During Maidan I became a volunteer. When 'Aidar' battalion (of volunteer soldiers - ed.) was formed, I started to help them. Late August I decided to stay (in the ATO area - ed.). I didn't tell my wife, she wouldn't let me. Though later, she started to support me anyway.
Any soldier would follow a normal commander. My chief Sania - he was this kind of man, who would cover you back at a fighting. Sania was killed when we were captured.
On Oct. 15, the alarm was announced. There was an order to help pick up the National Guard. We didn't know where to go, only later learned that the destination was checkpoint 31, and then to checkpoint 32. There were eight people in the car. Our commander Sania was driving, Vania Poltava sat near him, in the back there were Yura Oka (he drove an Oka car), a local guy, son of a judge or prosecutor in Starobelsk, surprisingly honest. There were also Rusik Zmei, Serhiy Dykyi, Hruzyn, Vasia Hutsul, and me.
We got to the 31st checkpoint and were told how to get to the 32nd and to take the National Guards out. They said they gave a green channel for two hours in order to pick up 120 people, including cargos 200 and cargos 300 (cargo 200 refers to a killed soldier, cargo 300 to a wounded one - ed.).
We left the checkpoint, and suddenly fire started - I could see each bullet, just like in a movie. Sania was wounded, he fell on the seat, and the car skidded to the separatists' positions. Poltava and Yura were wounded in the car as well. Everybody jumped out. Sania started to fire and throw grenades. I caught a bullet in my stomach when I was jumping out of the car, but I had my father's officer belt on and the bullet ricocheted from the buckle, hitting the bladder. As I was told later, if not for the belt, my spine would have scattered into my pants.
I jumped out and twisted because it became hot. I began to shout that I was wounded, I heard that Hruzyn was wounded, Poltava was wounded, Sania was wounded. But we tried to shoot anyway. Got them two cargos 200.
Then we noticed that they hung out our flags and we thought it was the National Guard. At this point, a man ran up to me and started to shoot at my legs.
I fell with my face to the ground and thought I was dead. At such moments you remember of God really fast and start to pray as you have never prayed before.
The separatists dragged me from the car and started to kick with their feet to make me crawl. I had my both legs shot, the blood was running, I was so weak I couldn't even get the first aid kit. I was closing the wound on my right leg with my fingers and trying to squeeze the artery on my left leg. In such condition I tried to crawl to their trenches. I crawled three-four meters watching a blood path from the car to me. I felt neither pain, nor fear, just shock. The fear came a few days after, when I realized what happened.
When I was trying to crawl, their commander came up to me - big tall guyl, two meters high, grey-haired. He got the elastic bandage and a garrot from the kit, and helped me with the legs. Gave me a syringe to make a stab and showed me where to crawl. I asked for water, and honestly, I was given water. I felt I was losing consciousness, but kept saying to myself: "Fuck you, I won't peg out."
And then there was a cry: "Tanks!" They were following us. I dug my face into the ground. The grass started to burn, the ground was getting under my collar, and it was so hot as if the ground was burning as well. I found a new lease of life and managed to get behind a hill.
When I was crawling from the car to the trench, I heard the separatists were searching for our commander. Sania said he was the commander. They told him: "You asshole, we have two cargos 200 and one cargo 300. You killed our bros." And there was this thump, and a scream followed. I never heard such a scream before; I never thought a man could scream like this. When I crawled up, it turned out it was Sania, they hit him at his head with a club, and they were hitting him until his brains leaked out. Someone shouted "Shoot him, don't torture," and he was shot.
Then we were taken to a field hospital. They wanted to shoot me for I was losing consciousness, but then a woman, medical assistant director, protected me. She herself is Russian; she said she would save me, for they needed us to be exchanged for their soldiers. I remember a surgical table. My stomach was operated and I survived.
My fingers started to turn blue in the hospital and I asked to take the frame off because I felt something was wrong. When they took it off, the leg already turned green near the foot.
But they didn't hurry with amputation. The frame was put back on, and next day I was taken to the hospital. The doctor took a look and said this needed to be cut off before it's too late. They cut it off - and I started to live without my leg.
A bit later, I noticed small wounds over my body - they turned out to be shrapnel. I didn't feel the contusion first, but now I do - I have ear popping, my memory got worse, and my head aches.
We spent 28 days in the captivity in total. Me and Poltava, we were lucky - we were simply taken away one day. A woman came into a ward and said that I was going home, to Ukraine. I said I was not leaving without Poltava. And we were brought to Shchastia, to a hospital.
Next day, we went to Yura Oka's grave. Then we went to Kyiv. I was shocked: there were so many volunteers; food was normal, lots of fruit. When I came, they asked me: "What would you like?" I decided to joke and said: "I want some red caviar." " No problem," they said. I was shocked.
After what happened, I got more faith in the Lord. I believe that Bible is the universal rules how to live. If everybody lives up to the 10 commandments, we would live in heaven.
For financial aid to Maksym Vakulenko: PrivatBank card 4149 4978 2411 8170 Vakulenko Yulia Yuriivna (wife)
Text and photo: Vika Yasinska, Censor.NET