Donetsk. “The word about Givi” across thousands of kilometers
May 12 in the Krupskaya Library there was a presentation of the anthology The Word about Givi, [Слово о Гиви], a book dedicated to the hero of the DPR, the commander of the famous Somali battalion Michael “Givi” Tolstykh.*
At the presentation of the anthology, Givi’s mother, Nina Mikhailovna Tolstykh, and his family were honored guests, and invited to take up arms. Also present were several authors of the book, the not indifferent inhabitants of Donetsk – it seemed as if he was their own, for all of them.
“I want to say thank you to the creators of this book for the kind words addressed to my son. I am a mother, and for me my son was the best. He truly loved the Donetsk region, the Donetsk land. I’m glad that after him, our guys, our Somali Battalion still stand. I thank everyone for supporting me – from all over the world. And it is thanks to this support that I still live. Thank you so much.”
So spoke Nina Mikhailovna Tolstykh. It was difficult for her to restrain her tears during the presentation of the book. And she was right to speak of support from different parts of the world. New York, Yerevan, Tashkent, London, Pavlodar, Chisinau, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and dozens of Russian cities – letters, poems and prose dedicated to Mikhail Tolstykh came from all these cities. One female author from the occupied territory of Donbass passed on a recording with her poem “The Sister of the Hero” – about Givi’s sister. A number of letters and lines for the collection were written directly by the people of the DPR: journalists, military correspondents, colleagues, and civilians.
And there were many video calls: not every author from Russia and other countries was able to come to Donetsk. But at the same time, each of them sincerely tried to support the family of the deceased battalion commander of the DPR and to contribute to the creation of a memorable collection.
In the videos, the authors sang their songs, read their poems, or simply told us why they decided to immortalize the memory of “Givi” – it turned out that his death was a great loss not just for the Donbass.
According to Vladislav Rusanov, deputy chairman of the Writers’ Union of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, the creation of such books will help preserve the memory of the heroes for the next generation: they must know those who died for freedom and independence of the republic. And it’s hard not to agree with him: as long as we remember the heroes, they stay with us.
After the presentation of the collection, it was announced that the book of memory about Mikhail Tolstykh will be the first of a series entitled Heroes of Donbass, which will be published in Moscow on the initiative of State Duma deputy Kazbek Taisaev.
Fighters from the Somali Battalion were present at the presentation of the anthology about Mikhail Tolstykh, both current servicemen and those who fought under Givi in previous years. We can say that this book is primarily for them, because “Givi” often repeated: “The heroes are people who are at war on the front line, and I’m just their commander.”
“I would like to thank the mother of our hero, Nina Mikhailovna, on behalf of our unit: from all our guys and the leadership, we bow low to you. We thank the authors and publishers of this book, for what they reported to the people and the younger generation concerning the exploits that this legendary man committed. Our hero is not forgotten. Let’s get to work, brother.”– the short soldier’s address of a soldier of Somalia, the guard of the senior lieutenant of the army of the DPR Nikolai, call sign Flint.
A comrade of Mikhail Tolstykh, Yegor Volchkov, who had previously served as chief of staff of the Somali battalion, also took the floor.
“First of all, I want to thank the publishers of this book – another stone set in the granite of eternal memory of the commander. Once again I want to apologize: Nina Mikhailovna, I was near, and yet could not save, could not prevent. It’s to blame. The time will come – I will be next to him again and I will answer. And I would like to appeal not only to the inhabitants of the DNR, but to all people who suffer from the attacks of ardent nationalism: remember your heroes, love them while they are alive. Because when they leave for another world, we then can do nothing.”
Many artists gave copies of their paintings as a gift to the family of Mikhail Tolstykh – their works can also be seen in the collection “The Word about Givi.” The Moldovan artist Victor Arseni-Smelyakov, the author of the film “The Defense of Slavyansk” also sent a video message. In it, he said that he had not originally planned to paint “Givi” in this picture – there were just those who died in defense of Donbass. He learned about the death of the famous battalion commander of the DPR at the very beginning of his work on the canvas.
And so, slowly, with tears, went the presentation of the collection about the Hero of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Everyone there got a chance to say a word about Mikhail Tolstykh: the last one on the scene was a resident of Oktyabersk, saying that he could not not come “because Givi fought right next to his village.” And while there are such people who maintain the memory of their defenders, the histories of the life of Givi and other defenders of the Donbass will live.
*Ukrainian Special Services assassinated Givi on February 18, 2017.