Ivan Kushnerov was born in Zaporizhia. He is 25. In a peacetime he worked in advertising, studied in the University and could see Khortytsia island from his window every morning. Now Ivan (he used to be called Vania) also studies part-time in the Journalism department. This summer he has to pass his diploma work. But, in fact, only his mother mentions it, when for the time being she stops thinking about her son’s treatment, needed dentures and his overall health. Between peace time and the current moment there was war, the Battle of Ilovaisk and losses in Vania’s life. He promptly responds to the question, why he went to war: ‘‘It was a mess. It was necessary to defend the country’’. So, Vania became a senior shooter in the 39th territorial defense battalion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In May, when the separatists’ actions had intensified, we gathered with friends and went. My country needed me.
At first, we were in a training camp in Dnipropetrovsk. And soon went to the Donetsk region and started to move there. Thus we reached Ilovaisk and were trapped in the “boiler”.
Together with the Donbass Battalion we made it to Krasnopillia village next to Ilovaisk with our military equipment, before we realized that we were in the triple ring. By evening all of us were trying to fire back, to keep the defense, but all of our military supply vehicles with ammunition were blown up. Later we were captured.
It was the Russian military, professional military [who took us]. They had the understanding what officer’s honor is. That’s why they showed a normal attitude to us and did not allow themselves to do anything bad. Of course, the first day the atmosphere was tense, they were nervous, threatened us with weapons, but then everything calmed down. I could even sit down with them in a circle, they put down their rifles and we had a conversation. Sometimes they were asking stupid questions like: “Do you really eat children?” And our people laughed and explained to them that this was completely absurd. You wonder how a person can even make such an assumption, and then somebody actually asks you seriously about such things. We were not in captivity for a long time, only for three or four days. The problem was that we remained in the field without any water or food. The Russian military also had neither water nor food. Afterward we were gathered and forced to march to Starobesheve village, where the Ukrainian Red Cross Society exchanged us for paratroopers from Pskov Division [from Russia].
I know that part of Donbass Battalion, which came along with me into captivity, was released just recently. Because all of them (and Azovs, Aidars) are considered to be “karateli”. The Russian military has a different attitude to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
After a one and a half month break I went to Luhansk region. There our battalion was gathered again, rather, its remains… And finally under Sieverodonetsk I was injured. This happened in mid-November. It was caused by the explosion of an anti-personnel Distance Hand Grenade. I don’t remember the details, only what I was told later. I just recall that if I threw the grenade, it would hit the people. So I pulled it to my body and it blew up. Thus, I wounded my eye, hands and leg.
I was treated at the Kyiv Central Military Hospital where doctors saved my leg. There were a lot of problems with it. The arteries were damaged. They also restored my hands as best as they could. The doctors’ attitude was wonderful, to be perfectly honest, they are great. Eventually I received a prosthesis from a volunteer fund, for which reason I went to Poland. This is a temporary denture is very simple, but at first everyone needs to get used to one and only then move on to another, more intiricate [denture]. I could also lose my eye. I had traumatic cataract and serious troubles with vitreous humour. My lens was replaced with another one. The eye is almost completely artificial inside. But again, thanks to the doctors, I can see about 70%. I just need to use eye drops continuously and visit the doctor regularly.
I feel the pain. Sometimes it is phantom pain. I often have a headache, and my scars ache. This pain is always next to me. But, if you feel pain, it means you are alive.
I have a girlfriend in Zaporizhia. We have been together for a year already. You ask, how she reacted to my decision to go to war? She started to love me even more! (laughing)
I am now distracted by a lot of things, I require medical treatment, but I want to tighten my fists and go there [to the war], because I am very worried about my guys. However, I realize that I will be only a burden for them now.
Recently my friend from the National Guard of Ukraine visited me. He was based next to Mariupol. After vacation he will return there again. We were walking and talking with each other. Another friend is near Luhansk now. I am worried about them. But mostly I want peace. I want tranquility. It is time to choose a different path of development and not to fight. We will be victorious. The question is only when and at what will be the ultimate price.
I spent much time at home when the Revolution of Dignity took place, because I had a broken leg. But I supported it ideologically, as a lot of my friends did. In Zaporizhia, many people were fired for such views. One of my friends was even arrested for 5 days. As a result, he was also fired; moreover, he even had a State position. There were also separatist’s rallies [in Zaporizhia] under Russian flags with slogans “We want to join Russia!”, “Russia will save us!”, but they were immediately reined in. In fact, the majority of the population in Zaporizhia are Ukrainians, and they want to live in the united Ukraine.
When Joseph and I were coming out from Vania’s temporary apartment, where he stays in Kyiv during his medical treatment, his mother sadly remembered and said to us: “Every time he went to war, I asked him to take care of himself. And he replied: “Mom, you know, I always take care”.