When the infection took control of Chernarus and the surrounding areas, I was on vacation with my sister 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. We got stuck there when the borders were closed.
The reasoning for this rather odd travel destination was mainly the curiosity inside of me, I wanted to see how things really are after the Russian takeover. Depending on how your brain works you either believe that Russian's are evil and Ukraine joining NATO is a great idea or you call all that BS and are more supportive of Russia. Obviously, the truth is in the middle there.
Personally... I never trust the shit I hear on TV, I'd much rather see it with my own eyes... even though it is sometimes very difficult and requires a lot of time.
One bias I couldn't get out of my head though... all that bad press Russia received over the years in my country, sort of put them into the "victim" role in my head.
Now I know that is a really stupid thing... but I cannot help it. It did not make me blind though, I just felt there was a double standard.
I hate Ideologies of all kind and I hate people that think the world in black and white. This is partly the reason why I have a Tattoo of the "Iron Front", Three Arrows, on my lower left arm. Their believes don't really add up with mine to 100%, and it's less my support for this dead movement and more of a sign of resistance against all those fools that wanna burn foreigners and and those that think damaging other people's property will solve anything.
So, yeah... I went there with my sister even though the German foreign ministry officially advised against any trips to the region, our curiosity was bigger than the fear of ... whatever. She got the same tattoo in the same spot, we both think alike in many ways.
Being on our own and not able to properly communicate with most of the locals, the first few weeks of living within this chaos were extremely difficult for the two of us. We settled down in a small apartment on the western end of town, but knew it wouldn't be a permanent solution. The whole building was abandoned actually, I guess everyone flee'd, we just used that to search through it all, pick the nicest furniture etc. from all the apartments and moved it into "ours".
During the day we mostly stayed close to our new home and only went further into town at night to get food, water etc.
For the most part we tried to avoid contact with other people, but eventually realized that to be a stupid idea, it probably would have driven us insane.
While we did have each other to talk to, play games etc. I was just a matter of time until we couldn't stand each others presence. I love my little sister and we spent lots of time in the past, but now it was 24/7.
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.
I was very surprised with the way Marie just shrugged everything off, the situation didn't really bother her that much if that makes any sense ? In a way of... I feel as though I should be the stronger person in this nightmare given my military training. But I wasn't...
So I instead of just sitting around, we focused on finding some people that we could stick with and provide help with whatever we could and hopefully receive something in return.
And the search was a success... in a way. I ... found a Russia Soldier called Maxim Ivanovic and his friends who were able to communicate with me in broken, but understandable English.
To me it seemed like they weren't really following official orders anymore... at least not directly but I could be mistaken, could have just been the circumstances, maybe they just didn't think the orders they received made sense, or the command structure was just chaotic which wouldn't surprise me... I never asked them though.
The way we met was a bit odd though. During one of those nightly adventures of mine, 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 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 Maxim 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. Maxim 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 Maxim is (or was) he couldn't just leave his new best friend helpless on the floor, 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 for not just leaving me there on the floor.
Being incredibly thankful, I offered them help with everything they could possibly need help with. The next day we went and brought Marie over as well, she seemed very happy to not be alone anymore.
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 Maxim. They 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.
Seeing actual, living, breathing human beings drop dead to the floor because of your actions... it was something else. I was never in an active combat zone during my training and never really severely hurt anyone. I still remember how the guy looked like that I shot... the first person I killed...
Maxim 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...
The operation went down with rather low numbers of casualties on our side. Mostly because the majority of fighting people had military training. I guess the few BTR's that were still operable helped a bit as well.
While I was out clearing the city with the Russians, Marie stayed near the town center and helped the wounded civilians and soldiers, our mother was a nurse and she studied medicine, so she knew a thing or two.
To stay sane in these dark times a lot of people turned towards faith and the church quickly became more than just a suitable HQ and storage. It became the people’s light in these dark times and a place of hope.
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, Marie was always there and sometimes Maxim and a few others joined us. We lit the candles and just talked about whatever came to mind.
When I was with Marie, she usually just wanted to draw and remained quiet. 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. In school I decided to focus on scientific things, but looking back I regret that I didn't learn another language, like she did with french, or focused on art.
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 really that free though. More of an autonomous base of the Russian government that watched over the Kerch Strait and made sure the eastern part of Crimea stays in order. Russian Military presence was still heavy around the Sevastopol area and the peninsula slowly but surely turned into a fortress to maintain control of the black and green sea.
We found a new home. 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 10 people.
External affairs obviously resided to the military and with that to the Russian government. The council was mainly there to make sure the people of eastern Crimea are "happy".
Any sort of rebellious movement to give voting right to all citizens that appeared had been stomped by the local military, and to be fair... there only ever was one minor incident at all.
Some local wanted to turn our Republic into a "Soviet State".
He was hanged in the town square. And the rest of his ilk got first arrested and then banished from the city, at least that's the official story we were told
Maxim, Marie 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, 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 because of his drinking problem.
Maxim never really told me why, but did tell me to stay out of it... and so I did. At least for the longest time.
It appeared to me that Maxim had accepted it and believed that he deserved the "punishment", If that makes any sense.
But like I said, he never told me and I never felt like it's my place to talk about it.
Maybe if I would have asked a few things would have went differently.
A bit of a jump into the future now.
One night the 3 of us were out on a scavenging and reconnaissance mission, the Major joined us because 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 ... had an accident. All this was after me and Maxim spent a few months as city guards.
I don't recall whose fault it was... actually I don't remember a lot of that day at all, but we somehow got trapped on top of a construction site, surrounded by infected.
The Major obviously blamed his nephew for it. I tried to calm both down and wanted them to focus on a way out and back to the city... but all they did is argue and eventually they started fighting.
This time Maxim fought back though. When nothing seemed to work, I decided to step in between them and one of them did not like that though.
The Major pushed Maxim back with all his force, grabbed his knife and cut into my lower left leg. I dropped to the ground immediately. I didn't see that coming and for a few minutes was shocked and couldn't move.
It hurt too much, and I wasn't really used to that kind of pain. Just a minute later forced myself back up, the two of them continued fighting after I went down onto the ground.
Maxim got seemingly angrier at his uncle for what he just did.
It must have been the adrenaline or whatever you would call it, which allowed me to walk. I stood up, pulled my pistol and knife out, stabbed the Major in the left should, shot in his left leg and pushed him, with my knife still stuck in his back, off into the crowd of undead just below us that was spectating the whole time.
All the anger about how he treated my friend boiled over in that moment.
What happened after that? I cannot remember. Maxim told me that I passed out just a seconds after that. And while he was relieved that it was over, he told me that for the rest of that evening at least he also felt angry about my actions.
He stopped the bleeding on my leg, put me on his shoulders and must have walked all the way back into the town like that.
Whenever I asked him about details about how he did it, he would raise his voice and start telling me a heroic story of how he fought his way through hundreds of those damn creatures just to get me back in one piece.
I don't buy any of it though. He is not that kind of guy you would expect to pull that off. But maybe I am wrong.
He also gave me my knife back... I have really no idea what the fuck he did and how he managed it.
Everything went back to "normal" after this incident rather quickly. Marie patched me up upon returning to the city. Maxim, Marie and I talked about what happened and all agreed to never speak about it ever again. My sister didn't talk to me for a week after we told her what happened, but it was important to me that she knows everything that is going on.
Obviously the fact that the Major was missing didn't go unnoticed. We told them that he was drunk on our mission, which was true... and then twisted the rest of the story a bit.
No one questioned our story, they replaced him in the council and business continued as it always does.
Initially I had a few issues with the way things/decisions/politics were handled in the city, 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.
I doubt they would let the German give them advise about the politics structure of your new society anyways.
After securing the city center, Maxim 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 started to feel a bit guilty, having fun at "work" all the time while others actually contributed to the community.
We decided to sign up for the, already mentioned, scavenging runs, or any other outer city operations.
It wasn't a very popular task to take. It naturally put you into a much more dangerous position being out there rather than behind the safe walls of the city.
Not many people signed up voluntarily. Generally the Russian military didn't really need volunteers, but I guess were still glad that people stepped up.
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 every day.
While it was unpopular to sign up, they still didn't accept everyone. People not fit for the job would die rather quickly, while they could be used in more productive ways in helping the city.
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 though.
Leading numerous expeditions east over the, uncompleted, but yet passable bridge me and Maxim 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. The area east of Kerch was chaotic, unlike most of southern Russia.
We mostly went out there together, sometimes accompanied by 1 or 2 more people, depending on the assignment and place we would go.
I was always put in charge of the missions. They initially wanted Maxim, being related to a former council member and all, to lead us, but he refused and suggested me as the squad leader.
And by god, him having to make tough decisions and keeping the group together would have ended our efforts extremely quickly.
He knows how to fight... but if you don't stop him at some point he would probably start fighting the infected with their own weapons... biting their bloody heads off.
Probably a tiny stretch on my end, but that's honestly how I would imagine it to go down.
Never would have thought that I would lead Russian soldiers into combat. Leading wasn't really something I learned during my time in military, nor did I ever want to.
We often spent more time out there than necessary. 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.
If someone would have ever found out that we were borrowing more ammo than really necessary I wouldn't even hesitate to tell them the truth.
We didn't waste it... no one misses bandits and the undead when they are gone. Every bullet is well worth it.
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 by the other citizens for it.
Just like all the other guards that left the city walls, 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 to return home.
The Russian state regularly sent us supplies but there wasn't a wish-list of sorts. Some things like already mentioned specific medicine we had to get ourselves.
Things were about to change though. For me at least.
We never really got into trouble when we were back in the city. Marie was an angel, Maxim had a free pass because of his uncle, and I am usually just sitting around relaxing. Never really liked arguing or conflict in general.
One night in the pub made me snap though. Some old, ugly ass Russian Lieutenant had a few too many shots of vodka and suddenly discovered that my sister isn't terribly looking.
At first he was just having a casual conversation with her but it slowly got worse and worse. I don't mind anyone getting closer to my younger sister, but not guys like him... his age I assume he was close to 40 didn't help either.
He proceeded to make terrible jokes and compliments and just wouldn't lay off of her even after she, Maxim and I told him to stop.
When he started to touch her, I couldn't control myself any longer. I stood up from my chair next to them and knocked him onto the ground with my fist.
He started bleeding from his mouth, started laughing and told me that I just made a terrible mistake... looking back, he was not wrong at all, but I couldn't take it anymore.
He stood up walked towards me and in the same moment his friends grabbed me, rammed their elbows into my stomach and dragged me outside behind the bar. Marie tried to stop them but Maxim held her back, he knew it would only make it worse and that I had to go through what was about to happen.
Behind the building he started to lecture me of how stupid I am ... long story short... he beat the crap out of me and then left me laying there on the wet concrete floor.
He turned around and smiled at Maxim and told him something along the lines of "There is a lot you still have to teach your friend", when he was almost about to reach the end of the Allee he stopped, turned back and walked up to Marie again, his two friends continued walking back into the bar. I was still trying to gather my strength to get back on my feet but wasn't capable to do so yet.
When he reached my sister, he started to caress her face and said "We will meet again, thank your brother over there in the dirt".
In that very moment I broke. With the little strength I had left in me I upholstered my pistol...shot him straight in the head.
His body instantly fell on the ground and the water that filled the gaps and cracks, because of the rain, was painted red.
I passed out just a few seconds later.
I woke up the next day in a prison cell.
I don't remember a lot of what happened that day. Apparently Maxim made sure that nothing would happen to my sister and used what was his uncle's influence to spare me of getting hanged just like all the other criminals in the town square. Murdering a Russian Officer wasn't a small crime after all.
I really don't know how he managed to prevent me from dying that week, but he did and I will be forever thankful for it.
Whoever he talked to, reduced my sentence to just being banished from Kerch forever.
My sister was allowed to stay... even though she wanted to accompany me, I talked her out of it... and it was a terrible mistake... for me at least... she is save there but being left alone broke me again in the coming months. Maxim promised to take care of her for me.
I packed my bags, said my goodbyes to my two best friends and started heading east over the makeshift paths of the bridge, leaving the city behind.
Later that day I noticed a note in my backpack. My sister wrote me down a safe way of contacting her, even over long distance. Apparently transmissions would go through a frequency no one really used in or around Kerch, not secret or secure... just rarely used.