Story #112: Memoirs of a Tanker

September 15, 2023
A young commander Yuriy shares a story of a tough battle and his most tragic page of the full-scale war.

Yuriy, 25 years old, senior lieutenant, commander of a tank company, tank battalion.

Aside from his uniform, Yuriy's military status is evident in his slender posture, measured gaze, laconic speech and confident gait.

Yuriy decided to connect his life with his military career when he was a third-year student at the Faculty of Philosophy of Ostroh Academy. This is how Yuriy got his call sign, "Philosopher," later used on the front. To study at the military department, he had to travel almost 50 kilometers from Ostroh to Rivne.

In 2021, Yuriy began serving under contract, and in 2022 he took part in combat operations in eastern Ukraine.

The young soldier shared with UkraineWorld his memories of one of his most memorable battles.

On June 16, Yuriy drove to the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway as the commander of a trophy T-80BVM tank as part of a new crew. He had to engage Russian troops advancing from a distance of 3-4 kilometers.

"Before the firing position, we hid in the woods and threw off our ammunition. Later, we launched a vehicle and a French-made thermal imager. We took up the position. The gunner informed me that at a distance of 3-4 km, he was observing either manpower or military equipment, and I reported it over the external radio.

We were not sure, so we did a "pulse check" by firing two shells at the enemy's concentration point.

We continued to observe, when suddenly I heard my gunner shouting: "I see a tank!". I looked through the thermal imager screen and saw a T-72B3 tank. I was surprised how well it was visible from a distance of 3 km 700 meters. "Fire!" I yelled to the gunner.

We loaded a high-explosive fragmentation shell. The enemy tank began to retreat. In a follow-up, we fired a precision-guided shell. My gunner, comrade Roman, a true professional, hit the target.

The tank sustained significant damage and sought refuge in a forested area. Two Russian crew members were evacuated. I gave the order to fire two more high-explosive fragmentation shells. Only God knows what was left of the crew...or the Devil. However, everything indicated that the soldiers had received life-threatening injuries.

An enemy mortar was operating in the area. They also used a quadcopter, which I learned about later. Unfortunately, when we were already out of ammunition and moved away to reload, another tank started firing at us. There was no whistle, just an explosion. At the same time, the enemy mortar was working.

They made two false shots behind us. The commander told us: "Let's not be too heroic. Everyone take cover". We decided to wait in the trench. Suddenly I heard a very sharp, disgusting, rustling sound and an explosion.

The enemy hit the engine and transmission compartment of the tank with a mortar, and fire broke out. The equipment burnt out, but thanks to the commander's order, my crew and I survived. It was impossible to predict. War is a dynamic thing."

Shortly after this battle, on June 25, 2022, Yuriy's company commander was taken captive.

"For me, this is the most tragic page of the full-scale war. I keep it in my memory all the time. It's clear that I'm not going to sit and torture myself with these thoughts on purpose. However, this memory of the commander is what motivates me to move on and fight for freedom."

His fellow soldiers also help Yuriy to keep moving forward with purpose, because people rely on him as a commander, the soldier reflects.

"All of our unit commanders are combat officers who participated in the assaults. These are people who are respected by the personnel. I am proud to serve alongside them," adds Yuriy.

After the war, Yuriy sees himself working entirely in the defense sector. He tries to focus all his thoughts on his professional activities and do what is required of him, while the war is ongoing.

"For me, victory means having such a powerful armed force that they won't mess with us again."

"We are not Terminators, we are not Iron Man, we are not Superhuman. But everyone must do their part. This is a history we will never be ashamed of."

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld