years service as the officers; in Russian that slang word is a funny word play about maybe «two-yeary», absolutely nontranslatable, some unprestige name of the institute graduates on the obligatory two years military service, in the officers ranks — O.B.A.). But this lad is clear head. A bit ardour though, like Chapaev on his horse (Chapaev was a cavalryman — O.B.A.), wishes to liberate all Chechnya alone.
– What did the sniper have? – I asked. – Maybe, he wasn’t even a sniper after all, you know, could’ve been some daunted unclear local, a great deal of them’re wandering about in the city in these days.
Com-batt and the executy seemed just almost upset. Ivan leapt to his feet, raced to his niche and carried out our, native-produced, SKS rifle. Only the scope was foreign with the untypical bracket, I instantly noticed that, I’d seen such ones before, most probably Japanese. A fine toy.
Pal Palych – com-batt – while Ivan and I were inspecting the carabine, was telling that the detainee had two packs of the rounds in his pockets and they found a case of beer and two blocks of cigarettes in his nest, where he made his ambush. While recounting this, Palych was laying the table: carving bread, opening stewed meat cans and condensed milk containers, salads, heaven knows where those came from, pickles and marinated tomatoes. And, at last, he positioned a bottle of vodka on that improvised table.
Meanwhile I counted all notches on the carbine’s butt: equalled thirty-two. Thirty-two lives of ours cut down. The way the snipers worked we all knew not by hearsay. They met us while we were entering the city, at night, using the old maps, maybe of the 1930-40-s. Though we raced, crushing our heads against the walls inside our APCs, breaking up our teeth due to the furious riding and damning everyone and everything, the snipers managed to shoot off the passing armored vehicles’ antennas dangling about, and it was made at night and in the clouds of dust. Having no radiocontact ours stopped and the officers sent the fighters to check out what was the problem, – at that very moment sniper killed them. The spooks’ shooters have also another ruse: they don’t kill a man, but wound him, shooting at his legs, not to let him crawl away, and wait. The downed men shout and the snipers shoot the speeding rescuers, just like the ducks. Our brigade has lost about thirty men in such way due to snipers, thus we have our special account to them. Amazing circumstance is that the fighters took this viper alive.