Volodymyr Kharchenko begins his conversation with journalist Dmytro Tuzov with the famous saying: “Anyone who has been to a war knows that it is frantic boredom punctuated by moments of frantic terror.” He doesn’t elaborate on the topic of boredom, but as to terror, he seems to have had more than enough.
An associate professor of the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture and the author of numerous logos, including the logo of one of PFVMH units, Volodymyr “Hard” Kharchenko has gone to war for the second time. The first time, he fell under the fourth wave of mobilization in 2015-2016. Nine months on the front. At the time, there was no clear-cut line of contact, and everybody “crawled” around Donbas ad libitum. “Our group started from ‘zero,’ and it was scary indeed. Our last checkpoint, where they can come to your rescue, is left behind your back, and you are walking through a neutral territory dotted with trip mines. Real terror.” However, he says that now the situation is much worse.
When he and his wife were woken up by explosions on February 24, everything was packed and ready. They grabbed the last necessary things and weapons, threw a dog and a cat in the car, and went to the academy. And there, students – seven boys and two girls – had already taken up the defense, prepared Molotov cocktails, and waited for enemy tanks. Vladimir realized that he could not leave them. He began to organize them and share his experience.
When the invaders withdrew from Kyiv, it didn’t make sense to sit there anymore. “This plague needs to be cleaned up.” Nevertheless, when he was saying goodbye to the students, he warned them that they would still have to take the session. “You work, and when I have an opportunity I’ll check, correct, and give advice.” And so he does.
En route to the front, “Hard” spent a few weeks with PFVMH working as a driver-paramedic.
Already in the war zone, he happened to meet with his daughter when it turned out that they were in the same city. His daughter is an art critic by profession. She became a medic in 2015 – when her father went to war, she went to NATO rescue courses. She served for three years under contract in the 81st separate airmobile brigade. She was in the Avdiivka Industrial Zone in 2017 when the hostilities there aggravated.
His wife says he “let her down” for the second time when he went to war again. Back in 2015, he promised her not to lie about what was happening to him. But Volodymyr could not openly tell his wife that his group was going to the “gray zone” for five days, where anything could happen. So he told her they were going to procure firewood. And his wife knew what that meant, and she was sitting on thorns for five days. “It’s much harder than what I was doing at the time.”
He calls Russians zombies. “People say: let Putin peg out. But I see that it is not Putin who is exterminating people, tormenting, killing, torturing, but Russians, and I don’t take them as human beings anymore. They are a kind of contagion, a plague on our land. History demands that we stop this horde, destroy it as much as possible, and pull out their fangs. This is our task, as I see it.”