“I got to the front at the age of 18.” The story of the Hero of Ukraine Dmytro Kotsyubailo
When the war with Russia began, I did not hesitate for a second whether to go to the front. We, Pravyi Sektor, have collectively decided to defend the territorial integrity of our country.
Neither I nor most of my comrades had combat experience. So from the Maidan, where we have been since the first days of the revolution, we went to the Desna training center (a military unit of the Armed Forces specializing in the training of personnel of various branches of the Land Forces of Ukraine). There we underwent a course of physical and tactical training. In total, about 300 people came to the camp, and half remained. Not everyone was ready for strict discipline, regime, and high responsibility.
I really wanted to get into the 30 soldiers who will go to the East first. And so it happened. After the selection, we went through fire training and went to war. I got to the front at the age of 18.
I knew from childhood that fighting for Ukraine is a respectable thing
For my family, my decision to go to the front was not a surprise. Of course, they were worried. But it was my family who always nurtured the national idea in me. So they knew I would not back down.
My great-grandfather was a UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) soldier. At every family holiday we talked about it, we were proud of it. I knew that fighting for Ukraine was a serious matter. Besides, I have always been interested in the topic of war. Yes, and I had good organizational skills: since childhood, I gathered guys, we made some camps and bases in the thickets, went hiking, and went to the mountains.
“Now you will be Da Vinci”
After school I entered an art lyceum and planned to become an artist. A friend of mine once said to me, “Now you will be Da Vinci.” Later, others started calling me that. I also used this nickname when I joined Pravyi Sektor. It was attached to me at the front.
During the eight years of the war, I was not at the front for only two months
In the first months of the war, in October 2014, I received a severe shrapnel wound from a tank shell in the village of Pisky. First I was taken to the hospital (it seems to be Pokrovska), and then I was transported to Dnipro. There I had several surgeries, a titanium plate that fastened a bone and a broken collarbone.
In a month and a half I returned to the front. At that time, I had an open wound from shell fragments, which I healed myself – covered it with antiseptic, and wore a bandage. The injured arm did not function, but I could not stand the hospital, realizing how active the war phase is now and how my comrades need help. I could not stand aside.
On the first day of my return to war, our company came under fire. Honestly, the day before I did not fully understand how I would behave in the trenches under fire, because I had previously seen that many people who came from the hospital to the front, were afraid of artillery fire. And I perceived that shelling as commonplace.
The Russians fired heavy artillery around the perimeter, turning Pisky into ruins. I remember then under my command were the positions of “three-story building” (dormitory) and the church. We had a task to keep the defense of a certain part of the village. We made dugouts, trenches, fortifications – we were ready for anything. Before us were the positions of the enemy. We did not let them breathe calmly…
I felt that I could be responsible for the lives of my brothers and sisters
In the fall of 2014, there was a battle near the Donetsk airport. We then attacked the height of the “Anthill”. Very close brothers, whom I met on the Maidan, went to battle with me. When the machine-gun fire began, we waited in the shell crates. We clung to each other during the fight, and I often told the boys what to do. Then I felt ready to take responsibility for their lives.
Soon I was appointed platoon commander, and in February 2015 a company commander. So I became the youngest volunteer to receive such a title.
During the war I met my love
In 2017, we fought actively with Russian mercenaries in the Avdiivka industrial zone. One day, at 11 pm, a volunteer called me. She said she brought us milk and some clothes. In order not to remove the guys from their positions, I decided to go alone. That’s how I met Alina. She volunteered from the beginning of the war, and in 2016 became a paramedic. After our acquaintance, Alina occasionally accompanied me as a paramedic as I led the tanks into position. At first we just talked, and then we started dating.
In 2017, Alina headed the medical part of our unit. Therefore, for three years, until 2019, we fought with her side by side. Now from time to time she comes to me in the East. Sometimes I “jump out” on business to Kyiv. Of course, she would like to see me more often, but Alina understands why I can’t leave the front.
We have the right to fight for Ukraine
Once we, the volunteers, were expelled from the front, threatened to be “jailed”, no one wanted to deal with us. It was very difficult. We were constantly moving forward, we had a lot of success, although a lot of losses. We helped many combat units of the Armed Forces and, most importantly, did what the Armed Forces could not. For example, to react quickly during hostilities, to make decisions independently.
We argued that we were not gangs, as some tried to present us. We have proved that we are useful and have the right to fight for Ukraine. And in the end we proved it. The state recognized us and granted us the status of participants in hostilities.
I did not believe that I would receive the title of Hero of Ukraine till the end
At the same time, volunteer battalions are not official armed groups, so they do not claim any state awards. Therefore, the title of Hero of Ukraine came as a big surprise to me. This golden star is not mine, but ours with our brothers and sisters – one for all.
When I returned to the front after the award ceremony, the guys welcomed me and greeted me. But I plan to go home to Zadnistryansk closer to Christmas. Then I will celebrate the award with my family.
I do not have far-reaching plans for the future. I know only one thing – the war must end with our victory, the liberation of all occupied territories, including Crimea. We will go to the end!
My biggest dream is to never lose fighters again.
movie: Steven Spielberg’s “Rescue Private Ryan”;
song: OUN-UPA anthem “We were born at a great hour”.