"Looking at this weapon, I realised we would soon be in Kherson": an infantryman's story about the M777 howitzer

Roman Steblivskyi
"Looking at this weapon, I realised we would soon be in Kherson": an infantryman's story about the M777 howitzer

On Christmas, we went to visit Monia's parents. Monia has been at war since February 2022, although he did not plan to be a serviceman. Instead, he studied public administration, wrote poetry, and trained children in martial arts. On February 25, Monia wrote a message from the military unit of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade named after the Knights of the First Winter Campaign. 

"We spent this year together, although we didn't see each other that often: Monia sent a photo from the spring trenches in the Mykolaiv region - his mother, his friends and I, who later united in a volunteer foundation, sent help; Monia was injured — we sent equipment to the Kherson region that time; we celebrated his birthday, travelled together in his grandfather's bus, and then the army again.

I have been to Monia's parents' house half a dozen times this year: Monia's mother has been living through this war with her son and has been volunteering for the military for over a year. So we decided to pay her a visit on Christmas Day, congratulate his parents and discuss volunteering. My girlfriend and I bought a Christstollen and took a military uniform set we had lying around at home. 

In a private house by the sea, his family has a large dog, seven cats and a parrot. Moni's mum made us coffee, and we ate Christstollen and discussed military jeeps. It was at Monia's house that I first held a propellant tube from a shell of the British M777 artillery system, or, as the militaries call it, the "three axes".


A month later, we met near the railway station in Kramatorsk. That was the first time I saw Monia in a military uniform — he usually wore civilian clothes at home. It was our first time in the Donetsk region, so we didn't know where to go to stay safe and where to relax. So we were anxious everywhere as it happens due to the unknown. But when I saw Monia smiling, I forgot where I was and what was happening. 

I asked Monia about the tube I saw at his house and the "three axes". The story happened in the Kherson region in the summer during the counter-offensive in August 2022. 

— Every day, our positions were shelled with all calibres, and even Mozart would have envied this composition: "out - in, in - out". 

I remember this time. Back then, Monia got in touch once a day, only with his mother for just a few minutes: to report that he was alive.

 — When our artillery was firing, I could not believe my ears. I thought we were surrounded, and it was coming for us. But it was our artillery. We just could not afford the same density of fire because there were no shells, so their volleys were rare and came like thunder in broad daylight, although the artillerymen's desires were great. 

During the counteroffensive, Monia's unit moved in a column to the centre of Chornobaivka airport. Monia opened the Kropyva app (a planning, calculation and orientation software for the military) and started looking up the names of the villages to show a few rows of trees in the middle of a continuous field. The very thought of such a "walk" in the open during an assault is frightening.

— Time passed, the direction was unchanged, and we had to get our Kherson back, but everything was different; I could hear our beautiful 155 calibre guns flying overhead. With this sound came the realisation that this sound was worth patience and endurance. 

The first time Monia heard the 155 working was when they were flying in an infantry fighting vehicle across the Kherson fields to assault. Monia was wearing armour. There were no watermelons around. But we could hear the artillery exits and see smoke in some places. 

— When I was evacuating later, we were stopped at a WOG petrol station; it was a staging area for the guys who worked on the M777. They looked like gods. No wonder they say that artillery is the god of war. Looking at this weapon, I realised we would soon be in Kherson, just a little longer. 

Monia wears a chevron on his sleeve, saying, "Our Russophobia is not enough". Monia and thousands of soldiers like him in the Ukrainian Defence Forces liberated Kherson in the autumn of 2022 with their endurance and the help of Western equipment. 

But this is not the end of the story.

Follow the link to find out more and participate in the raffle for a British M777 Howitzer powder magazine, and win a printed copy of this story signed by Monia. 

It is the third time Roman Steblivskyi, the initiator of the Strike the Enemy for the Second Time raffles, has held such a raffle to support the Second Front volunteer centre training camp in Odesa. Previously, the funds raised during the raffles of a used Mukha grenade launcher and a Swedish AT4 grenade launcher were used to repair a four-wheel drive jeep for aerial reconnaissance troops and purchase wheels for the jeep of the scouts of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade named after the Knights of the First Winter Campaign. Therefore, the funds from the third raffle will be used to help one of the units of this brigade.