The 21-year-old fighter talks about the realities of life in the war

The 21-year-old fighter talks about the realities of life in the war


With a sharp knife, Roman carefully peels the lemon, cuts it into slices, calmly chews it and swallows it.

In someone such a picture would cause a sour grimace, but for him at least. The unusual ability to eat lemons like apples explains the junior sergeant’s nickname – Citrus.

However, he has not only this feature. At the age of 21, Roman has two Orders of Courage, survived very tough battles, lost many comrades, and his closest friend actually died in his arms.

The war made the young man much more mature. And frank and cynical.

“UP. Life” tells his story.

The unusual callsign of the junior sergeant has a simple explanation

“On May 9, we calmly entered the camp of the Russians and shot 10 infantry fighting vehicles with grenade launchers”

Novel – from Uzhhorod, and has been in the Armed Forces (and actually in the war) for three and a half years.

The boy dreamed of the army since childhood – military books and films created a certain romantic and patriotic aura around the Armed Forces.

He wanted to join the service immediately after finishing school, but he was still too young, so the year was interrupted by various earnings. And as soon as he celebrated his 18th birthday, he signed a 3-year contract with the 128th Separate Transcarpathian Mountain Assault Brigade.

Before the full scale, the boy had time to go through several rotations in the OOS zone – first he was an assault infantryman, and then a gunner in the BMP-2.

– I didn’t even want to rest after school or go for a walk, I immediately tuned in to the army, I just wanted to come here, – says Roman. – For many it was strange, some civilians even compare the army with a prison.

I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never been in prison, but it’s like two sides of a coin – in some ways similar, in some ways different. On the one hand, there is discipline and restrictions on freedom, but on the other hand, it is clearly not a prison, and the pay is not bad. True, they can kill…

At the beginning of the full-scale battle, the “Citrus” combat vehicle was burned by a Russian tank with a well-aimed shot – the BMP was completely burned, the turret flew away.

So “Citrus” again became a stormtrooper. His battalion has a separate status, so it is often far from the brigade. Usually where it is worst, most critical. The first weeks of the war were fierce battles for Volnovakha in Donetsk region. And then the unit was moved to Luhansk region.

A novel before going on a combat mission

A novel before going on a combat mission

– We were thrown near Beilohorivka, it was at the beginning of May, – Roman mentions. – The Russians brought a lot of equipment there to force the Siverskyi Donets. We saw their columns from the drones, and when the enemy threw the pontoons, on which the equipment came at us, they gave battle. Just to hold off until the artillery arrives. For some time, our arta destroyed them – smashed them to pieces. After a couple of days, the Russians did force Siverskyi Donets, then the battles for Belogorivka began.

The area near Siverskyi Donets was previously considered a recreation area, there were several recreation camps with the typical Soviet names “Rosinka”, “Svitanok” etc. And so it turned out that units of mountain stormtroopers and the Rosarmy occupied nearby camps.

– The Russians drove ten “kopeys” (BMP-1) into the territory of the camp, and we decided that it would be a sin not to take advantage of it, – continues Citrus. – They gathered a group of fighters, took anti-tank grenade launchers and moved to the camp at dusk. After a couple of hundred meters, they gave a radio signal to artillery, which fired several volleys at the camp and hit the wheeled equipment. The ammunition began to explode, the Russians ran and hid everywhere.

We calmly entered the camp and shot their BMPs with grenade launchers. They destroyed all of them. And further returned without loss It was precisely on May 9, so they arranged a real “Victory Day” for them. In a few days, the enemy began to roll back – nothing happened to him, everyone who crossed the river was actually buried there.

A little later, Citrus had the opportunity to test the NATO anti-tank missile system on the Russian T-72 tank.

– This tank drove into the gray zone and constantly gave us nightmares, – says Roman. – But he made a mistake – he drove off the road and got stuck in the swamp. We watched it from the drone for a day, studied the approaches, and then took a few NLAWs (Swedish-British portable anti-tank complex) and went there.

They actually went at random – they knew that there should be no mines there, because enemy equipment was constantly driving, but as for the secret (camouflaged observation point) were not sure. But everything worked out. True, the missile from the NLAW did not take the frontal armor, but we approached from behind and shot from 15 meters into the stern. And that’s all – on the tank!

Citrus and tsutsik

“Citrus” and tsutsik

“I took the head of a wounded friend on my lap, and he looks at me and says: “That’s it, it’s over – my legs are cold…”

According to Roman, he saw the most Russians killed at the beginning of the war – during the battles for Volnovakha and near Bakhmut (even before the battle for the city in the winter of 2022 – 2023). But there are not only one-sided losses in war, Roman’s comrades also died.

– A mine flies to the position, you run up to your comrade and see how his eyes glaze over. Three or four seconds and that’s it… More than a dozen guys with whom we were friends died, – recalls the fighter.

Roman’s closest friend actually died in his arms.

– This Andriy Sitak from Sumy Oblast, he was 21 years old, – says the fighter. – The first weeks of the war, we entered Volnovakha under fire, and then the enemy flew in… A shrapnel hit Andriy from the side under the armored car. I ran up, took his head in my lap.

The combat medic applies a bandage, and Andriy looks at me and says: “That’s it, the end – my legs are cold…” He understood. And he asked to convey his last words to his parents and girlfriend – how much he loves them. I then spoke to his parents.

Comrade Roman was then able to be stabilized and evacuated to the hospital.

But the injury was severe, plus a lot of blood loss. Five days later he died, he did not make it. At that time, Andriy had the Order “For Courage” of the 3rd degree and application for the 2nd degree. By the time the decree was issued, he had died. And he was posthumously awarded the 1st degree. Became a complete gentleman, – adds the soldier.

Roman himself was never wounded, except for a shrapnel that somehow scratched his hand. But he has several contusions (although not officially recorded), from which he still has ringing in his ears. And he also experienced several situations when he could have easily died.

– There were moments when I said goodbye to life, – says the junior sergeant. – The most critical in Bilogorivka, when the Russians tried to throw pontoons. Their dance was shelling our positions.

He stood far in the forest and fired from a closed position, with a canopy. We didn’t see him, so we couldn’t point out the art. A department and a half of guys were entrenched in a small technical room, and the dance gave us nightmares.

The first projectile landed a few meters from the premises. The second is even closer, until the door flew out. And I thought – the end, he counted us out. The third explosion – my eyes darkened, I prepared myself for the fact that now life would fly by before my eyes. And here the fourth is a flight, the fifth is further, the sixth is even further. And I was let in, I realized that he doesn’t see us, he’s just looking for us. We were also in the forest, behind the trees…

Since the beginning of the full-scale campaign, Roman has received two orders “For Courage” – 3rd and 2nd degree. These are some of the most prestigious combat state awards. This is how the command assessed Roman’s participation in the fierce battles for Volnovakha and Bilogorivka.

– How do I feel about orders? – asks Citrus. – When I received it, it was cool, but now it is, it is. They stand on a shelf at home in Uzhhorod, falling down with dust. I never boasted about the awards, my mother found out about them by accident. I heard that it’s mine comrade was awarded, and asked him to drop the Presidential Decree. And I was also on that list.

Roman’s parents are, to put it mildly, unenthusiastic about his service, although they are getting used to it.

– Mother would not mind if I left the army, took advantage of some loophole, as some do. But I won’t do that – file for disability or become a guardian. Not in my principles. I do not regret joining the Armed Forces. I imagined the army a little differently, I thought it was better here. But what we have, we have.

It’s hard for a civilian in the army. There are sometimes inadequate commands or strange decisions. But I accepted army orders. If I reject them, deny them, I will only make myself worse. We have a good unit – officers, sergeants, soldiers – a normal team, – adds Roman.

Citrus: When I return to civilian society after the war, I want to forget about everything.  Although I will not forget...

“Citrus”: “When I return to civil society after the war, I want to forget about everything. Although I will not forget…”

“I treat the Russians as an enemy, but without emotions, I do not feel hatred. If there is an opportunity, I will kill…”

In the summer of this year, the second contract with “Tsitrus” expires. However, he understands that as long as the war is on, he will not be released.

– Will I resign when there is an opportunity? I haven’t decided yet. I will decide when the war is over. And the war will end almost never, – the fighter jokes unhappily.

In Uzhhorod, Roman has many friends and former classmates. None of them joined the Armed Forces.

– No one signed the contract, and they are not subject to mobilization, they are only 21 years old. Someone is studying at the university. “The flower of the nation” is not being sent “to the slaughter” yet, – Citrus comments sarcastically. – I sometimes poke them in conversations – I ask when they are at the Military Commissariat. Someone jokes, and someone asks to stop, not to push.

However, Roman’s attitude towards healthy men of military age who do not want to fight is completely different. Although atypical, as for the military.

– I should sneeze on them, – says the fighter calmly. – Just like they eat me. There is a mood that would like to mobilize everyone by force, but then gives in… I know what will happen after the war – what happened to former “Afghans” or ATO fighters. They will remember memorable dates, present certificates and everything else. So why should we think about the government or society if they don’t think about us? At least the majority, because a small part of people still help the army…

Roman treats his direct duties in the Armed Forces calmly and coolly:

– What am I fighting for? Just doing my job for which I am paid. I saved up money and made an investment, the income from which I plan to live after my release. Because there is no hope for the state, only for oneself.

How do I feel about Russians? Like an enemy, but without emotions. I do not feel hatred towards them. If there is an opportunity, I will kill, just as they will kill me on occasion. After the war, we will stop killing each other, but I am not going to be friends with them, baptize my children.

In his free time from duty, Roman does sports – he trains on the horizontal bar, push-ups from the floor, squats with a load. And reads. One of his last books is Miyamoto Musashi’s “Book of Five Rings” (Japanese philosophical treatise of the 17th century, a kind of samurai code). He also likes fantasy.

– The guys who know me from the beginning say that I have changed, – says Roman. – But this is natural, it would be strange if it did not change. When I return to civilian society after the war, I want to forget about everything. Although I will not forget…

Yaroslav Halasan officer of the 128th separate mountain-assault Transcarpathian brigade


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