Dedicated to my childhood friend Viktor Telepnev…

Mishka dreamed of a slingshot. A good slingshot with whose help he will hit windows, cats and sparrows. Neighbor uncle Lev worked as a glazier, and he liked it when the glass was breaking in the windows. But Uncle Lev was lazy; he did not want to break the glass himself, so he sent Mishka’s older brother and his friends; for this, he gave the boys cigarettes. And Uncle Lev was also too lazy to go to the kiosk for cigarettes, so he sent Mishka. To make Mishka run there more willingly, Uncle Lev always gave him the first cigarette from the pack. They lit a cigarette, and Uncle Lev patted Mishka on the shoulder and said: “The man is growing!” Such attention, praise, and tobacco made Mishka feel dizzy, and he wanted to do whatever uncle Lev would only ask.

Later on, Mishka was introduced to alcohol. The elder brother studied at GPTU* No. 3, which was a mining vocational school, but was popularly deciphered as “Lord, Help the Dumb One to Settle.”** However, the  brother did not consider himself stupid—it was just boring to study—he used to tell of the stupidity of the teachers, how they could not explain anything, so after the eighth grade he could not go anywhere, there was only one road left—to GPTU. One also needs to make effort there, but the requirements are differen—if one don’t skip, attends classes, sits quietly at them—the mark “3” is provided. If one babbles something, one will get a “4” and the right to an increased scholarship. There are, however, fools who want to study perfectly. Like Tolik So-San-Hee, fucking Korean. He was a good student at school, and here generally became an “excellent student”: his photograph hangs on the school honor roll; he received a scholarship for excellent students—56 rubles, and is going to enter the Polytechnic Institute at the Mining Department. So it will be good to catch him at the dances and give him a “dark” lesson.***

So the brother introduced Mishka to vodka on the occasion of graduation from college. Mother laid the table, dad, Uncle Lev and brother drank Moskovskaya, and Mishka, as a little boy, was only allowed beer. But the brother, quietly from his parents, splashed the youngest with a “little white,” and then he and uncle Lev laughed, watching Mishka’s “twists.” Wonderful are your deeds, Lord. They seemed to be sitting at the table, but when Mishka opened his eyes, it was morning! And he is not at the table, but in bed. And next to it is a basin with some smelly filth. “What, did you vomit?” chuckled the brother.

How good in the summer. One doesn’t have to go to school. Only there is no slingshot. Mom helped out—she brought the spoilage from the rubber-technical products’ plant. She worked there as a cleaner and slipped a lump of rubber threads from a waste drawer into a pocket of her robe. Among other things, the factory made elastic bands for panties—there was enough waste.

Mishka did not dare to break the glass in his village. And whose windows to beat? Neighbors Uncle Ivan and Aunt Pasha? Dad will flog. Uncle Zhora? But it’s scary even to remember him who returned from prison all covered with tattoos. He said to the people: “I will racketeer you now. You have to bring me a liter of ‘pervacha’ daily. Otherwise, I will ‘press’ you!” And the men began to carry hooch to Grishka. Only Uncle Viktor Selevanov didn’t. But once Zhorka’s friends caught him, then beat and stabbed him in the hand with a knife. And Selevan’s hand began to dry. From the best mine welder, he turned into a beggar pensioner. The injury was domestic, so the disability pension was minimal.

Then the school was over. The brother was taken into the army. Mishka went to the GPTU. It’s just boring there without a brother. On a long break, he went to the toilet, and there everything was in smoke. Students are standing, smoking. Mishka did what he needed, approached the smokers, asked in an adult manner: “What duds smoking? Give me a cigarette!“ The guys giggled, and one, a stranger, held out a cigarette: “Here, try it! The first time, I give it for free!” Mishka dragged on, and the Earth left from under his feet. He woke up in an ambulance—was pumped out.

The school’s administration then began to interrogate: “Where did you get it? Where did you get it?” The cop threatened to put him on the register. Mother cried, lamented: “Tell me, son, tell me!” But Mishka did not spill the beans. The cop insisted at the medical board to check all the students for drugs, but the director refused—there is no need for a scandal, he will have to expelled too many, probably—and who will remain in the school? If there will be no one to teach, the school will be closed. The case was hushed up.

The brother returned from the army, but Mishka was not taken away: the compulsory conscription was canceled; there were only contract soldiers from now on. And who needs such a contract if they pay less than a locksmith in a mine. But the mine was also in trouble; the prices were cut, the rate was raised, and safety was no longer monitored. Dad fell under a blockage—his leg was broken in two places and the vertebrae were displaced—now he walks on crutches. So they sat, grieved, drank moonshine—the year turned out to be fruitful for apricots—pick them right under the fences—they roll around, passersby press them by their feet. Mother put a mash for hooch—that’s enough for a long time. They turned on the TV. Ukrainian channels let through—what is there to watch, when there it is—outside the window. The Russian channels are another matter! Whom will Guzeeva marry now? And what is the word on Field of Miracles? Would be cool to “dance with the stars on the ice!” Mishka would have shown himself there!

And suddenly the world shuddered! Maidan, Crimea, Russia! People’s President! Although it was embarrassing that he saw this people’s president at the holiday—he was a mass entertainer, amused the people—he was jumping with bunny ears on his head, in a ballet tutu and pointe shoes. It was funny: such a big male, but fooling. But since the people have elected him, it means he is smart—let him be president.

The brother came running, he says, a military column is coming from Kiev—“zapadentsy”, will block the border, cut the Russians off. People dumped on the highway, closed the intersection at Maryinka and Aleksandrovka—they set up cars; women, adolescents and children were pushed forward—the column drove up and stopped. The officers came out, the soldiers—without weapons, everyone speaks Russian, asking to clear the road. But the people have already tuned in, they blocked the highway along and across, they are not allowed to pass. The police that accompanied the convoy do not interfere—let the military figure it out on their own. Mishka recognized one cop who asked him for drugs, wanted to hide, but the cop noticed Mishka, too—he smiled, winked, nodded to him. The Mishka grew bolder and came closer.

“Don’t skip them, don’t skip!” he whispered hotly and anxiously. “Don’t give a damn to them here!”

Oh, and the police are for us! Mishka thought with delight, walked around the crowd, picked up a dried lump of mud from the ground, and threw it into the nearest tank. They shouted at him, but did not scold him. The column turned around and took a detour through Konstantinovka.

“Come on, come on,” Mishka’s brother shouted after them. “Take a ride while the solarium is enough. And when it ends, we will take this technique from you with our bare hands!”

In the evening, the family watched Guess the Melody; wow, soon we will live like this and sing!

Uncle Zhora dropped in at lunch the next day.

“Well, guys, let’s go pinch the cops, otherwise they have fucking trunks, but we don’t have them at all.” Uncle Zhora looked into everyone’s eyes. “This is unfair. Let them share with us!” And Uncle Zhora nodded for him.

Mother howled, but Dad barked at her, and the boys left after Uncle Zhora.

There were not many people near the police office; most of them were acquaintances, local, but strangers were in charge. They were already with weapons, surrounded the building of the police office and chatting idly with the cops locked in the building. They were waiting for someone. He appeared, and Mishka again recognized the familiar cop, only this time he was in civilian clothes. The cop went to the window, gestured to someone, and the door was opened for him.

Inside the building, the cop was not for long. After a few minutes, he came out and announced:

“We release police officers! Don’t touch them!”

The crowd buzzed unkindly, but Uncle Zhora growled menacingly and said:

“We do as the head of the citizen ordered! We release and do not touch!”

“They will go home, change their clothes and join us,” the cop continued. “And now I will distribute weapons to protect Donetsk from the Maidan’s horses, and we will form our units.”

He found Mishka in the crowd with his eyes and nodded him to him:

“Where is your brother?”

Mishka was delightedly surprised—did the cop know his brother? He looked back at the crowd, saw his brother, waved his hand. He approached; the cop handed them two machine guns and a box of cartridges.

“You will be the commander of the security company; you will be the platoon commander and the head of the checkpoint.”

“I didn’t serve in the army,” Mishka objected. “I can’t even shoot.”

“I’ll teach you,” the brother pushed him in the back. “How many checkpoints will there be?”

“Five,” and the cop named the intersections that need to be taken under control. “Then I’ll tell you more. Call your guys; there are few weapons. When we get more, we’ll equip everyone. Call me ‘Zakhar.’”


It was interesting at first. The brother showed Mishka how to disassemble and assemble a submachine gun and a pistol. Mishka quickly mastered science, even shot at the stadium at a target drawn on the fence, and then at a stray dog. And got it. The dog screamed, rolled and died. It got bored again. Mishka’s platoon got two checkpoints in the Krasnogorovskoe direction. Nobody wanted to fightl there were not enough fighters. The brother allowed Mishka to spend the night at home, and Mishka took advantage of this with pleasure.

The brother arrived early that morning. He was angry, ate in silence, and said to Mishka:

“Take your soldiers and check the waste heap of the first mine and the 24th. There, at night, some kind of crap was spinning, it looks like the guard is not ours. No matter how the snipers were landed. But maybe not a guard–the sound is somehow incomprehensible, quiet. Zakhar said that this does not happen with a turntable. The turntable makes a loud noise with its exhaust, and the blades whistle.”

The fighters mostly made fun of Mishka, but they knew that he was the company commander’s brother, and therefore obeyed. It was decided that only twelve would go for inspection with him, mainly those who would step up to the checkpoint. At first, they all wanted to go together, but then they split up—five went to inspect the waste heap of the 21st mine, and the rest—seven, together with Mishka—the waste heap of the first mine. They talked over the radio, watched each other. At the top of the group, they decided to rest. The guys lit cigarettes and began to examine the surroundings. What’s a beauty! All Petrovka at a glance! The brother got in touch:

“Well, what’s up?”

“Nobody’s here!”

“And here’s no one.”

“Let’s go to the checkpoints,” and the brother turned off the radio.

Mishka’s group descended from the waste heap. The three, taking over duty, walked in the direction of mine number ten. The road to their checkpoint led past it.

The rest went back to the hostel—in the evening, they have to go to reinforcements. Despite the war, the asphalt was well-groomed—there were no holes or potholes. It was easy to walk.

The tenth mine was closed in Soviet times. Its seams were depleted, coal mining was scant, and the leadership, without further ado, reduced the staff, and the equipment and underground coal fields were attached to the first. The bus stopped walking there; the large flowerbed around which it was turning was leveled and rolled into asphalt. There was a small square next to the two stops.

“Smoke break, commander! How long can you stomp without rest?” said one of the militias.

Mishka went out with his subordinates to the bus stop; they went under the shed, sat down on a bench, lit cigarettes. Their rest did not last long.

“Come on, guys,” Mishka tried to seem adult and solid. Everyone got up and walked on diagonally across the square.

A sniper saw them when they were just starting to climb the waste heap. His heart started to beat in hunting excitement. Yeah, are you looking for me? Come on, come on!

Once Slavik was a professional soldier; he graduated from the intelligence department of the Kiev motorized rifle school, fought in Afghanistan in the Special Forces. But the service did not work out, although he dragged it well—two Orders of the Red Star, a lot of thanks and letters of gratitude, but there was no advance, and Slavik asked for demobilization. It was not possible to return to his native Alchevsk—his spouse did not want to. They settled near Kiev, built a house. The news of the Donbass events found him on a business trip. Anger seized his soul—anger at Yanukovych. Slavik remembered his residence in Donetsk—a huge estate in one of the central districts of the city. It occupied the area of ​​almost four stadiums and was surrounded by a six-meter fence with video cameras around the perimeter. Pairs of guards walked around the estate.

Donbass robbed and then coveted Ukraine! thought Slavik.

That time, a fellow student at the school called him. After the distribution, he stayed in Kiev and, they say, made a good career. Without equivocation, he immediately offered to return to the army—but to the army of Ukraine. Yes, in fact, Slavik did not need to be persuaded. They managed to take the parents out of Alchevsk, but they threw away everything they had acquired, the neighbors said, albeit on the phone in a whisper that at night the thieves had stolen everything.

In Alchevsk, the parents felt good—the father as metallurgist had a large pension, they were supported by the vegetable garden, but here, near Kiev, they could barely make ends meet. Slavik agreed, but set a condition—he would work himself, without subordinates, provided by the weapon that he said, and when the mess would be over, he would be demobilized. The command agreed. The M2010 sniper rifle was not searched for long, but almost $15,000 fell off for it. With the pistol, it turned out faster. In one of the warehouses of the former Kiev military district, there was a whole rack with APS. Slavik went through and tried a dozen of them until he picked up one of the many, worthy of use. And he went to the front line. He acted himself, without revealing himself with partners or devices.

There was no helicopter as such. There was a paraglider with a Japanese engine. An improved muffler was installed on it, and the exhaust sound became quieter than that of Toyota. True, the power dropped, and with it the flight range, but the pilot put in an additional gas tank and the problem was solved.

Slavik was dropped off three to five, sometimes even ten, kilometers from the dividing line, at a point that he had previously studied and selected from Google Maps. But the sniper never stayed at the landing site, but immediately went to where he planned to equip the nest and wait for his charges. So it was now—the pilot landed him on a deserted section of the highway on the back of the tenth mine, and he himself, circling and making noise near the heaps of the first and twenty-first, climbed up and went home.

The sniper wanted to check this place because he was familiar with it. Once upon a time, a long time ago, he studied at the 110th school—an eight-year-old, located not far from the tenth mine. Slavik remembered the smells of its corridors, the taste of sour cream and the aroma of buns in the school canteen located in the basement. It was always cool there, and there was an amazing citro, the taste of which was forever imprinted in the boy’s memory. And now the sniper noticed that militiamen were walking along the highway past his school, standing at the checkpoint in the direction of Krasnogorovka. The plan came by itself.

After disembarking, the sniper jogged to the mine yard. The waste heap of the tenth mine had not been exploited since Soviet times; it began to grow overgrown with bushes and trees, the top, after the rainstorms suffered, was covered with cracks. It was deep night, in the village from time to time dogs were barking, but mostly there was silence. Slavik walked around the mine yard along the fence, approached the waste heap, and carefully began to climb up. The location was excellent. The highway from the first mine and the platform between the stops were in full view. The sniper spread an old blanket in the cracks and covered himself with bushes on top. Now it will be difficult to find him even from a much higher waste heap of the first mine.

Morning approached and dawn broke.

The sniper saw the guys when they were just starting to climb the waste heap. His heart beat in hunting excitement. “Yeah, are you looking for me? Come on, come on!” He took out Japanese binoculars with 70x magnification and began to examine his enemies. They climbed up in short dashes, often stopped and rested. Smoke, you bastards, he thought gloatingly. The lungs don’t work. Well, smoke, smoke at last! Now I will treat you to cigarettes—choke.

The militia climbed to the top of the waste heap and began to look around their surroundings. Slavik looked at them through binoculars—they were in full view, he even saw tattoos on the hands of two of them. Slavik tuned his walkie-talkie to their wave and listened to what they were talking about. Yes, exactly, looking for snipers, but not sure. Finally, the militia rested and began to descend.

They moved in his direction. “Why just three? Too few of them…they do not look like searchers. So, to the checkpoint.” The sniper removed the covers from the optics and adjusted the sharpness. The militias appeared. They walked alongside each other, chatting and laughing carelessly. Who is looking for snipers like that? he thought. You need to go in single file, along the fence and look around, and not stare at each other. Eh, warriors… For a moment, he felt sorry for these people, especially the teenager in the middle, but the memory of his native Alchevsk overwhelmed him with anger, and he began to prepare for the shooting.

The militias came closer and closer and came out to the area with bus stops. The sniper wanted to start shooting, but his counterpart suddenly sat down on the stopping bench and lit a cigarette. Just about, have a smoke before dying. And he began to examine his enemies through the scope. Which of you is the eldest? With whom to start? The kid is very young. So some of these two tattooed ones. One is thick and short, the other is long and thin. I’ll start with the skinny one; it will be easier to hit the fat one later.

Mishka and both of his partners came out from under the visor of the stop, but before they could make even a few steps, the head of one of the militiamen flew into pieces, splashing Mishka and the second militia with blood and brains. Those from surprise stopped and were numb, but after a couple of seconds, the head of the second militiaman flew off. Mishka darted about, but from horror, he could not figure out anything. Suddenly, he remembered how an acquaintance “Afghan” told him that when firing, he had to lie down in a ditch and the bullets would fly from above. But there was no ditch nearby, and Mishka flopped down on the asphalt, covering his head with his hands. The bullet entered the back of his head, and the closed fingers did not allow the head to fly to pieces…


* A professional school.

** Господи, помоги тупому устроиться: a comic decoding of the abbreviation.

*** To beat him.