From violinist to combat medic: how art helped Anastasia "Cyanide" find her place in the war.
ARMIAINFORM meets Kyivite Anastasia with the call sign "Cyanide" near Siversk (Donetsk region). On the roadside, in the shaded thickets of trees and bushes, she is conducting tactical medicine training for combat medics of the 125th brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Anastasia is talking about the strict necessity of war — to assemble and apply tourniquets properly, because even the smallest mistake can lead to tragedy. She remembers a soldier found dead with his fingernails ripped off. After being wounded in the hand, he tried in vain to unbuckle the tourniquet. As a result, he failed to twist the windlass rod and died from critical blood loss.
Anastasia knows too many of such stories. Although at her 26 she could have had a completely different life, e.g. could have played the violin to packed concert halls, at the beginning of March 2022 she joined the army and fought hard for Kyiv, the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, was on rotation near the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Kharkiv region, as well as participated in the defense of Bakhmut and Soledar. Anastasia is a professional musician who successfully completed her master's degree at the National Academy of Music, which she fundamentally refuses to name by Tchaikovsky's name. She enrolled in graduate school, but the Russia’s large-scale invasion canceled all her artistic plans.
Although she had no military experience, the girl immediately stood up for the defense of Ukraine and ended up as an ordinary shooter in the ranks of the Kyiv Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces.
At that time, the Russians still dreamed of capturing the Ukrainian capital. Anastasia recalls: there were constant shelling from all types of artillery, air and missile strikes. “One day our first platoon commander asked us ‘who wants to become a combat medic and is not afraid to stick a finger into a bleeding wound?’
— I answered in surprise, ‘is it so difficult? Because not much can shock me in life, I'm afraid nether of blood nor terrible injuries. Probably, these are the features of my character, because professional art and professional music have become such a school of life, after which you are prepared for anything. That's how I became a combat medic,” says Anastasia with the call sign "Cyanide."
Then there was training and return to the native battalion. The first experience came with the first wounded. Then Anastasia realized that in order to save more lives, she should learn and improve every day. And also - to pass on the acquired experience and knowledge to others.
— “There is an expression: in a critical situation, you will fall to the level of your preparation rather than rise to the level of your hopes. Therefore, every fighter, regardless of whether he is a "ranger" or an ordinary cook, has one academic hour a week, that is, 45 minutes to study tactical medicine. This is extremely important for maintaining the acquired skills — so that the hands remember the algorithm of actions, and in a stressful situation, a person can find his way and correctly provide help to himself or his comrade-in-arms. Because we call the first 5 minutes after an injury "golden minutes", and the help provided by a trained fighter during this period is much more important than everything that will be done later,” Anastasia notes.
Today, Anastasia is a medical training instructor at the training center of the Territorial Defense Forces. She has vast experience of working directly with the wounded both in the trenches and during evacuation. In her practice, she uses the recommendations of the most authoritative international organizations specializing in tactical medicine. "Cyanide" is convinced: these protocols allow saving the greatest number of lives, and statistics only confirm this.
— “In my battalion, there was a case when a combat medic went to the wounded in the "red zone", that is, in the area under fire. And there he began to carry out manipulations unforeseen in the "red zone". And while he was tamponing the wound there, which is expressly forbidden by the protocols, he was shot with a small weapon from a distance of about 70 meters. His assistant, who was with him, also died, as well as the wounded man they were helping. Therefore, it is very important to follow the protocols and recommendations, because they really save lives,” Anastasia concludes.
Separately, the instructor emphasizes the need for a thorough examination of the wounded. She recalls: “Once the medics did not pay due attention to the soldier's shoes, missing a massive bleeding.
— Perhaps someone did not know this, but up to 700 milliliters of blood can leak into the most common boot in the Armed Forces, the "Talan." You can pour a bottle into it and nothing will even drip. That is why it is important to follow the algorithm for examining the wounded,” "Cyanide" says.
Anastasia pays special attention to tourniquets. They must be certified, which confirms their quality. Otherwise, the consequences will be unpredictable.
— “If a tourniquet is certified, correctly applied, tightened and completely blocks the blood flow, it significantly reduces the chances of limb amputation, provided that a critical amount of time has not passed since its application. If the tourniquet is not tightened to the end, the artery continues to supply blood to the limb, and the veins, in the absence of proper pressure, cannot return it back to the body. Therefore, the blood will accumulate in the limb, which will damage all tissues, and the risk of amputation will go up. Therefore, if you are applying a tourniquet, tighten it so that it completely blocks the blood flow. If there is no blood flow, it will be much easier to save the limb later,” Anastasia shares her experience.
Anastasia says that the current Russian-Ukrainian war is primarily an artillery war. The enemy uses it extremely intensively, so 9 out of 10 injuries on the front are shrapnel and blast injuries. Therefore, "Cyanide" once again calls on every Ukrainian defender to take care of proper training in tactical medicine and, most importantly, not to be afraid to apply the learned skills when the circumstances require it. Because if you waste valuable time on thinking and do nothing, it can be too late in a minute.
Photo credits: Oleh Kutuzov and from Anastasia's ("Cyanide") own archive.combat medic interview