12 Dec 2014 23:00
300 fighters – not Spartans, but Ukrainian soldiers of the 80th Airmobile Brigade returned home for furlough to the city of Lviv on December 13, 2014. Huge number of relatives and friends gathered near a military base checkpoint to greet them. Among those gathered were many minors and small children, despite below-zero temperatures. Some, however, remained at home and would see their fathers for the first time.
“I will meet my husband here, and at home our small 3-month old son is waiting for him,” Myroslava, a soldier's wife, said. “He was born without his father. I hope everything will be all right in Ukraine, and he will never go back to the East again.”
At seven in the evening, their scheduled arrival time, the soldiers were nowhere to be seen. But this delay wasn’t the only one. In fact, the solidiers had been dismissed 3 days earlier on December 10t, and all this time were dragged across Ukraine by railway.
“We were prepared to greet them tomorrow in the afternoon,” explains Natalia, a soldier’s sister, “but their coaches weren’t coupled to a passenger train. Instead they were dragged by a freight train, standing for hours and hours inn every single station. That’s why they got to Lviv only on the third day. It’s not normal, it’s mockery.”
These tensions dissipated quickly as shuttle busses packed with soldiers crossed the gates of the military base. Tears and joy mingled together as parents embraced their children, returned from the struggle for Ukraine. Others appeared to be not so lucky – they yell names running from one bus to another.
“I was always proud of my brother. He’s the best, he’s the hero, like everyone who’s arrived,” said Andrew, a combatant’s brother.
The soldiers themselves were extremely happy to be back home and to see their relatives. Every single soldier said that he would prefer not to go back to the Eastern Front, but many of them realize that this is not their last furlough.
“We have to go back, regardless of whether we want this or not,” Igor, a private in the Ukrainian army, said after embracing his girlfriend. “We still haven’t finished in the East.”
Seven precious days of furlough were ahead of them, but the combatants had already requested to compensate time lost during the transfer and to postpone their departure originally scheduled for December 20th.
The conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government has been ongoing since April 2014, with the UN estimating that over 4,600 people have been killed in the fighting.