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Aleksandrov Sergei
The Candlestick

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   All that events began when just 60 kilometres away of the base of our regiment v in the deep ravine v about fifty mojakhetdins were going to yield to authorities. The authorities sent there an Afghan battalion. However it turned out to be 500 dukhs (slang name for Afghan rebellions) instead of 50 and they had intention to capture not to yield. Afghan battalion was formed from security police forced and they were deadly afraid to be captured. So, they were surrounded and being nailed down. All that happened in our zone of responsibility. The armoured group was called up by a battle alarm, got two hours to be prepared and march off.
   The column consisted of BMPs (caterpillar-armoured carrier), BTRs (wheel-armoured carrier), self-propelled gun and few supplying trucks moved along the bottom shallowed, toward the winter, Pandzhsher, then on the bottom of its parched tributary, means on boulders, cobblestones, pebbles and pits. It was quite a trial both for machines and people and we were moving those 60 kilometres for the whole day. Having arrived we immediately drove dukhs to mountains, on both sides of the ravine, by our fire, removed tears of saved Afghan warriors from our shoulders and became pensive. The driven off dukhs did not disappeared and remained above us preparing different dirty tricks. So, to move back safely and save "greens" (the slang name for Afghan army soldiers) we had to seize the ridges of the mountains and covering ourselves with groups on both ridges slowly move back to Pandzhsher. We did not any hope to demoralised Afghan we had to do everything ourselves and it promised us a lot of troubles and the worse thing v casualties. However we had no choice. We left only necessary forces downhill: drivers, gunlayers, teams of cannons and mortars and a part of communication forces. The rest of us, divided by two groups, went to mountains in false dawn.
   I am not going to tell about the way we managed to get out of there, about twelve killed in action, about the senior lieutenant Shakhvorostov, awarded the status of the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously for that combat, about another senior lieutenant, who being heavily contused while evacuated stepped under the tail propeller of a helicopter and was killed. I am going to tell about the happy case.
   The senior lieutenant Sasha K. was a commander of a radio platoon of communication company. He was left beneath to provide the communication with the command and charge the batteries of portable radio stations. He had to go out of necessity. He just sat down among boulders as the mortar shelling began. Something flew aside, he felt a wave of heat, the ground shook and few small pebbles painfully beat down on the naked part of his body. Sasha turned around and saw a smoking cracked mortar shell. In one second soldiers saw their commander, keeping pulled down to a knees pants with one hand, and pointed with the other somewhere behind him.
   The soldiers went there to have a look. It was true v here is the heap, there is a mortar shell. The rumour about that event did not spread out, everybody was too busy, Sasha just took the stabiliser of that shell and brought it home, where made a candlestick of it. It seems to me time by time Sasha lit up a candle in the candlestick and looking at dimly glimmering flame remembers. He has a lot of to remember.
   (c) Sergei Aleksandrov, 1998

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