Everyone, who was or still is in the area of anti-terrorist operation, deserves to be told about. Not only on holidays or during the escalation of the conflict in the East. In order to show that Ukrainians did not forget about the warriors, preparing for the New Year's holidays, we decided to tell one of the stories about an ordinary fellow-scout.
There are thousands of similar fates at war, but each destiny is unique. There are not only the horrors of war, the smell of gunpowder, pain of losses or military hardships – there were enough words said about that. Instead, we – journalists, politicians, officials, ordinary Ukrainian – so rarely look into the defenders' souls, touch their hearts… On the eve of the holidays, our warriors, as well as all of us, need a sincere talk, words of support and hope for peace.
Hero of this article doesn't consider himself a hero at all. "I am not suitable for the interview, because I am an ordinary person", – he said. But, still, I managed to find a topic for a conversation, as the 25-year old Vitalii Shrol from Baranivka is not only an ATO participant, but also Candidate Master of Sports in kettle bell lifting. Along with the sport, the fellow signed the contract with the 54th reconnaissance battalion; soon, the conflict in the East began. It is interesting that kettle bells still remain his joy at war. But, of course, there is very little time for the hobby.
This interview of the Junior Sergeant of the deep reconnaissance company of the reconnaissance battalion, squad commander Vitalii Shrol is about the young fellows who don't give up and continue dreaming, defending the Motherland.
– Vitalii, sportsmen are not so often met among the defenders. While some sportsmen continue trainings in the peaceful ring, you appeared among those, who had to enter fight with a terrible sparring partner – with war. How did it happen that war started in your real life, but not on TV?
– I was a military conscript in 2011-2012, and in November 2013, I signed the contract with the 54th reconnaissance battalion. I have served for three months, I took part in the championship of the 8th Army Corps, where I took the second place because of a mistake – I dropped a kettle bell. This happened on my Birthday, but, still, I managed to get into the team of the Corps. After that, there was training camp and preparations for the Championship of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on kettle bell lifting. But, some morning, our petty officer called me and said: "Alarm. It is not training, it's a battle alarm." We lived two weeks in barracks for a battle alarm and left for a "tour" of Ukraine, which brought me to the ATO area.
– It is so difficult at war as it is. How do you manage to keep fit?!
– I don't have an opportunity to train regularly, but I have to keep fit. There is always place and time – the main thing is not to search for excuses. Our company carries a mini-gym with itself: kettle bell, barbell, dumb-bells, and punch ball. A pull-up bar or 708 km run is not a problem, too. Almost all members of our company train regularly.
– Not all sportsmen have appropriate physical abilities from nature: athletic body, high stature… Did you gain your strong character because you had decided to fight your complexes?
– I wanted to prove myself and others that I worth anything. It is not important how tall I am or what physical abilities I have. I began kettle bell lifting seven years ago, when I studied in Novohrad in economic and humanitarian college on "Physical training" specialty. There I saw that it is possible to juggle with kettle bells. It is a kind of sports for strong people – not only physically, but also psychologically. You always have to work without any "I can't".
– What sports achievements do you have? Do you have any plans or dreams about it?
– Now, kettle bell lifting for me is a hobby for the soul. I have medals from oblast competitions and contests among the servicemen. I reach a qualifying standard of Candidate Master of Sports. I will continue training, because I dream about participating in competitions in power kettle bell juggling and trying myself in arm-wrestling.
– For career military men, war is a part of work, but we got used that it was a peaceful work not so long ago. And now, it is just the opposite… Being at the epicenter of the conflict in the East, do you often have to regret that war appeared in your youth?
– Of course, no one was ready for that. We saw war in films; it is often attractively described, but it is not so. Sometimes, I regret about the lost time. At 25, I'd better think about my own family, but I don't have time for that… Most of all, I sympathize with my mom, for whom this half a year was extremely difficult. I see how her hair turned grey, but, unfortunately, I can do nothing. The only thing I can say is: "Mother, I love you and don't worry about me. Everything will be OK!"
– You talk about your mom with real warmth. Have your relations with the family changed? Have you probably begun to value them more? Or do they appreciate you more?
– Yes, this strange war influenced all members of my family. I began to value the family support. My cousin sisters often call me, ask about my life. The family always worry: how was the day, how did I sleep, am I hungry or not? I learned to take care of the closest and save them from redundant emotional upheavals. I always say that I am OK, whatever happens. Let they forgive me that this is not always true.
It is very important to master your emotions and conquer your fear at war. When I feel heavy-hearted, I try to remember pleasant moments of my life. I live by dreams, in which I and my family are happy, in which my mom plays with her grandchildren, and where I have a good family… These dreams become sincere here, at war. I got used to all other things that happen here, though it was involuntarily.
– What did you have to realize during this tough time?
– Maybe it's trivial, but young people always pay much attention to money, cars, parties in the clubs, expensive things. Here, you understand what is really precious, and it is family, parents, brothers and sisters, health, friendship, support. You will never buy it, but you may lose it all at any moment.
– Do sports endurance and training help you overcome the war difficulties?
– Endurance, whether it is physical or psychological, always helps. At war, you will always see whether a person went in for sports or not just from the behavior. Proper physical conditions are vital as the air. An unprepared person will not even be able to carry the bullet-proof vest, as back problems may appear.
– Ilovaisk, Stepanivka, Debaltseve are notorious small towns, where many our warriors have fallen…Where did you have to fight?
– I was in Ilovaisk, Stepanivka and Debaltseve. In the days of the hottest battles in Debaltseve, I was not there; I was at the hospital at the moment.
– You tell about war very briefly. You don't want that your family read this, do you?
– Yes, I do. I tell them about the war partially, only the information they are allowed to know. My mom found out that I had been in Ilovaisk a year after that. About Debaltseve, my mom heard from the sister, who saw a video plot on TV. Reporters captured me on the video, when I didn't notice it.
– Coming back from war, warriors often feel uncomfortable, because they have to adapt to peaceful life. Were there any changes in your consciousness?
– I saw things which people just don't notice in peaceful life. Of course, it leaves some discomfort. When you are at home, you want to come back to war, and when you are in the ATO area, – you want home. Sometimes, I don't want to talk or see anyone. Then, I just close in myself, but, after a while, it is gone. Though, different thoughts are permanently in my head. I think about my mom, sisters, about my little godson. I am afraid of peaceful life, where I eagerly want to come back, but where we will be different. And it frightens.
– The New Year's holidays are coming. Will you have an opportunity to go home?
– I was at home on November 19-22. I keep a calendar, where I mark the dates when I went to the family. I will stay here for the New Year's holidays. I plan to go to Baranivka only in spring or in summer.
– People are actively preparing gifts to ATO participants. Do you wait for the presents?
– We celebrate holidays, when there's such an opportunity. Talking about gifts, we are always happy and grateful for them. We read all the letters for several times. I even tried to answer some of them through social networks. We receive volunteer aid, and we are very grateful for that! Homemade pies are always in the greatest demand! We really appreciate any support from people.
– Vitalii, I thank you for the conversation. I wish you and your comrades-in-arms support and strength. I wish your family patience. Come back home alive and healthy. Let the New Year bring peace to all of us. And let it make all your dreams come true.
– Thank you.