Nikolai Burlaka, a 23-year-old resident of Mariupol, experienced real hell in the first days of the big invasion. As a result of the shelling of the city, the guy received severe injuries to his hand and head, and when he finally decided to evacuate, he was captured, where his hand was cut off, which could still be saved. Focus tells the unique story of how Nicholas was able to become a free man again.
“God let me live on”
Before the start of the war, Nikolai Burlaka worked as a repairman at the Azovstal metallurgical plant.
“On February 24, I went to work for the last time. And then the war started and we were sent home,” he says.
Nikolai recalls that in those days in Mariupol it was possible to survive thanks to the help of the military and the remnants of food in warehouses.
“Our military brought water, fish, sweets for children. The Ukrainian army helped us. It happened that my father-in-law and I threw cigarettes or some food on them. throat for Russia, which gave them nothing, they poisoned the military,” says Burlaka.
On March 20, 2022, a young man was seriously injured.
Nikolai Burlaka: “From 2019 to 2022, I served, and for them, everyone who has been serving since 2014 is an enemy”
“That day, my father-in-law and I were not far from the Azovstal plant in the Levoberezhny district, near the market. We were collecting firewood there to warm up food and drink something hot. “that building, I ran into it to hide from shelling, but did not stand for a minute, as it flew into this building through the roof. I immediately felt a frantic load on my back. Then I thought that was it, my back was broken. I open my eyes, and my arm all cut, the leg was covered, fragments hit the head,” the guy recalls.
Thanks to the help of relatives, Nikolai managed to survive.
“My father-in-law got me out of the rubble, we reached our house and my wife had already given me first aid. Such a wound: 50 to 50, it was possible to survive, or not. But God gave me to continue to live,” says the Mariupol resident.
Then Nikolai Burlaka decided that it was necessary at all costs to evacuate from the city, which the Russians mercilessly razed to the ground.
Bills for a trident
But it was not destined to be saved: Nikolai was captured by the Kadyrovites.
“We found a civilian car that was supposed to leave Mariupol. We left, but I was taken prisoner near the former Orlyonok children’s camp. There was a checkpoint where they checked the cars in which people tried to leave. to the ground. Why did they need me? The fact is that from 2019 to 2022 I served, and for them everyone who has been serving since 2014 is an enemy, “says the man.
First, Nikolai was taken to the occupied Novoazovsk, and then to Donetsk, where the man’s hand, which had been injured by the shelling, was amputated.
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“In Novoazovsk, they treated my hand and even said that the hand could be saved, but all the doctors they say are busy, so no one was going to save me, of course. I was there for about a day, and then a man arrived, as I understand it, from the FSB. He interrogated me so that I surrendered the Ukrainian positions. I answered that I did not know anything, but such an answer did not suit them. They dragged me out into the street, put a bag over my head and took me somewhere. Four days They kept me in my underwear in the basement, fed me only bread and water, and on March 26 my hand was amputated in Donetsk, because they brought me to gangrene. There was already a smell from my hand, it had burns, bruises and everything,” remembers Burlak.
The attitude of the invaders towards the prisoners, according to Nikolai, was inhuman.
“The attitude is very hostile. I was constantly taken out and beaten, because I have a trident tattoo on my arm and leg, and they beat me for it. It also happened that they rewound the same bandages three times. no one needs us there in Ukraine, that they would shoot us. Then they said that everything – they had already completely taken Ukraine, and their Kiev, and their Zaporozhye. But when they occupied Berdyansk, they thought it was Kiev, and Zaporizhia – they thought that this is already the border of Ukraine,” the man explains.
But most of all, the Ukrainians, who were mocked by the Kadyrovites, were unlucky.
“They torture people very cruelly. There was one person in captivity with us, the Chechens took him whole, but knocked out his kneecap, handcuffed him and hung him for two days. Of course, they beat him, they tried to cut a trident on his back with a knife. They say, that the Ukrainian military rapes women and children, but in fact they do it themselves. They are like prostitutes – where they give more money, they will go there, and they will fight for them, “says Mykola Burlaka.
After several weeks in hospitals in Donetsk, Nikolai was transferred to the notorious prison camp in Yelenovka and then to occupied Luhansk.
“To be honest, I already thought that they would exchange me either when the war was over, or they would be shot,” the man says.
And yet a miracle happened.
“On Constitution Day, I was thrown into a truck and an exchange took place in the Zaporozhye region,” Nikolai recalls.
However, according to the guy, at first he did not believe that he was going to the exchange.
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“After all, we were constantly told that we were going home. They said this in Donetsk, then they just transferred them to another hospital. a colony in Yelenovka. Then they said the same thing in Yelenovka, but they took us to Lugansk. In Lugansk, one Russian also said that we were going home, but we no longer believed him until we saw the Ukrainian flag with our own eyes, “recalls the Mariupol resident.
And then there was rehabilitation in Zaporozhye and three weeks of rehabilitation in Morshyn.
Now Nikolai has been given a temporary training prosthesis.
“Now I have been given a temporary training prosthesis. After 8 months, they should put in a bionic one. Phantom pains, of course, still torment me. It seems that the hand itches, then the fingers seem to break out,” says Nikolai.
The man claims that the occupiers have turned his city into a desert and people are suffering there.
“Mariupol, we can say that it’s gone now,” Nikolai Burlaka says sadly. “There is only one field. The remaining people complain that there is no work, the Russians sent their guest workers who earn more than the locals. The local population simply survives there.”
You can learn more about the rehabilitation of soldiers and victims of the war in Ukraine, as well as assistance to Ukrainians with disabilities who have received asylum in the EU countries, on the website of the organization EnableMe Ukraine.
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