A serviceman who goes by the call sign Kydar pours tea into plastic cups. There is little space in the dugout, so he carefully moves the iron mug of boiling water onto the makeshift table.
In addition to the tea, there’s also a bar of milk chocolate.
"This is how we celebrate the New Year," he adds with a sad smile.
Kydar's blue eyes fill with tears, but he holds them back and continues his story. Together with their brothers in arms, they have been protecting the borders of Ukraine on the Bakhmut front for several months.
The men have not seen their families for a long time. Some joined the military from Feb. 25, and some even earlier, prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion. Kydar says he misses his family very much.
"Every year you celebrated New Year and Christmas with your family. Didn't even think about it. Just lived. Now you remember your relatives, your loved ones... How everything was good, festive... And now we are on duty in wartime. And here, at any moment, an order may come to go on a mission. That's why it's not like celebrating here".
Kydar has been living in a small trench with his brother of war Zenyk for three months now. Both men served in 2015, but returned home later.
But they met only after Russia’s full-scale invasion.
"We have all become one family here. Now we are closest to each other. As friends, brothers, psychologists. Because there is no-one else. We are so used to each other that we even understand a friend's viewpoint. How do we celebrate? We gathered in a circle, consulted, talked, laughed and went off to do our own thing", says Zenyk.
The men admit that now is much more difficult than it was in 2015. Not only because the activities of the enemy have increased, but because back then they understood when they would finally be able to go home.
"Today, there is no question of returning home. We will be here until the end - until victory!", Kydar noted.
Kydar works as a signalman, while Zenyk is the driver of the vehicle on which a GRAD multiple rocket launcher is situated.
All the soldiers of this battery are from different parts of Ukraine. Kydar and Zenyk, for example, are from the West.
At the same time, there are guys from Kharkiv Region, Cherkasy Region and Zaporizhzhia.
In particular, the house of one of the servicemen, Mykola, was de-occupied last September. And the families of two of his brothers in arms are still under occupation in the city of Melitopol.
"I have been in the army since 2020. I haven't seen my family for a long time. They are in Melitopol. There is almost no connection with them. I think about them all the time. The occupying forces are very oppressive. They force people to take Russian passports. A person’s every step is monitored. If they knew that their son was a Ukrainian artilleryman, I'm afraid to think what they would have done to my family", says one soldier who goes by the call sign of Khvostyk.
On New Year's Eve, these Ukrainian servicemen moved to positions to fire at enemy positions using the GRAD missile rocket launching system.
They did so at precisely 00:00 on Jan. 1.
"This is basically our celebration. We really want to win. Get back home. Hug our relatives. And forget everything like a terrible dream. As it will no longer be. But things will be better… I hope for the common wish of all Ukrainians - peace - will come true this year", Zenyk added.
In overall terms, the Bakhmut front, which is where the troops of this brigade are located now, is one of the most difficult fronts in this particular period of the war.
As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhny, previously noted, the number of Russian troops in this sector is 10 times greater than the number of Ukrainian troops there.
The picture I had to see next to Bakhmut really struck a chord.
The houses there were completely destroyed.
And fields on which there is almost no space left from the rips.
And the pain that is felt in every look and breath.
After almost 11 months of Russia’s full-scale invasion, it was the most mentally difficult film shoot of my life.
But Ukraine is holding on. And that's the main thing.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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