I was born in 1995 in the polish city of Gdansk. Born in Poland, I don't really have any closer connection to the place, a large part of my family is from eastern Prussia originally but I never really cared too much about it. We occasionally visited some relatives there (as my parents did that very day I was born) but that's about it. The city is very pretty though I guess.
My father was a manager for a major german engineering company and my mother worked as a nurse in the local hospital. I wouldn't say my childhood was that special to be honest. Rather normal for german standards, we always had food on our table and I mostly got what I wanted. I am very grateful for it and growing up in a rather small town. I feel like I got to experience a lot of things that kids from the city wouldn't have ... ? But that's just a wild guess honestly, kids growing up in the city would probably say the same thing about me, missing out and all the great things a crowded town has to offer.
I spent most of my childhood playing outside with my friends, at least in the summer. Swimming, running around "hiking" and doing all kinds of nonsense.
We lived in a small village, it had almost everything you could ask for and the local church was built on top of the mountain in the center, quiet a sight to enjoy. The beauty of the church didn't really convince my parents to visit it regularly though.
I went through most of the... let's say catholic rituals, but my parents didn't force me to do it or anything like that, they just thought it would be the "normal" thing to do, to fit into the community.
Other than attending those lessons/events I never really visited the church, and never bothered to leave it all together either.
I wouldn't say I had a lot of friends. Just a few really good ones ,that I met in our village school and in our local football team, that I spent almost everyday of the year with.
I enjoy playing football until this very day. Our local team isn't the best, but it doesn't matter. As long as we get together regularly, play together and have fun.
I always got along with everyone. Wasn't really an outsider, but not the center of attention either.
After graduating from school with mediocre results I decided to voluntarily spent one year with the german military, finishing the 3 months of basic training and then spending the rest of the time doing numerous different tasks until I could start with a normal apprenticeship. While the time there was enjoyable and a very character building experience it wasn't anything I could imagine doing for the rest of my life. Instead I started to work in a small shop of a larger chain of stores as a salesman for sports gear and eventually became responsible for the small shop at a very young age after finishing the apprenticeship.
When the infection took control of Chernarus and the surrounding areas, I was on vacation on the newly acquired Russian land of crimea. Enjoying everything the beautiful peninsula has to offer.
Residing in the eastern most city of Crimea, Kerch, when all borders were closed, I got stuck in foreign lands.
The reasoning for this rather odd travel destination was mainly the curiosity to see how things are after the russian takeover, and even thought the german foreign ministry officially advised against any trips to the region, my curiosity was bigger than the fear.
Being alone and not able to properly communicate with most of the locals, the first few weeks of living within this chaos were extremely difficult. I settled down in a small apartment on the western end of town, but knew it wouldn't be a permanent solution. Reading any english or rarely german books I could find kept me sane.
I only really went outside at night to get food, water etc.
For a while I was naive enough and actually hoped to make my way back home somehow, into an at least familiar environment but I rather quickly accepted the fact that it's not going to happen, ever.
So I instead focused on finding some people that I could stick with and provide help with whatever I can and hopefully receive something in return as well.
And the search was a success... in a way. I ... let's say ... found a deserted Russia Soldier called Marek Ivanovic and his friends who were able to communicate with me in broken, but understandable English. Deserter might be the wrong word, considering the circumstances, maybe they just didn't think the orders they received made sense... I never asked them though.
The way we met was a bit odd though. During one of those nightly adventures to get something to eat for the coming days, I was surprised and almost overwhelmed by a couple of infected near the center of town. In the fear of dying, panic took control of my body and I just started to run into unknown territory that I didn't get to, or didn't dare to explore yet.
I left the main road as quickly as possible and thought my chances to get away from them would be much better in smaller alleys. That was the moment where I suddenly got knocked out cold. It was Marek and his friends, who themselves were in a terrible situation and were trying to escape from the infected, at least that's what they told me later on. Marek tried to find a way out of the building they were in and slammed the door open, just as I was running past... odd coincidence that could have been the end of me. But I guess I got lucky there.
Being the nice guy Marek is (or was) he couldn't just leave his new best friend helpless on the floor and changed his plan, and told the others to take the infected, they were trying to move away from, head on.
They grabbed me and carried me back to their little hideout nearby and helped me to get back on my feet. Providing food, water, shelter and most importantly conversation I instantly felt a sense of loyalty to them.
They could have just used me as bait or just left me there...
Being incredibly thankful, I offered them help with everything they could possibly need help with.
What I didn’t know though was that this small group of friends was part of a larger movement founded by former soldiers, just like Marek, that were trying to lock down the city and nearby bridge, and much like the people in Donetsk and Lugansk, tried to create their own small republic.
They brought me up to speed with their plans and prepared me for the upcoming effort to “cleanse” the city.
A brutal crackdown on all the local thugs and people that were considered criminals was conducted. No prisoners were taken. Infected were almost entirely eradicated from the city itself, and all found civilians in the need of help were escorted into the safe zone surrounding the Cathedral of St. John. During those days of constantly killing either already dead people or ... the living I sometimes felt like that my humanity is slipping away. Marek always told me that those people are bandits, thugs and other criminals that have terrorized the civilians for a while and also hindered military efforts to keep order intact. So I always tried to remind myself of that, everything I am doing here is for a greater good... and I really hope it was. I would be a liar though if I honestly would think that everyone shot that week really was guilty of.... well whatever they considered to be a crime. But I can't tell for sure... I am almost certain that everything I shot at, deserved it...
To stay sane people turned towards faith and the church quickly became more than just a suitable base of operations and storage. It became the people’s light in these dark times. I enjoyed listening to the local priest quiet a lot myself, even though I didn't really understand what he said. It was calming to sit in that church. Especially at night when no one was around. I didn't always sit there alone, sometimes Marek, his sister Anna or both of them joined me. We lit the candles and just talked about whatever came to mind. When I was with Anna, she usally just wanted to draw, I guess the church calmed her down just as much as it did to me. I always enjoyed drawing myself but never really had a huge talent for it. At some point during school I considered to but my focus on it, but ended up picking physics etc. instead cause all my friends did. I regret it looking back, I enjoyed the time with them everyday but I think learning another language or getting more creative by learning how to draw would have been better in the long run. But what is done is done.
I convinced her to teach me a few things though, and soon we sat there every other night drawing random things for hours.
After expanding and barricading the safe zone, securing the, yet to be completed, Crimean Bridge, establishing safe routes to farming outposts outside the city and maintaining fishing bases…
the Free City of Kerch was born, and I was very glad to be a part of it.
It wasn’t and still isn’t a republic of the people. The majority has no saying in internal or external affairs. Voting rights reside to the city council. Containing leading military figures, priests and doctors. The council contains 11 people. Any sort of rebellious movement to give voting right to all citizens that appeared had been stomped by the local military. Only one citizen was ever killed, many arrested and a few exiled. Marek and I had obviously nothing to say. The other guards appreciated our eagerness and loyalty to the cause though. I got all of that from him. His uncle was in the council though, and while they didn't really get along that well... I don't know why but Major Ivanovic kept beating up his nephew, and I don't think it was just his drinking problem. Marek never really told me why and told me to stay out of it... and so I did. At least for the longest time. It appeared to me that Marek had accepted it and believed her deserved it ? If that makes any sense. But like I said, he never told and I never felt like it's my place to talk about it. Anna also never talked about it, didn't ask her either. Maybe if I would have done so, a few things would have went different. One night the 3 of us were scavenging cause he thought we couldn't get the job done on our own and I guess wanted to convince us that we are shit at the job and teach us a lesson. The same night he ... let's just say, he had an accident. All the anger about how he treated my friend boiled over.
Initially I had a few issues with the way things/decisions/politics were handled, not enough to make my voice heard but the thought about it never really went away.
But things were going rather well overall from my observations, and I just tried to blend and fit in.
Marek managed to get us some great guard posts on the east side by the water and arranged it so we would stay in the same area most of the time. Infected never came out of the water, and boats were a rare occasion as well so we spent most nights playing cards and drinking.
While it was probably the best job we could have asked for, we both felt like we could put our skills to better use. We wanted to go out, exploring, gathering supplies, helping the town in a more productive way. We just started to feel a bit guilty, having fun at "work" all the time while others actually contributed to the community.
So we decided to sign up for scavenging, or any other outer city operations. It wasn't a popular task to take. You would be in a much more dangerous position than behind the safe walls of the city. So not many people signed up voluntarily. The only real benefit you got out of it, is that the men & women leaving the town were the highest regarded members of this small society... and you got to see more than just the same old dusty streets I guess.
Given my basic military training and the fact that I helped during the initial founding process of our city, I can't say I had a hard time getting accepted either.
Leading numerous expeditions east over the, uncompleted, but yet passable bridge me and Marek managed to gain a lot of experience in survival. Being mostly left alone in hostile territory, gathering anything of interest to the cities survival and rescuing any sane person in need of help. We mostly went out there together, sometimes accompanied by 1 or 2 more people, depending on the assignment and place we would go.
We often spent more time out there than necessary though. Climbing on top of buildings, drinking, playing cards and shooting every single infected that we saw. There was more than enough ammo and it sort of turned into a game or competition for us.
And when we were back in the city the fun continued. Life itself seemed so much better than before, exploring new places, having fun, occasionally slipping past death and being appreciated for it.
Just like all the other guards that left the city borders, our reputation and the way people looked at us changed dramatically.
The people of the town appreciate the scavengers work and almost viewed them as guardian angels, since they often provide the sick citizens with crucial and lifesaving medicine, among other things. Some people even regularly visited the church to pray for them when out on scavenger runs.
Things were about to change though. The doctors within the city council started to feel a bit left out and their influence slowly vanishing. The military which includes the scavengers, slowly but steadily started to become the dominante faction in the council. Not only because they are the only ones with proper weapons and training, but also because the clergy started to almost agree on every of their suggestions. And if it wouldn't already be enough, the citizens were also on their side. The scientists feared that the military could gain control over everything, ultimately dissolving the council and turning their nice little "republic" into a military dictatorship. While this fear isn't completely unwarranted, it was the military that decided to divide the power of the city in the first place.
After creating the safe zone within Kerch, the leading soldiers thought that if they would rule the town with an iron fist it would just be a matter of time until the people rebel. So to keep the balance and the peace inside, they founded the city council, granting the other 2 factions their power, while knowing that in reality they are still the people in charge.
The doctors, scientists and otherwise intellectual people that made 1/3 of the council started to make plans to stop this from happening. Even though it is hypocritical, they starting to look into taking power themselves before anyone else could do. I don't know if they were influenced by any kind of ideology but if I would have to guess they were probably a bunch of socialists. Trying to share the wealth, give power to the people and ultimately see the whole town burn to the ground... goddamn idiots. Of course some citizens were unhappy, but they were safe and no one really complained, so I really didn't and still don't understand where this sudden desire for change came from.
A long chain of lying, bribing and murdering citizens and leading military personal started. Their biggest, best but at the same time worst result was getting a city guard commander by the name of "Andre" onto their side.
Andre is in charge of most of the militiamen and soldiers and with him on their side they thought everything would finally head into the right direction.
Unfortunately for them, Andre's plan wasn't to help them at all. Instead he used them to gain full control himself. His men started to spread lies about the other commanders and priests in the town, ultimately managing to convince the public of it and replacing them with his own loyal men. The doctors got the very thing they were afraid of and tried to prevent. The council at this point was completely irrelevant and under his control. Marek's uncle, who was also on the council was long gone at that point...
The biggest threat to him wasn't that easy to get rid of though.
Any attempt to do the same thing with us wouldn't have the slightest chance of succeeding. They had to come up with another plan. It did not take them long to think of something.
Andre used the, now loyal to him, doctors and scientists to get an excuse for sending the guardians of the town onto suicide missions.
They came up with the silly story that this wonderful city needs to strive for bigger things... like... curing this virus. Even though the expertise of the medical personal is by no means whatsoever enough to start any kind of research the plan was set in stone and the public was convinced that their guardians can pull it off and save the world... god will grant us the power I guess.
Marek, myself and all the other rangers were sent to different locations in Russia, Ukraine and Chernarus to gather information about the infection. Our targets: research labs, hospital complexes and ground zero itself.
It was made very clear to us, that if we wouldn't leave the city and go onto these journeys into hell, we would pay with our life's one way or another. Our thoughts about denying it and attempting to use our influence over the citizens to sort of start a counter-revolution were quickly forgotten. We feared it would just turn into a bloody... civil war to an extend. Leaving the whole city and all it's people in ruins.
For the sake of the very people that worshiped us, we complied, started packing and moved out. Hoping to come up with a plan to eventually reclaim the town and it's old "values" and maybe even giving power to the people itself. It was the last time I saw my friends.
Andre and his men made sure that every group of us set out in different directions so we couldn't band together. He had soldiers in line just waiting to chase us and murder every single one of us when out of sight of the town.
Marek and a couple of other men were sent west deeper into Crimea. Another group was taken north by boat. I assume they didn't even reach the other side... The last small group, that I was a part of was sent west over the bridge towards ground zero. We didn't per se know that we were being chased, but were expecting it either way, there is no way they would let us roam around without knowing what we are up to. Zakharov, the guy in our group with the most experience planed on setting up an ambush on top of the bridge. While we might have been outnumbered, you could argue that we knew the outskirts of the town better than the safe zone on the inside. The ambush was a big success, one of us got wounded but he and the rest of us continued to make our way to the other side.
Crossing the bridge would turn into a bloody mess for us though. As predicted they were just waiting for us on the other side of the bridge. With traps, overall much more firepower and a height and maneuverability advantage, we were rather easy targets for them. During the fight we noticed some thick fog appearing though, the rain got heavier and heavier as well. It was just me, Zakharov and some other guy left. The two of them wanted to just get out of cover and run into the traitors waiting for us on the other side, sacrificing themselves, like in a bad action movie or a soviet soldier charging into the germans, but I didn't let them. I grabbed them with as much force as I had left and pushed them over the bridge using the fog to our advantage. I'll admit it wasn't the best idea. The shore wasn't that far away though and turning back wouldn't have been an option either cause there are always guards on both ends of the bridge.
We... well Zakharov and I at least managed to make it to the coast and quickly tried to move as far away from the bridge as possible and managed to lose our chasers, I don't even know if they saw us jump off in the first place.
Our moral was on a low point though. Exiled into hostile lands we were left on our own, without the slightest chance of ever returning to the place we called home. I am assuming Marek's group suffered the same fate. Their chances of survival seem a bit better though, not having to cross a narrow passage like we had to.
And if things wouldn't have been bad enough already... shortly after these events, Commander Zakharov was jumped by infected and died just 2 days after the bridge incident.
I was alone... again, not knowing were to go. On our journeys we never really found another, comparable safe place like Kerch. I was just wandering around, trying to survive, even though I didn't really know what for anymore. Giving up wasn't something I could do. Many thoughts of sneaking back across the bridge and into the city came up in my head. Murdering everyone responsible for this mess... And one day I actually tried... but the furthest I got was back to the bridge. Cutting the throat of one of the guards and shooting the other one... killing people I didn't know directly but would have considered friends if I would have ever met them within the town. They both found a place on my arm with the help of a knife. I regretted it 5 minutes after it happend. It made me realize that I have to focus again.
At that point the bridge was open and probably safe to cross, but something that I couldn't really grasp stopped me from taking just a single step onto it. Going back now, dying and if lucky killing a person responsible would create nothing but chaos. Finding Marek seemed impossible and maybe it was time to move on. I've been insanely lucky so far and all good things must come to an end.
Maybe everyone there is happier now, while it's hard to imagine for me I cannot rule it out completely. Maybe there were problems created by the other guards that I never heard about. I didn't get that many news of how happy everyone is, and nor did I really ever care. I romanticized it in my head, pretending everyone is fine... while not knowing if that is the truth.
I turned my back and started moving...