“Estonian boys, defect now! You’ll be fed and get home by Christmas!“ – such World-War-era slogans may have been heard from time to time on the Eastern Front, as depicted by the Soviet cinema.

In the twists and turns of history, now has come the time to serve the same message to the occupants not only in Donbass, but also in Kherson and perhaps even in Crimea. Otherwise, могилизация (mogulization) awaits.

In the not-so-distant future year of 2032, 840 bodies of Russian soldiers are known to have been buried in a remote Ukrainian village cemetery in 2022 – the inglorious end to an airborne assault regiment now permanently grounded.

The graves have since been forgotten. None are marked. Some have been destroyed. It’s because Russians never collected their dead. Neither did they request the bodies to be located, exhumed, nor transferred to a cemetery where the bodies could have been reburied in marked graves, as is our custom.

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Instead, there are holes, lots of them. Although some bigger, some smaller, they are all mass graves filled with biomass.

Who are they?

Now, a decade later, nature is trying to clear this burden from the land as wildlife activity has brought in excavators and forensics. A few dozen kilometres away from Mariupol, through the Ukrainian woods, a panoramic view of the Russki mir opens, reminiscent of Klooga concentration camp in Estonia during the Nazi occupation. There, too, people were tortured and killed by a so-called master race, simply for being of a different nationality or religion.

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Yet, this field found in Ukraine in 2032, is different, as it has been thrown together by their own, who have not even been formally abandoned. These permanent residents of the underworld who continue to decompose are still officially missing in action – left behind by their own. It was cheaper that way – a true die-hard tradition.

Some, however, still have the tattered but visibly orange-black ribbons and the Z symbol of the terrorist regime on rusty helmets. One could tell right away that such a grave is different from the others. The numerous helmets and armoured vests hint at conscripts from and around the capital as, scarce as they were at the end, those were only available to the select few.

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Among them is Nikolay, whose service card is barely readable. Buried and forgotten in a cold and nameless hole where no god can hear his call from the grave, he is just one of tens of thousands scattered around Ukraine. It is likely that many remain undiscovered.

Despite his upper-class status, otherwise well-educated and well-lived by Western standards, Nikolay’s purpose in life was still to be common cannon fodder. He is no different from Darya, who sowed hatred and enmity like his father in Moscow, also blindly serving death.

The former queues of tens of kilometres along both the Finnish and Georgian borders tell us what young Russian men like Nikolay once thought about “defending the territorial integrity of their country on Ukrainian territory.” Yet, he never made it to the border. Although he tried to stay away from mobilization by using his influential father’s connections, he still received the invitation to the grave. He accepted the invitation, with all the consequences that it entailed.

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Resist or defect, while you still can.

Those who still have their physical body (which carries a name that marks an identity with personality shadowed by fear in their minds and hearts) still have a choice. Nikolay didn’t use the option even though he was inwardly aware of it. Maybe he was afraid of prison and going on to war from there, or he simply did not want to give up his comfortable life at the expense of others. Who knows?

But there is one thing we can say about him. He didn’t resist the insane meat grinder where the blade spins according to the plan. He didn’t care about the future for himself and his country. He was an obedient, blindly believing, weak individual who gave up his lifetime chance to be a decent man for once in his life.

Yes, people like Nikolay can choose what kind of future they want to have for themselves and others. Also, they can choose whether and how to die – free and with dignity or enslaved and undeserving. In the end, Russians like Nikolay and Darya, are all united by something – a deep sense of self-delusion, a mistaken belief that they will manage to keep themselves out of the grave or tribunal even if they don’t raise their weapons, torture anyone or refuse to go on the offensive.

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The meat grinder of war cranks justice without emotion. There is no escape from it, neither physical nor mental. It knows no boundaries. The occupier is and will remain the occupier –  a weed to be uprooted. In the grave or at court, karma will catch up with all of them.

Without even asking, I know what Alla and millions of other Ukrainians would answer to the question about biomass. She would say, “I don’t care how much biomass they lose, I just want them to go away!“

And that answer does not reflect arrogance or superiority, but sincere indignation, as well as hostility towards our neighbor. The latter is something brought about by occupying terrorists like Nikolay. He and his partners in crime should have understood that in East Europe we do not turn, in Tolstoyan manner, the other cheek to terrorism no matter what they are being told or shown. Here, in the forest, they are gone, and with them dignity but also the chance to live differently, or live at all.

It’s not about what kind of future they choose: It’s about whether they have a future at all. Some things are worth dying for like freedom. Russki Mir however, doesn’t make the list. So, Russian boys, defect now! You’ll be fed, get off the meat grinder and get home by Christmas! It could, by chance, be the best decision of your life.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.

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