Newcomers to Azov Regiment training base in Kyiv listen attentively when 25-year-old Olena Mosiychuk talks and, for good reason – she is teaching them how to stay alive in war.
Mosiychuk is a military doctor with a civilian practice who for more than a year has volunteered on the war front with Azov Regiment.
Throughout last year, she traveled to the most of the hot spots, including the battles in Shyrokyne and Illovaisk, the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol and the village of Hranitne in war-torn Donetsk Oblast.
Mosiychuk, a native of Dnipropetrovsk city in eastern Ukraine, never thought she’d end up being a medical volunteer, but says she has been interested in military since her childhood. She learned the first aid basics herself. Her education also came of a great help, as she has a chemistry major.
Mosiychuk joined Azov lighthearted as many of her friends and EuroMaidan activists were already there. Later she became the first women in the regiment – constantly helping her fellow soldiers under the shelling. She confessed it was “really scary” to experience the mortar shelling for the first time.
“That’s why they (soldiers) didn’t like to see women there at first,” Mosiychuk says in the interview with the Kyiv Post. “But I quickly showed them that I’m a soldier and I can help.”
In the beginning of the winter, Mosiychuk was wounded in Hranitne when the village was shelled by Russian-separatists troops.
She admits it was one of the most tragic days in her life. The shrapnel hit her legs and face, but two of Azov fighters were killed then.
“I lost two of my friends there (in Hranitne),” Mosiychuk recalls. “They were wounded so badly. My friend’s head was smashed.”
She continued rescuing soldiers, adding that she has probably saved about 100 lives. Mosiychuk never gave first aid to Russian-backed separatist, but said she wouldn’t hesitate to do so, because he might be a useful source for Ukrainian military.
However, her blast injuries kept progressing, so Mosiychuk had to leave the war zone for a treatment.
That’s how she ended up in Kyiv’s Azov base this May.
Her everyday routine changed drastically. In Kyiv, Mosiychuk teaches fighters how to treat burns, wounds, use tourniquets, analgesics and hemostatic devices until professional help is available. They also learn how to make use of everyday materials for their battlefield medical kits.
Mosiychuk herself underwent a number of military and medical trainings, including 2-week summer camp in Estonian army organized according to NATO standards.
“When I was in Estonia we even taught our trainers how we treat wounded soldiers on the frontlines,” Mosiychuk recalled. “They were surprised that we can use women hygiene products to plug wounds caused by bullets or shrapnel.”
According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, nine of ten casualties die are due to catastrophic blood loss.
That’s why dealing with catastrophic bleeding and to experience combat situations in practice are the most important things for the newcomers – even when the war is far away.
“We have fake blood, other materials to make the wounds look realistic,” Mosiychuk explains, adding that the situation is adapted to hostile and war zone environments. “They may see very nasty things (on the war front) and should be ready for it – physically and mentally,” Mosiychuk says.
She admits she missed being apart from her fellow soldiers and wants to go back to the front line at all cost.
Even a military uniform does not hide her slender frame. Attractive and physically fit, Mosiychuk, however, has no time for herself as she spends “almost 24 hours” helping and training on the base.
“That’s my work which I love,” Mosiychuk says. Her rolled up sleeves expose her arms covered with colorful tattoos. Those are the symbols that “protect” her, Mosiychuk says, adding that it’s not easy to find a spot of her body free of inking.
But her biggest talisman is her 4-year-old son who’s living in Dnipropetrovsk together with Mosiychuk’s mother. She missed him the most, but tries to stay connected as much as possible. “He even boasts about me in the kindergarten,” Mosiychuk says with a smile adding that she’d encourage her son to join the army in the future.
When asked about her dreams, she says she wants peace for her country and a car to visit her son more often – because the one she owned was broken after the year in Donbas.