Volga, permanent head of Essence of Time mission in the Donetsk People’s Republic (EOT DPR mission) and of the military unit of the mission. He arrived in Donetsk from Russia in July 2014.
Three years in Donetsk… Some of my memories are as clear as if it happened yesterday, and others are hazy.
2014. There was a feeling of pressing concern. I was watching the latest news on TV. The understanding that this is it, the darkness. It had come out. I had a horrible feeling, especially after the massacre in Odessa, after the events in Mariupol, and after Kharkov “fizzled out”, that everything would end up in powerless talking, that there would be no counteraction. There was a tremendous hope that Slavyansk would become a rally point, a point of crystallization.
Sergey Ervandovich is a man who does not tolerate powerlessness, and who does not accept aloofness. In the summer of 2014, it was not for the first time when I witnessed how swiftly he begins to act when delay could mean death. He makes a decision and, immediately, without delay, comes to its implementation.
In the beginning, the guys from the Ukrainian Essence of Time cells gathered in Rostov. The talk was strict and specific. After Kurginyan had outlined his understanding of the situation, he asked the guys, “What is your position? What are we going to do?” The guys did not fizzle out, they packed up their things and came to Donetsk from different cities of Ukraine.
I met them in the early July of 2014 when I was fortunate to accompany Sergey Ervandovich in his trip to Donbass. The guys came to the meeting with him in a state of an amorphous flock. I was pleasantly surprised that they had no despair, fear and so on despite being somewhat lost and childish. Of course, there were many things they did not understand; they did not realize what they had to face. So what? What man has done man can do!
The establishment of the Essence of Time mission in the DPR was taking place during the fierce conflict with the “Strelkov” project [Igor Girkin (Strelkov) played an infamous role in first gaining popularity within the Donbass resistance movement and then sabotaging it by surrendering the city of Slavyansk and half of the territory held by the Donetsk People’s Republic to the Ukrainian Army and neo-Nazi volunteer units – translator’s note]. The air was unfriendly. Overall perplexity of the rebel movement only exacerbated the situation. Russia’s position had been associated with Strelkov and Boroday. Strelkov’s unexpected surrender of Slavyansk and his attempt to abandon Donetsk spread such havoc among the local resistance leaders that they were on the verge of despair. To their credit, it must be said that though being in despair, thinking that there would be no support to come, they did not entertain even a thought of laying down arms. They were simply preparing the defense, to stand to the end. And that is a fact, I saw it.
On the night of July 5th to 6th, if I remember correctly, the leaders of the Donetsk rebellion, Aleksandr Zakharchenko (callsign – Zakhar), Aleksandr Khodakovsky (callsign – Skif), Aleksey Dikiy (acting DPR Minister of the Interior Affairs), and Sergey Kurginyan met on the territory of the fifth base of the “Vostok” battalion (a traffic police school of the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior Affairs was here before the war). I was a silent witness to this meeting. I shall never forget what I saw there. It was obvious that the leaders were not frightened despite their state of perplexity caused by Strelkov’s obscure maneuvers and his order to leave Donetsk. They made a unanimous decision: Donetsk will not be surrendered, that we will hold the line. I felt very much relieved. Of course, the questions of how to organize the defense and many others emerged to the highest degree. But the important thing was that it became clear that there will be combat. Yes, the rebellion was badly organized at that moment, but yet it was organized, yes, the weaponry was not good enough at that moment, and yet there were several pieces of artillery and armor. There would be combat, and then we will see.
Much difficulty in establishing the Essence of Time mission in Donetsk was caused by the actions of two people from the Essence of Time cell in Kharkov, which I still do not understand.
Aleksey Samoylov, one of these people, seemed to be a mature man, he was a professor at the University of the Interior Affairs Ministry in Kharkov. He was supposed to be the leader of the EOT DPR mission. Though he had blown his cover (he appeared in the corridors of the DPR People’s Council and was working on passing the bills of the young Republic) and had been preparing to become the leader of our mission, Samoylov went to Kharkov, suddenly, without notifying anyone, and he was arrested by Security Service of Ukraine (SSU, Ukrainian: SBU) there. Afterwards, I repeatedly faced strange actions by supposedly mature people. But I remember this particular act as an example of a highly irresponsible attitude towards the cause.
The second man was Anton Guryanov. This one refused to have anything to do with the organization after his arrival to Donetsk. Against the backdrop of the conflict with Strelkov and with political prospects on the horizon not linked to the Essence of Time, he decided that it would be better to stay away from us.
So, the air around the establishment and deployment of the Essence of Time mission in Donetsk was not very friendly to begin with. The people who hoped for Strelkov had not yet understood (actually they refused to understand at that moment) what a critical situation for Donetsk he created when he had left Slavyansk. They were hurt and annoyed that some unknown people (Kurginyan, at first, and later also the Essence of Time members) were criticizing their hero mercilessly in public. Secondly, this coincided with the issue of personnel: the two people whom I mentioned above were known to Kurginyan and the Essence of Time Political Center to some extent, and the latter relied on them, but they stepped aside.
But “there’s no time to pine over with our ataman” [a quotation from the Russian cossack folk song “It’s good, brothers, to be alive” – translator’s note]. Sergey Ervandovich takes any difficulties as a challenge. And this is something we are learning from him to the best of our ability. He asked once again, “Are you ready?” the guys answered, “Yes”. He said, “Yegor is in charge, go ahead!” We discuss our very first steps, the areas of work we should organize.
On the night before his departure, while sitting with me at the kitchen, Sergey Ervandovich briefly and without unnecessary big words (actually, as usual) set me a task, once again discussed the main points of our plan concerning establishing the mission and developing the areas of work. I remember him patting me on the shoulder and his words, “I trust in you”. I hardly can describe both the atmosphere and the impression which these words produced on me, but they are as the guiding star for me.
Next morning, we went to the [Russian-Ukrainian] border to see off Sergey Ervandovich. Actually, the incidents which happened while he has been crossing the border line in the direction of Donetsk and back, are worth a separate story. Perhaps, he will tell about these incidents himself one day. I can only say that the road from the border to Donetsk and back was very dangerous in 2014.
On the morning of July 17, 2014, the members of the Essence of Time unit, a quiet group of 20 guys, passed through the checkpoint to the 4th base of the “Vostok” battalion. A little diffidently and looking around at the anthill of the people’s militia, the guys were following me by the drill ground, the staff building standing alone, in the direction of the repair shed. We were allocated a hangar (a car repair bay). It was dusty, stuffy, damp in there, the corners of the bay were covered with greenish mold, there were no beds in the full sense of the word, the light was dim, the oiled rags were lying along the walls. Metal parts and broken tools were lying around the bay.
Within less than 3 hours, the hangar transfigured. We brought cupboard doors from a dump and put them on the empty ammunition boxes, rigged up a table, took the trash out, opened the gate and aired the bay, swept the dust and laid it down with the wet floorcloth. We improved the electrical wiring and got a kettle. The most valuable thing (besides the possibility to have at least some living conditions) was that the guys organized this work on their own, and did it enthusiastically, without orders. We made a good start.
At first, the guys contrasted significantly with the people’s militia. There were many funny situations. For example, here is a conversation between an Essence of Time member and a militiaman.
— What are you and what are you going to do here?
Essence of Time member:
— You see, the overall crisis of our civilization has resulted in the rising heads of such dreadful anachronisms as Bandera Nazis and fascism. This war is only a visible part of that what is going on, but there is also “soft power” – the soft wars. So, we are the specialists in countering “soft power”. Does that make sense?
— Well, I see…
An hour later, the same militiaman was telling other militiamen in the smoking room, “Have you heard? Moscow sent us the specialists in new systems, some kind of soft powers, these systems are very powerful. The Ukrops (the derogatory term used to refer to the Ukrainian militants – translator’s note) are finished now…”
Step by step, the work in various fields was systematized. The informational work was the very first and for a long time the main task of our mission. Then we slowly included the humanitarian activity. When establishing the mission, we did not plan to form a military unit. But the situation was developing in such way that we had to take up arms.
August 2014 — May 2015
Perhaps, this period will be best remembered by most of the mission members. There is a number of reasons for this. The dramatic situation was developing around Donetsk. We were doing what we could to reverse the situation. Every single field of our mission activity was rapidly developing. There was an understanding of the acute demand for our work both in Donbass and in Russia. The novelty had also some impact. It was evidently dangerous. All of us were on thin ice; we came under the shelling, we didn’t have much choice what to eat, and we slept irregularly.
This stage is characterized by gaining experience and self-confidence. This was the time of making friends and comrades, and comrades-in-arms. There were bitter losses. There was death and destruction. We were sure that we would persevere, that all the sacrifice was not in vain.
May 2015 — December 2016
This was an intermediate stage. The brotherhood, which had seized and carried us towards the pockets, towards victories like a great wave, was still keenly felt by all of us. Yes, through the hardships and losses, but we were visibly moving forward. We already began to realize that enthusiasm and energy were simply not enough. We had to do more than we could. We had to become servicemen, specialists in the informational work. We had to extend and boost our areas of work. We had to tell Russia and the world what was going on here. Here, on site, we had to elucidate what we should expect and what we ought to do. We had to build the Republic realizing that the professional army was one (though not in the least the only one) of the basic objects of such building.
At this stage, the mission enhanced the existing fields of its activity rather than expanded them. The guys involved in video recording and photography improved their professional skills. The members of the mission became involved in the work of the School of Higher Meanings and other Essence of Time activities on the Mainland (Volga is referring to the Great Patriotic War. The Soviet partisans and the citizens of Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) during the siege called the Soviet Union territory free of Nazi occupation the Mainland – translator’s note). We have never thought of the EOT DPR mission as a self-sufficient unit; it is the larger organization’s own flesh and blood. Yes, the mission has its own specificity dictated by the region and the ongoing war. But the whole activity of the mission is an integral part of our organization’s work. Our work is simply impossible without a big and united organization.
At this stage, the military activity of the mission was associated with the 1st Independent Spetsnaz Battalion (Special Forces battalion), in other words, with special and reconnaissance missions. Again, there was a necessity to gain knowledge and develop skills, there were new people. There were again war, mud, blood, losses; bitterness and pride, defeats and victories.
The background is changing. The keen interest towards Donbass had been lowering in Russia. Very many “sprinters”, militiamen and volunteers, had been falling by the wayside. The people of Donbass had been growing tired. The situation of uplift gave way to insult and disappointment here and there.
There is no vividness, which was characteristic of the initial stage. But luckily, the guys from the mission realize how important their work is, or, rather, they believe in the pertinence of their work. The memory of and ties with our fallen give us support and strengthen us. And this is something we are also grateful to them for!
The situation on the front and around the Minsk Agreements is extremely tough: one step forward, two steps backward. It is easier for us in a way; we understand what is going on here, why and what are the reasons behind it. It is hard for many of those around us. But the same thing attracts people to us. The mission shows the features which attract people to Essence of Time in Russia, in Ukraine, and around the world: unity, confidence, the understanding of what is going on around, honesty in the relationships among ourselves, purity of these relationships. In the course of time, we added competence to these qualities: competence in the military area, which was originally beyond our scope at the stage of the mission’s establishment.
This stage is a stage of real strength, when one has to stand astride and bite the bullet. It was also the stage when we realized the complexity, sluggishness, and historicity of the processes in which we are involved. And what is more important, we are not involved in it like woodchips carried by a torrent. Rather, we have consciously joined and are consciously taking part in these processes.
January 2017 – July 2017
It is a hard stage. The protracted situation of “no peace, no war” [a reference to Trotsky’s statement – translator’s note], is always complex in a flashpoint. Life sometimes assumes grotesque features. We clench our teeth and bite the bullet. We cannot get tired, become embittered, otherwise we devalue the path which we have already walked.
The structure of the mission changed during this time. New people come. Some our long-time members, conversely, left our ranks
Feldsher left both the mission and Essence of Time movement. He is going his own way, apart from us.
We parted our ways with Chekist by removing him from the mission and EOT movement.
Lom left the mission, but he stayed with EOT.
Rybak and Liteyschik withdrew from both mission and EOT. Each of them has his own reason. This could be understood, as we are all human. And yet… These are losses, though non-combat ones.
Our comrades are still dying in combat. These are bitter losses. But they who died with honor are making our Victory inevitable. So be it!
What comes next? There will be meaningful life. There will be the war with no end in sight. I am sure somehow that Donbass is not the only bloody flashpoint. The treachery against oneself, committed by the peoples of the Soviet Union will not resolve easily. We have a hard way to go.
Our organization is building by strengthening, consolidating, and growing in power. And we are growing with it. The transformation of the mission is ahead. What it will be like depends on how much effort we put in this process now.
Until we meet in the USSR!
This is the translation of the article (first published in the Essence of Time newspaper issues 237-238 on July 26, 2017) with Volga, head of the Essence of Time mission in the Donetsk People’s Republic, on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the Essence of Time mission in Donbass.
We encourage republishing of our translations and articles, but ONLY with mentioning the original article page at eu.eot.su (link above).