The soldier was released three weeks ago and now in a secret location in the Kharkiv region: The Russians told us: it was an honor to fight with you
First say I’m sorry. Oleg, 30, Ukrainian marine was released along with his comrades from the Azov battalion
three weeks ago. A maxi trade thanks to which 215 Ukrainian fighters who had first barricaded themselves inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and then handed over, on the orders of President Volodymyr Zelensky himself, to the Russian enemy.
Now, in a secret location in the Kharkiv region, Oleg in gray jumpsuit and sneakers he waits to hug his wife and daughter Sasha again. They are arriving from Germany, today I will see them for the first time in months. And I apologize to them, he says sitting in front of a cappuccino.
Why do you feel you need to apologize to your family?
For all the pain and anguish I’ve caused and for leaving them alone. It will not be easy to return to civilian life. Both a psychologist are following me (Olena, sitting not far away, checks sternly, ed) and a medical team. I have been on the battlefield since 2014 and have never stopped. But they’ve been through a hell maybe worse than mine.
Yes, during the siege of Mariupol
, we were evacuating the wounded. The Russians were letting us pass without shooting at us because they had seen the stretchers. Then one of them disobeyed his commander’s orders and started shooting against us. I closed the procession in the car and I was saved by a miracle.
What happened when you left the steel mill?
We didn’t want to give up. But Volyna (the commander of the marines also among the freed men, ed) came in person to read the letter with the orders. And so we started preparing. The first rule of engagement was: weapons behind your back and unmounted. Otherwise the snipers stationed would have shot us. Then, no handcuffs or raised hands. We went out walking normally.
What struck you most about that moment?
The attitude of the Russians. One of the commanders of the special forces told us: “It was an honor to fight with you”, as a sign of respect. It was evident that many would not have wanted to be there.
Then where did they take you?
I have been in the Olenivka prison in Donetsk (the same then bombed in late July, ed) for three days. From there they moved me to Taganrog in Russia where I stayed until the end.
Did he receive medical assistance since he was injured?
I cannot tell much about imprisonment so as not to endanger my comrades who are still there. I can tell they gave me some pills.
What do you remember from the moment of release?
We were first taken to Gomel in Belarus by plane then by bus for four hours to the border with Ukraine. We were blindfolded and with our hands tied. I remember thinking that I would never go home again. I was the first in line and I heard someone cut my plastic ties and uncover my eyes. The first thing I saw was the writing Ukraine on the sweatshirt of whoever was setting me free … ..
What would you like to do now that he’s free?
I would like to take Sasha to Kherson, my hometown. I would like to go there with her when she is free. And given what I am reading in these hours, I would say that we will not have to wait long.
The Corriere della Sera and the Corriere.it website are out today and tomorrow without the signatures of journalists due to trade union agitation
October 5, 2022 (change October 5, 2022 | 22:32)
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