The young soldier learned the art of war easily. Camouflage and high shoes were his; once upon a time, his father and brother gave them to Gonya. The platoon commander gave him a helmet and a machine gun. True, the helmet was SSH-40,********** the Red Army six-rivets*********** of the Great Patriotic War, and the Kalash************ was spitting fire from under the box. The platoon commander reassured him that there will be new ammunition and weapons: “We will replace it.”

Gonya learned quickly to shoot a machine gun, a pistol, to throw a grenade and to set a stretch.************* But the mines—anti-personnel, anti-tank—command did not even trust to the company commander; he might blow up himself, act eccentric when drunk.

It was interesting at first. New friends, a money allowance of 15tr: what was not to love? They were officially forbidden to drink, but the boys sometimes took on the chest before going to bed…soldiers abducted prostitutes, they agreed; a thousand per client at a time. They lined up.


And then Gonya saw the grimness of war. It is not known how the Ukrainians found out that the company of militias was being housed in a former cinema; however, their artillery attack was sudden, and although the accuracy of the worn guns was deplorable, they nevertheless inflicted damage on the militia. Two shells pierced the roof of the building and exploded inside, concussing, disfiguring, and killing the soldiers there. A whizbang detached the company commander’s legs; a corpsman dragged them with tourniquets and injected promedol.**************

Several shells fell on nearby civilian houses, while the rest were scattered around the area without causing harm. The wounded were sent to the hospital, the dead began to be collected; Russians were to be sent home to their motherland, while locals were to be delivered to their relatives for burial.

Gonya was lucky: the platoon commander sent him for water before the Ukrainians fired, and Gonakov not was in the cinema. When Gonya heard the cannon shot and the howl of a flying projectile, he fell into the nearest ditch and, clutching his head in his shoulders and covering his neck with his fingers, lay in it until the end of the raid. From the dead, Gonya got elbow pieces, kneepads, body armor, and a brand new AKM*************** with an under-barrel grenade launcher.

The next day, he was brought his cash allowance. The new company commander ordered everyone to take the money of the wounded to the hospital and decided to squander the money of the perished on prostitutes and alcohol. “But, guys, we live once! Yesterday them, tomorrow us!” said the platoon commander.


At the end of the week, Gonya entered the sentry unit, protecting the battalion headquarters and the pit. The soldiers brought the captives. The commander of the battalion, nicknamed “Givi,” ran out and began to scream so that the captives would quickly jump to the ground from the KAMAZ**************** body.

All the dills***************** were already beaten, and they did not have the strength to quickly follow the instructions. This angered Givi, and he nodded to the two fighters to climb up and help the prisoners leave their bodies faster. Brave warriors jumped over the wheels and began to throw captives out of the sides. Finally, the Banderites****************** were subdued.

The battalion commander began to circumvent the formation and pluck chevrons from the dills. He popped them in the mouths of captives and forced them to swallow; they obediently began to chew. But among the prisoners was an officer, a colonel; he turned away and the chevron just glided over his cheek.

This infuriated Givi, and he hit the colonel in the face with all of his strength using a pistol hilt. It became obvious that this blow was enough, because the colonel collapsed to the ground and blood flowed from his broken nose. The battalion commander jumped and, with all his strength, struck the lying man in the stomach with his boot. The colonel, wheezing frantically, began to exhale air and curl up. Givi ran to the other side and hit the colonel in the lower back.

It was not known how this would end, but an SUV flew into the yard and a military man jumped out of it with guards. Gonya had repeatedly seen him before. The strange man did not occupy any position in the structure of the battalion and did not wear shoulder straps; however, the battalion commander, the chief of staff, and the company commanders unquestioningly followed his instructions. Friends said that this was an adviser from the Russian army. “Where are the captives?” he cried out while on the move. Givi staggered back from the prostrate man and circled the lineup with his hand. “Why does this one lie down??” The instructor jabbed the colonel with his finger. “Again mocked?” He turned to the battalion commander. “I warned you not to beat captives.”

The instructor went to the lying man, took the colonel by the forearms, and jerked him to his feet. He was still in a state of grogginess and poorly understood what was happening. “The orderly!” the instructor barked. “Salvage!”

A paramedic with a sanitary bag ran out, took a piece of cotton wool from it, dipped liquid from a vial, and put it under the nose of the colonel. He jerked his head, recoiled, and his eyes began to take on a meaningful expression.

Suddenly, the instructor and the colonel met their eyes and began to look at each other as if they were familiar.

“Andrei? Andrei…” at first, inquiringly, and then the instructor wheezed out the affirmative.

“Did you figure it out?” answered the colonel. “I thought you were pretending not to know me.”

It was hard for the captive to speak; when he blew his nose, blood clots flew out of his nostrils. He lowered his head, and drops of blood began to fall from the tip of his nose to the asphalt.

“Paramedic!” the instructor barked again. “Help him out. Stop the blood. I’ll take him with me,” the adviser said now to the battalion commander. “Come on, I came to talk. The rest of the prisoners, put them in the pit. We will interrogate them afterwards.”

The battalion commander, the chief of staff, and the adviser went to the headquarters, put Gonya near the door, ordered not to let anyone in while the meeting was in progress. But it was stuffy, the door was ajar, and Gonya heard snatches of conversation.

“You know him?” Givi asked the adviser.

“A childhood friend,” he answered. “When we were the boys and lived together in the same garrison, in Lialichi. Have you heard about this? In the Far East. His dad was a battalion commander like you, and my father is his chief of staff.”

The DPR battalion commander liked that he was compared to the Soviet battalion commander.

“What next? What happened next?” Givi asked pleasantly.

“Then they were thrown into Afghanistan. From Afghanistan, the Soviet leadership took the battalion out to Pushnaya, near Severomorsk. Then the fathers demobilized. His father went home to Hohland,******************* settled near Kiev, while mine went to Voronezh. Sometimes the fathers met on the Day of Withdrawal, in February. Then the Donbass butchery began, they stopped meeting; those in Ukraine were embittered, those in Belarus were alert.”

“Well, I didn’t know.” Givi grinned.

“What did you not know?” The adviser bristled. “That you can’t beat the captives?”

“Everyone is beating prisoners,” Givi retorted. “The Ukrainians, too…”

“Did you see the parade of captured Germans in Moscow?” The adviser’s voice began to take on a steel hue. “Their faces? Was there even one beaten face?”

“So it was there,” Givi persisted. “We have it here. Dills also hit us.”

“I’ll give it to you, a moron, I’ll hand over you to Bandera; you will experience it in your own skin. When was the last time you were at the checkpoints?”

“What am I supposed to do there?” screeched Givi. “I am a battalion commander, I must command and not climb an advanced line.”

“That’s exactly what you do: command, and not capture prisoners and prostitutes to pin!” The adviser kick-slammed the door, and Gonya stopped hearing what they were talking about.


In the evening, two trailers with tanks arrived. The tanks were pulled away by winches so that the engines would not roar. Between the tracks and the rollers, soldiers put rags and thin branches to prevent the caterpillars from clanging. The tanks were disguised so that the dills would not figure out what was going on. The trailers left for the city. As soon as it got light, the same trailers brought two more tanks.

In the morning, when the village began to come to life, and the atmosphere was filled with the noise of cars, the signals of horns and the cries of people, the tanks slowly, one at a time, drove to the starting line. Gonya, by that time, was considered an experienced fighter and realized they were preparing to attack. A platoon commander came and confirmed that there would be no breakfast, there would be a small offensive; they needed to take Kolomlinnoye.

Everyone had heard of this village. The dills used it as a springboard for operating reconnaissance and sabotage groups. Snipers and mortars were often fired from its territory at DPR soldiers. But there were few enemy fighters according to intelligence observations. The battalion commander decided to free this village, set a task for the company, and seconded a tank group to it.

Gonya looked around. The commanders had summoned the whole company. Each tank was given a platoon, and only one tank was left without soldiers. They decided that it would go along the section of the ring highway in order to slip through the dangerous place as soon as possible and go into the flank, where the dills would not expect them.

Two tanks would go along dirt roads along the forest belts, while the third would go through the dacha******************** village between these.

An armored personnel carrier drove up with a company commander. The officer moved to the dacha’s tank, but suddenly looked around and asked: “But why did they not take the banner? How can it be without a banner?” Goni’s heart trembled; he remembered the flag of the DPR, standing in the corner of their barracks, and, shouting, “I’ll bring it now,” ran to the location.

When he returned, the commander ordered him to climb onto the armor of the tank and said: “You will be a standard-bearer.” Gonya was happy: a childhood dream had come true.


The company commander signaled. The tanks roared their engines. As planned, one of them rushed out of cover on the highway. The second and third platoon ganged along with the tanks along the forest belts. Goni’s platoon lined up in a chain and followed before his own tank through the dachas.

The first trouble came as expected: a luminous drop the size of a bucket flew out of the bushes and began to rapidly approach a tank rushing along the highway. “ATGM[1]…” said the comrades. Although the speed of the tank was high, the drop moved faster and began to overtake the tank.

Everyone froze, watching an unusual sight. The drop almost stuck into the tank as the dynamic defense worked on board; everything was mired in clouds of dust and the drop disappeared. “Wow…” the company commander breathed.

But as soon as the tank on the highway left the cloud of dust, already from the other bushes the exact same drop flew out and just as quickly rushed to the tank. “The end!” cursed the commander. A drop dug into the tank; it continued to rush forward for a fraction of a second, then an explosion rang out inside the tank, the tower came off and flew up to the height of a three-story building, and the hull itself began to burn.

A tank moving along a forest belt hit the bushes where the ATGM operators were sitting. It was hidden from them by trees, and ATGMs could not get it. After the first shot, along with a scattered bush, some debris flew into the air, and Gonya realized that they had covered one of the ATGM calculations.

Some people dressed in camouflage ran from distant summer cottages. Gonya realized that the enemies were fleeing from them. He was having fun, and he was seized with ardor. Behind him, an armored personnel carrier drove onto the hillock and began to shoot in short bursts from the KPVT.********************* It was seen how the tracing lights of bullets overtook those fleeing, and they fell to the ground.

But it did not last long. An attic window opened on one of the summer cottages, the trunk of the boot********************** popped out, and a grenade flew towards the APC.*********************** After a moment, he winced, like a tank, its turret flew into the air, and clouds of smoke and dust hid the hull. The commander’s tank fired on the roof and smashed it to pieces, but it was too late.

Finally, the company passed through the summerhouses and went to the outskirts of the village. Two tanks went left and right along the outskirts. The tank on which Gonya was sitting and the company commander drove slowly along the main street.

Platoons united in a common chain and went through the village, looking for enemy soldiers. There were no enemies, and only the villagers were hiding in the basements. They were forced to go out into the courtyard, and if nothing suspicious was found in the houses and basement, the soldiers forced the villagers to thank them for their liberation and then let them go.

In the center of the village, the soldiers stumbled upon a little shop: alcohol, food, and tobacco immediately migrated to the soldiers’ bags and pockets. The company commander ordered the platoon chiefs to set up patrols and went to control the progress implementation.

Gonya stood with a banner and looked around where to mount it. The company commander did not say where the headquarters would be. There were three large buildings in the village: the village council, a school, and an oil and sugar factory. Gonya once again looked around and suddenly his eyes fell on the brick pipe of the boiler room, which was an arrow soaring into the sky.

The soldiers of the Gonya’s branch approached, opening a bottle of vodka and a can of stew.

“Right!” said one of them, guessing Gonya’s intentions. “The flag is the place for everyone to see: here is the DPR!”

“You need to take a glass of alcohol to be bolder!” the other one said cheerfully.

Gonya poured the vodka and was handed a jar of stew. He drank one time, another…heat ran through his stomach and his body felt a surge of strength.

“Do not pull!” encouraged his friends. “Erect; consider a medal on the chest.”

Gonya took the flag and quickly climbed up the pipe. It was slightly higher than it looked from the ground. Gonya overcame the last meters, breathing heavily and eagerly grabbing air with his mouth wide open. Finally, he appeared on the edge of the pipe and a small area. Gonya climbed on it, unhooked the flag from itself, and began to fasten it to the iron pin of the lightning rod sticking out above the pipe.

A bullet at the end of its flight sounds like a whistle. But experienced fighters say you won’t hear your bullet.

No one knows if Gonya heard a shot from a sniper rifle aimed at him or not, but a large-caliber bullet pierced through his body armor and his chest, threw him from the pipe, and sent him to the ground. He landed already dead.


********** SSH-40: Soviet helmet model.

*********** six-rivets: slang name for the old model of Soviet helmet.

************ Kalash: slang name of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, the main assault rifle of the Soviet and Russian armies.

************* stretch: using a grenade as a mine when a cord is attached to the check.

************** Promedol: a pain reliever, a narcotic analgesic.

*************** AKM: a modern model of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

**************** KAMAZ: a brand of Soviet-Russian truck.

***************** Dill: an insulting slang name for Ukrainians, from the word “dill,” in Russian beginning the same as “Ukraine.”

****************** Banderites: a supporter of Stepan Bandera, who fought for the freedom and independence of Ukraine.

******************* Hohland: an offensive slang name for Ukraine.

******************** dacha: a country house or cottage in Russia and the former Soviet Union, typically used as a second or vacation home.

********************* KPVT: a heavy machine gun developed by S. V. Vladimirov.

********************** boot: the slang name for the SPG-9 anti-tank grenade launcher.

*********************** APC: armored personnel carrier.


For all installments of “Standard Bearer,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1