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Geopolitics

Polish Citizen as an Ukrainian Soldier in Avdiivka Hell. “We have been fighting until the end” [Interview]

Interlocutor in Avdiivka
Photo. Private Archives

“They threw all they had against us. Shelling. Aviation, the air force, was attacking the city using bombs. And drones. A lot of them. After the bombing phase, the infantry began the assault. We were stopping them, then the Russians made a break, and all began all over again. They were leaving their wounded behind, on the battlefield. Dead bodies of killed Russians were everywhere. They just did not care, and then the second, and the third waves were coming. They turned the city into a pile of rubble”, Artur, Veteran of the Battle of Avdiivka, tells Defence24.pl in an interview.

Michał Bruszewski: Where do you serve?

Artur, Avdiivka battle veteran: I am an NCO in the 110th Independent Mechanized Brigade

This unit made a mark in the defence of Avdiivka. When were you deployed to that city?

In February 2023. I was transferred for a brief moment to another region of Ukraine, but I asked for a transfer back to Avdiivka, to return to my people, colleagues, brothers in arms.

How did the service in Avdiivka look like, in 2023?

It was a frontline city, but until a certain point, it was functioning quite normally, considering the wartime conditions. The shops were still open, and even the public transport worked. We were defending our positions. All the hell broke loose later.

Let’s reconstruct the final phase of the fight for this city. When did you feel that the Russians were getting ready to launch a mass offensive?

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During the summertime, the Russians began to launch test attacks. We felt it was beginning. Mass bombing began in October, not only did they not stop, there were more and more airstrikes coming. Until the very end, the shelling and strikes were very heavy. Russian main battle tanks were also attacking.

What were the Russians using against Avdiivka?

Everything. They threw all they had against us. Shelling. Aviation, the air force, was attacking the city using bombs. And drones. A lot of them. After the bombing phase, the infantry began the assault. We were stopping them, then the Russians made a break, and all began all over again. They were leaving their wounded behind, on the battlefield. Dead bodies of killed Russians were everywhere. They just did not care, and then the second, and the third waves were coming. They were turning the city into a pile of rubble.

What soldiers were deployed by the Russian invaders to attack Avdiivka?

They were fighting like professional soldiers. They were not unarmed, they had proper uniforms. The enemy is learning during this war. Do you remember the pipes situation?

Yes, I’ve read about that. It is difficult to imagine they would use mobilized forces for such a task.

The common understanding is that they went through the city pipes, but it was not like that, they were crawling. The Russians were using Spetsnaz for such operations. This type of force was used for that purpose. Avdiivka was attacked by soldiers who seemed to have been trained, they were not amateurs. On the other hand, they behave like animals. They do not follow any rules. They brutally occupy the Ukrainian soil and loot, they don’t care about their wounded. They have gone wild. Everybody understands that we need to stop them. When it comes to the operation in the pipes carried out by the Russians, we also undertook an active defensive effort. We were raiding the enemy positions. The Russians were positioned 300, 500 meters away. We were experiencing eye-to-eye combat.

In the last days of Avdiivka’s defence, the 3rd „Azov” Assault Brigade was deployed. How did you perceive that move?

This happened at a stage, at which the battle could not have been reversed. We were supported by the 47th Mechanized Brigade’s Bradleys. We saw them work, approach the line, and engage the Russians. We knew that one of the Bradleys defeated a Russian T-80, which boosted our morale.e

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How did the last hours of defence look like?

I am very proud of my men. They were very brave. None of them ran away. They have great will and they are great heroes. All have fought until the end. We have been fighting until the end. We left the city because we were ordered to do so. A few days before the Russians captured the city, we started to fall back. We were trying to conduct night operations in the Avdiivka buildings, but it became impossible to enter the city itself.

What did the withdrawal look like? It is always a difficult manoeuvre in combat.

We were delaying the Russians. We were leaving booby traps behind. We destroyed a Russian BMP with troops inside. Some of the soldiers had to fall back, taking routes across fields. This was very dangerous, but we managed. We managed to destroy three Russian main battle tanks, but more were coming.

Information was published by the media, globally, also in Ukraine, that the artillerymen had ammunition problems near Avdiivka.

In the beginning, there was still a certain quantity of munitions available from the western supply, but it ran out quickly. They had to conserve the shells. Ane the Russians were using all they could use.

You were wounded near Avdiivka, how do you feel?

My colleagues were heavily wounded, and many of them died. I call that injuries, not wounds. The Russians made a strike very close to me, twice. In the last engagement, they hit the car that we were riding with a drone. I was sent to a hospital.

In Ukraine, discussion on demobilization and reserves is underway. Following the statement made by the new Head of the Ministry of Defence, Rustem Umerov, the issue of citizens who went West reemerged - they are expected to return to fight. How do you perceive that, as a veteran?

On one hand, they would indeed be valuable here. To rotate with us, on the frontline. On the other hand, I do not judge their decisions. One needs to be strong mentally, not just physically, to be able to take on the toll of the war.

Are you a Polish-Ukrainian?

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I have Polish roots, I come from Poland. Ethnic Pole. Before Putin’s invasion, I lived and worked in Poland. I returned to fight for my country, to protect my home and family.

Thank you for this conversation. I wish you good health and safety for you, and your loved ones.

Artur’s element of the 110th Mechanized Brigade is engaged in a zrzutka.pl crowdfunding campaign

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