I am Avdiivka, I am being razed to the ground

Max Chornyi
I am Avdiivka, I am being razed to the ground

A report on the last days of the lull before the Russian offensive in the Avdiivka area.


Wild bushes grow on both sides of the road, with the roofs of abandoned and smashed two-storey houses barely visible. There are blackened ashes instead of window frames, and the slate has completely crumbled to the ground. 

Roadside trees have their crowns hanging down, forming a corridor – as if nature were protecting from mines, rockets, artillery shells and guided bombs flying overhead. The fields are burning. The bricks of the panel houses are blackening. Still moments are filled with the breath of the locals, which shakes their cardboard houses. 

I am Avdiivka. I am being razed to the ground. Even below it.

The calm weather stops time, giving hope to the few locals who stayed behind. The addiction to hope here is stronger than alcohol, drugs or computer games. They keep their hope behind the windows.

No one goes outside unless they need to, except to trim or water the flowers. Next to the abandoned houses, manicured gardens, and local people, a couple of kilometres away, Ukrainian soldiers have been in the trenches for ten years now, keeping the Russians out.

— "Donbas feeds us (a phrase used by the Soviet Union to propagandise that the industry of Donetsk and Luhansk regions fed the whole of Ukraine, while people lived poorly – ed.), doesn't it?" The soldier turns his head into the bus cabin to look at the smiling faces.

— "We're fed up, aren't we, guys?" comes from the front seat.

The green minibus rushed past the locals. Looking through the mud-covered window, the soldier exclaims ironically:

— "You know, folks, it's like the Carpathians here," and he looks around the company, "it's f*cking awesome! 

The team gets out of the car, holding wooden boxes with 120-calibre mines inside.

They move quickly. Not a word to spare. Before they get back into the car and start digging for new positions, they light up cigarettes and blow smoke into the air in three hands. It is suspiciously quiet. Silence is not a good thing here.


The guys and girls from the 110th Separate Mechanised Brigade named after Brigadier General Marko Bezruchko arrived in the city at the end of February 2022. During the war years, she (Avdiivka - t/n) has remembered everyone.

When there is nothing left of a house in the morning, they go to look for a new one. There is nothing left of the previous position, the hole is three metres deep. There is no dugout. An aerial bomb. Half a tonne.

— “A soldier on station comes in to pass the talkie and take a break, walks along the corridor, and then BANG! He's flying towards us headlong with his arms outstretched, the earth falling from around us, the noise is so f*cking loud! Everyone is scared, what the hell is it? We dug out those who were trapped in the corner, some stayed on the bed, and the exit was buried, ankle-deep in mud. And then some kitty sat on top of us, and you know what happened next," says the soldier, who was in the dugout at the time. 

And then. The military arrived at the position, and there were bathroom tiles, parquet, a wardrobe, and underwear everywhere. A cat was sitting on the pile. Started digging, and there were guys under the cat. They survived and took the cat to a new site.

These are just routine issues: militaries receive mines in the morning, then it's just coffee and a cigarette. If they hear "Fire" on the talkie, they do their job. If there is silence, they make a snack. Today, a guy of about 26 is in charge of mashed potatoes with meat and frying. He has been involved in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) since 2017. He took a break for two years, and with the full-scale invasion, he took up arms again.

Although now they can only dream of a break. Another soldier has not been home for 17 months. Before that, he had worked as a train driver. He spent his whole life on the road, now, he has been stuck for a year now. 

They got down to eat. They give cartilage and fat to the cats. They built a kitchen near the house. It's terribly cold. That's why they drink tea all day long to keep warm. There is coffee on the wall: brewed, ground, and instant. There is a sink next to it, and a bucket of mouse faeces under it. Weapons are propping up the other wall.  

— "[Position name] fire!" The man puts the cup on the table, stands up, and pushes the chair back into place. He does everything quickly. He picks up one of the dozens of mines and raises it above the gun barrel. He turns his head to his fellow men, watching him with cups in their hands, and puts down the 'iron pear'. He turns around and covers his ears. "Boooom! He inhales the gunpowder. Then he returns to the table to finish his drink.


From the military positions, they return to the house where some Georgians used to live. The yard is full of vines, and there are jugs of wine next to boxes of shells in the barn. The soldiers are trying to get a signal near the chopped logs to call their families and tell them they are alive.

The soldiers live in rooms of 10-12 people. The beds are made of those green boxes from shells. In one of the rooms I hear a dialogue:

— “Everyone asks, 'Aren't you afraid?’ I'm f*cking scared, I'm f*cking scared to die,” says the soldier.

— “That's right, only fools aren't afraid.”

— “But I'm not afraid,” interrupts his fellow soldier, not having heard the last line.

Everyone burst out laughing, shaking off the dust and gunpowder. A real grandfather looks at them — a man of 60 with a 9-year-old granddaughter. He tells them about another one like him, cheerful and vigorous.

— “When I was injured on the way to the hospital in a medical evacuation vehicle, a guy of about 25 was in the cab with me. He was joking, laughing, telling me how he got injured. The doctors could not stop smiling. And he had a bullet in his head. Right above his eyebrows, in the centre. A sniper. But the bullet got under his brain and got stuck. However, I do not know what happened to him.”

Before the full-scale war, grandad had a long grey beard and worked in Poland at a construction site. He said that so many men had returned that the Polish construction stopped. 

The soldiers go to bed early, not knowing when they will have to get up.


In the morning, people will remember me again. On October 9, Russian troops will launch an active assault on me with such intensity I have not seen since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. They want to encircle the city. 

Thousands of enemy soldiers and convoys of vehicles are moving towards the city. A few days ago there was a suspicious lull. Now we can hear mine launches every day — and attacks in response. At night, they add phosphorus and aerial bombs. 

Every day I am on fire, and my people are bleeding. But you know what? I am Avdiivka. I am being razed to the ground. But Ukrainian defenders are holding the line.

Cover photo by Artemco (Wikipedia).

Photo used in the article by Maks Chornyi