Czech volunteer fighters remain approximately 800 to 1,000 meters from Russian forces in the region of Kharkiv, and face constant shelling from the enemy. Ján Husár, a correspondent for Novinky.cz news outlet in Ukraine, visited them and reported on the situation they face. Their exact position and names cannot be stated for security reasons.
His report detailed how the ongoing conflict had cruelly affected the village where many Czechs are located, just like many others in eastern Ukraine. There are few civilians left, and most human activity takes place in the damp basements located in the area. The advanced operational base was established there by the volunteer battalion, Karpatská Sič, in whose ranks a group of ten Czechs is also fighting.
One of the rooms has been a home for Czech soldiers for several weeks; dirty, musty, but they are safe from enemy shelling. Soldiers come here to rest when they return from their positions to guard.
“We came to help Ukraine. We didn’t like what was going on here,” said Petr, a 35-year-old volunteer. He served in the Czech army for a short while but had no combat experience before arriving in Ukraine. Despite the war, he said he categorically refuses to hold anything personal against the Russians.
Petr did not wait for the permission of the Czech authorities. “I sent a request to the Ministry of Defense and the Castle, but no one commented. So I got together and left. Now (President) Zeman has allowed it to 103 people, I don’t know if it applies to me,” Petr said.
“It is about the political situation,” he explained. “The fact that women and children are being shot here is terrible. I couldn’t watch it.”
The soldiers are not so worried about the enemy as much as they are worried about running out of ammunition and water. They save both, and they can completely forget about bothering with a shower. They go to the toilet in another of the rooms, where they bury everything in the sand.
The Russians are not so incompetent
The main task of the volunteers is to guard the Russian position in cooperation with the Ukrainian army. The Czechs thus experience Russian shelling every day; even during the conversation, there was a dark rumble of falling artillery.
“Probably Grad,” said Peter calmly. In the basement, everyone is relatively safe.
“The worst was when they started shelling us with a grenade launcher on the road. We went to the position to take the camera and at that moment they found us with a drone. It started flying all around us. There is nothing one can do. You just lie and wonder if you will survive. That was the worst day so far,” Petr continued.
Ukrainian forces must defend the entire front and the Russians can choose where to attack. Petr is cautious about evaluating the opponent’s abilities.
“They are not as incompetent as people sometimes claim them to be. It’s more a question of who they send here, whether it is a professional or not,” he said.
The Russians shell the positions with everything they have, including banned phosphorus munitions.
“It looks like New Year’s fireworks,” said Petr, but up close, it is an extremely insidious weapon which causes chemical burns that reach the bone and heal very badly.
Petr does not know what he will do when the war is over, and he is not even thinking about it.
“We’ll see when it’s over,” he said, but plans to stay until the end.