By Andre Babaian
From early morning, the brigades were on the move continuing the march toward Cunjamba, a ghost village midway between Cuito Cuanovale and Mavinga. The whole armada was comprised of 3 brigades: the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade (MIB) that was on the left flank; the 16th Infantry Brigade (IB) - in the middle, and our 13th Airborne-Assault Brigade (AAB) - on the right flank.
At 9:30 am, when we were some 15 – 18 clicks from Cunjamba, the 1st MIB advanced outpost units came into contact with UNITA. The attack caught us by surprise and was somehow unexpected – not because we weren’t ready to fight them off but because the enemy, as a rule, attacked us either at early morning hours, between 06:00 or 07:00 am, or after 3:00 pm. UNITA attacked at the linkage of the 1st MIB’s 1st and 2nd battalions with a force of up to 2 infantry companies, approximately 150 to 200 men. The battle was fast and lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes.
The enemy quickly retreated and managed to carry away the wounded – our troops didn’t find any of UNITA’s killed or wounded. That battle resembled more like a reconnaissance rather than a thoroughly prepared and executed attack. Half an hour later, the brigades moved on. Breathing was very difficult due to the forest fires that literally chased after us. We didn’t sleep the previous night because UNITA kept relentlessly harassing us with mortar shelling. The 1st MIB Commander ordered to make a short salvo from the BM-21 MRSL (Multiple Rocket System Launcher) to suppress those mortar firing emplacements but that didn’t bring any tangible results, and UNITA kept bothering us all night long. As a consequence of BM-21 shelling the existing fires intensified even more causing additional heat to already high daily temperatures.
UNITA attacked again around noon time when the brigades stopped to determine the exact location and the distance to Cunjamba. This time they attacked at the linkage of 1st and 2nd battalions of our 13th AAB. Again, the attack lasted for about 10 – 15 minutes and was not even supported by artillery or mortars fire. Just like the first attack, the enemy units quickly retreated after encountering strong resistance but again managed to carry away the wounded or killed because neither was found. That was rather interesting: two quick attacks in less than 4 hours in between and then a quick withdrawal? Something here wasn’t right. The brigade advisors conducted a brief meeting and concluded that such actions by UNITA could only indicate that the enemy was trying to find vulnerabilities in our marching orders to infiltrate and strike our logistical and artillery units. With that in mind, Lt. Colonel Nikolai Tarasov, the 13th AAB Commander advisor, decided to see brigade’s Commander, Captain Cuxixima (read as Kushishima - full name Guillermo Ileush Correira), and give him advisors’ assessment of the situation as well as suggest further course of actions. He told me to come with him to translate. As we approached Cuxixima’s APC, the armada started moving forward again and we had to return to our APC.
The brigades were on the move practically nonstop for the rest of the day, and by 4 o'clock in the afternoon, came to halt. Per our estimate we were just about a couple of clicks away from Cunjamba. We saw Cuxixima’s APC maneuvering and driving away from the HQ column. Minutes later we found out that all 3 brigade commanders decided to meet and discuss the order in which the brigades would occupy defensive positions at Cunjamba. A day before Major Vietnam, the 6th Military District Commander, ordered the brigades to stop at Cunjamba and remain over there for 3 to 4 days. He also ordered to create a defensive perimeter around Cunjamba and prepare helicopter LZs to facilitate delivery of the fuel, ammunitions, medicines, etc., as well as to evacuate the seriously wounded and sick FAPLA personnel and POWs – each brigade had at least 10 to 15 UNITA POWs, both soldiers and officers. It didn’t make any sense to carry them with us: we had to guard them and dedicate extra security personnel just for that when we really couldn’t afford it. Besides, we had to feed them and give them water which was of a great value to us. The commanders had to discuss those and other issues. They decided not to invite advisors to the meeting.
The brigades stopped and weren’t moving. Usually, while on the march, each brigade was divided into 3 to 4 columns. Our column was comprised of the HQ (staff), brigade advisors, and logistical and other support units, and was always moving in the middle of the brigade’s marching orders. However, on that particular day at one point during the march, our 13th AAB’s middle HQ column crossed with the right-hand column of the 2nd battalion. Because of that, the column was now on the extreme right flank. In front of our APC, no. 041, were mostly URAL and IFA trucks attached to the logistical units, as well as the “GRAD-1P” and 82-mm mortar firing platoons. Behind the APC was our URAL truck, driven by the 2nd Battalion Commander advisor, Maj. Igor Zlatkin. Along with him in the truck’s cabin rode the Brigade Logistics Chief’s advisor, Maj. Evgenyi Bogatsky. Behind our URAL truck there were URAL trucks attached to the brigade’s technical support, repairs and maintenance units. During the march, Brigade Commander’s, Capt. Cuxixima’s APC was usually located in front of our APC; yet at the moment, as it was previously stated, it wasn’t there because he drove away to attend brigades’ commanders meeting. Our APC was the only armored vehicle in the HQ column.
There were in the APC: at the commander's seat, Brigade’s Commander advisor, Lt. Colonel Nikolai Petrovich Tarasov; behind the APC’s wheel, driver’s seat - technical repairs specialist, senior warrant officer Nikolai Ivanov; behind Tarasov – Brigade’s Political Chief Advisor, Lt. Colonel Nikolai Gerasimovich Kovtun; behind the driver’s seat – a civilian, an Army reservist, translator, Anatoly (Tolia) Frolov. He always listened to the APC’s radio station because he was very well familiar with the lingo used by FAPLA during the radio transmissions. APC’s machine guns were manned by the 1st Battalion Commander advisor, Maj. Igor Drobyshev; on APC’s port side, was Artillery Brigade Chief advisor and acting Brigade’s Chief of Staff Brigade advisor, Lt. Col. Ivan Nikiforovich Prokopiuk; I was on the starboard side. Both Prokopiuk and I were sitting behind Drobyshev, on the front troop bench. There were 2 reasons why I was at the starboard side: first, Tarasov designated that place for me to get out quickly through the APC’s starboard rear top hatch if and when he needed an interpreter; and, second, since I was also appointed as a second (substitute) gunner in addition to my newly acquired responsibilities of a R-143 radio station operator, Drobyshev, our gunner, taught me how to load and shoot APC’s KPVT & PKT machine guns. Just before leaving for the operation, all of us, brigade’s advisors and translators, were required to fire from all types of weapons that the brigade was armed with. For that purpose we used our brigade’s firing range at the brigade’s base in Menongue. One important fact is worth mentioning: On August 27 when we left Menongue to Cuito Cuanavale, our brigade was in full force with 3 battalions. However, right before crossing the Cuito river bridge, Maj. Vietnam has ordered Capt. Cuxixima to leave behind in Cuito Cuanavale our 3rd Battalion for protection of the Military Region’s Advanced Field Commanding Post. 3rd battalion Commander’s advisor was Maj. Stanislav Boiko and he stayed behind with the battalion.
As mentioned above, it was around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the daily heat started to subside, nonetheless sitting inside the APC wasn’t such a nice activity to pursue. Frolov, Tarasov, Prokopiuk and I got out of the APC and sat on top of it with our feet dangling inside the hatches. Kovtun was sitting inside and was writing down something in his notebook; Ivanov was relaxing, stretched in his driver’s seat; Drobyshev was catching some z’s with his hands behind his head using them as a cushion - putting the head on the piece of iron rod to which the gunner seat was screwed was very uncomfortable and somewhat painful. Prokopiuk pulled out his battered Russian – Portuguese phrase book and read out aloud phrases in Russian and then their equivalent translation in Portuguese. I saw that Andre, the advisors’ security detail sergeant, was trying to explain something to another soldier from the security detail, Paulino, but apparently Paulino was unable to understand what was going on until our cook, Manuel, interrupted the argument and now the three kept talking, mixing in their conversation both Portuguese and Kimbundu tribal language words. In general, it was quiet, because during prolonged stops all cars turned their engines off to save fuel.
Frolov pulled out our "Zeiss" commander's binoculars and was observing the forest that was to our right rear of the brigade. When I got out of the APC, I could see even with a naked eye that the brigade’s right flank protective escort provided by our 2nd AA Battalion kept moving forward despite the fact that the brigades had stopped and weren’t by then moving for some time. I didn’t pay much attention to such a thing as it has occurred already before more than once. Usually the battalion commanders managed to stop and return the soldiers back to the positions to provide the cover to the columns.
Frolov kept looking through the binoculars, then lowered it and turned to Tarasov:
"Nikolai Petrovich, it seems, the Second Battalion has completely passed and I don’t see any escort soldiers on the flank.”
Tarasov took the binoculars and looked at the direction that Frolov pointed to, and then said:
"What do you want me to do? The battalion commander should take care of this. Let them sort things out."
Then we heard as Kovtun commented on Tarasov’s words:
"Nikolai, don’t you think that we must inform Cuxixima about this? He must order the battalion commander to return the soldiers back to the position, don’t you think? We can’t allow having the entire flank bare with no protection at all."
"Well, I'm not his errands boy, to run after him and report to him about this. He must take his head out of his ass and be a commander as he is supposed to be. He’s left for the meeting and even failed to inform me that he was going. What am I, a toy? Tells me things as he wishes? Fuck it! "
We all looked at each other - everyone understood that Tarasov considered himself insulted by Cuxixima’s behavior but this wasn’t a kindergarten. How could he think like that and jeopardize the security of all brigades? If UNITA knew that there was such a huge gap, they would’ve attacked us with such a tremendous blow causing damage from which we wouldn’t have been able to recover. However, it was obvious to all of us that he didn’t care. That was very strange and peculiar position!
He gave the binoculars back to Frolov and slid down inside the APC. I could hear the conversation between Tarasov and Kovtun coming from the APC, but couldn’t make out the words or understand what they were talking about. Frolov kept looking with the binoculars into the forest to the side that he’s pointed earlier to Tarasov, occasionally dropping the binoculars and trying to make out something in the distance without them. To the right side of the APC, 5-7 meters away, was a strip of small trees and bushes, and immediately after those there was a big opening, a meadow, maybe 25-30 meters wide. The dense forest continued right after the meadow. Although each and every morning the flank protective units were given orders to keep a distance of at least 100 meters from the outermost columns, they always managed to come closer to the columns during the day at a distance of no more than 30-40 meters, therefore by end of the day we could see those units with a naked eye. Nevertheless, even now we were unable to see them at all. As we peered through the foliage of the trees, we saw no one. Frolov continued looking through the binoculars for another 2 or 3 minutes, then lowered his binoculars. He lit a cigarette, AC, and then turned to Prokopiuk:
"Ivan Nikiforovich, look over there." He pointed to the right side of the APC. “There is a meadow, some 80 meters to the right. I saw something over there. There are soldiers, wearing our uniform but they have leaves attached to their hats, for camouflage. Do you think the battalion commander ordered them to do this?"
He handed Prokopiuk the binoculars. Prokopiuk looked in the direction pointed by Frolov. I also looked with interest in the same direction and saw a group of soldiers quickly approaching the meadow. Do not know why, but maybe by intuition, I quickly slid into the hatch and simultaneously removed hatch’s cover from the stopper. As soon as my hatch was closed, the APC was literally showered with bullets and at the same time something exploded right next to the APC. The whole vehicle rattled. Frolov and Prokopiuk in an instant were inside the APC and closed the hatches. I looked through the APC’s periscope-type observation unit (OU) and saw a group of 40 to 50 UNITA soldiers quickly approaching and firing at our APC.
"Andrei, load!" – barked Drobyshev at me.
I crawled under the machine gun turret to KPVT machine gun loading mechanism and pulled the loading ring one time and then quickly sent it away - the cord with the ring returned to its original position. "Two times" - I said to myself in my mind as Drobyshev had taught me, and pulled the ring one more time. The KPVT machine gun started firing: Drobyshev methodically began unleashing hell from the machine gun upon the advancing enemy. I looked through the OU again and saw that UNITA soldiers lay down, but kept firing at our APC.
Suddenly, from the outside, APC’s outside port side, we heard a loud knock on the armor and Igor Zlatkin’s shouting:
"Guys, open up the hatch, open up the hatch!"
Prokopiuk, having heard Zlatkin’s shouting, unlocked the hatch and started opening the hatch cover, but for some reason the hatch wouldn’t yield. Then he kicked the hatch. What happened next, just like everything else happening at that moment, mostly resembled a slow motion movie: from the kick, the side hatch cover opened wide; at the same time Zlatkin grabbed with his right hand the edge of the hatch; the hatch cover hit APC’s side handle and by inertia with a tremendous force swung back and hit Zlatkin’s hand at the wrist. Prokopiuk and I were looking at what was happening with horror and disbelief – it seemed to both of us that Zlatkin’s wrist was completely shattered and broken. Suddenly, within a split second, Zlatkin opened the hatch cover with his left hand and tumbled inside the APC with another advisor, Bogatsky, shouting on a top of his lungs:
"Oh, those sons of bitches! They are shooting at us! Shooting at the truck! Sons of bitches! Let’s use grenades on them, sons of bitches!”
Instantaneously he took out the box with F-1 grenades from the underneath of the troop bench and started by screwing in the detonators.
At the same time I could hear Drobyshev yelling to Ivanov:
“Nikolai, drive the APC away from here! Nikolai, please, they are going to hit us from RPGs!"
Ivanov was frantically trying to start APC’s second engine. As he finally managed to do it he floored the gas pedal and the APC roaring, pulled ahead 2 or 3 meters and stalled.I heard another explosion – the RPG grenade exploded right behind the APC. Tarasov was yelling at Ivanov:
"As you were! Stand still! Don’t start the engines! Freeze!”
Drobyshev yelled at Tarasov:
"Nikolai Petrovich! We must pull away! We can’t stay here!" and then again to Ivanov:
"Nikolai, do not stop, please, Nikolai, move forward!"
Ivanov finally started the engine and began to move slowly forward but there was no room to maneuver – there was brigade’s HQ truck right in front of us. FAPLA soldiers were right under it apparently firing at the attacking enemy. All this time Drobyshev was able very effectively to hold advancing UNITA off with KPVT machine gun fire, but that was barely enough. When I looked again through the OU I saw UNITA soldiers very close to the meadow’s edge. Then I saw Prokopiuk moving to the rear troop bench and opening the APC’s last starboard side loophole to shoot UNITA with his AKM.
Again I heard Tarasov shouting at Prokopiuk:
"Comrade Lt. Colonel! Cease fire! Stop immediately shooting your weapon! I am ordering you!"
Apparently, Tarasov’s idiotic behavior so enraged Kovtun that he got his PM sidearm from a holster and yelled at him:
"Comrade Lt. Colonel! Stop panicking immediately! Right now! I will not let the enemy kill us because of your stupid orders!”
Then he calmly turned to Ivanov and said:
"Nikolai, you do not stand still, alright? You move the APCs back and forth, so they don’t get us, alright?"
Ivanov, completely pale from the stress, just nodded his head and started moving the APC in short spurts backwards. I felt that someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked around, that was Prokopiuk. He told me:
"Andrei, open the loophole and start shooting. My AKM’s jammed."
As if hypnotized, I grabbed my 1949 AKS, loaded it by sending the cartridge into the chamber, opened a loophole and looked into it: nearby, I saw several silhouettes. I pulled the trigger. The silhouettes fell on the ground. Suddenly, Frolov, who was also looking through the front starboard OU shouted:
"Andrei, you got them. There are three more, to your left, they have RPG! They will shoot it now! Shoot! Shoot!"
I pressed the trigger, but my AKS was silent – I was out of bullets. I heard Drobyshev growled from the underneath of the turret:
"Zlatkin, load the PKT! I’m out of KPVT bullets."
I do not know why, but somehow I became very calm. Without agitation I replaced the empty magazine, then reloaded the AKS and looked through the loophole again: several other silhouettes were still advancing toward us. Apparently, Zlatkin loaded the PKT machine gun because Drobyshev fired a long salvo to the left where Frolov was pointing to. We heard another explosion right next to the APC: evidently the RPG grenade hit the ground and exploded between the 2 and 3 wheels of the APC. The explosion jolted the APC, but nevertheless we continued moving backwards. I fired from my AKS again, but in short bursts, 3-4 bullets at a time. I saw that in the direction I was shooting the dark silhouettes were falling on the ground and never stood up. Apparently, Zlatkin also managed to replace the ammunition box with KPVT bullets and reload the machine gun, because a couple of minutes later when I was again out of bullets and replacing the empty magazine, Drobyshev pressed simultaneously both buttons of the machine guns’ electric triggers. Oh, mother of god! That was one deafening sound!
I looked through the OU again and saw how the KRVT bullets ripped huge trees in half. The UNITA began to retreat. I kept shooting at the silhouettes, while there were bullets in the magazines. At one moment, when I looked through the OU, one of the KPVT bullets caught one of the UNITA soldiers right in his head. I remembered from my childhood memories that one time my dad and I went to the marketplace – bazaar. Over there I saw how the merchants were unloading watermelons from the truck and one of the watermelons fell to the ground from the truck. I saw how that watermelon was torn to millions of pieces. What I saw right now had a similar pattern: head exploded into the millions of pieces and blood was gushing out of the body like a fountain. But at that moment I cared less – either they kill us or we kill them. That day we were the victors! I still could hear Tarasov yelling at me and Drobyshev to cease fire, but again at that moment I didn’t care. He was foaming at the mouth screaming at Ivanov until Kovtun put his sidearm gun to his forehead. Not a single person in the APC expected that from the political officer! Nobody! But because of Kovtun’s actions we could act accordingly under the circumstances.
The fight ended as abruptly as it started. It lasted approximately 25 minutes. There was silence both outside and inside the APC. Drobyshev was still turning the turret left and right, surveying the edge of the forest for the presence of UNITA but everything quieted down. I was still holding my gun in a loophole, replacing the empty magazine. As far as I remembered I’ve emptied four of my magazines and 3 of Prokopiuk’s – he handed me his full magazines when I was out of bullets. Zlatkin was reloading both machine guns – Drobyshev had emptied a total of 4 boxes of ammunitions: 2 with KPVT bullets, and 2 – with PKT. A minute later I tried to sit on the troop bench, but couldn’t - the bench was filled with the empty cartridges from my AKS.
Several minutes later Zlatkin opened the port side hatch, and one by one we started getting out of the APC – we still didn’t want to risk it and open the top hatches, just in case. We no longer could stay inside the APC: the temperature inside must have risen over 50 degrees Celsius, or maybe more; the gunpowder smoke was so thick that we couldn’t breathe; besides, we needed to find out what happened with our security detail. To our surprise they acted very courageously: not only they defended their positions from UNITA’s assault, but they also made sure that none of the friendly FAPLA soldier would "accidentally" wander into our URAL truck.
Our uniforms and underwear were soaking wet. When I jumped off the APC on the ground, I felt the squelch in the boots: the sweat was even in there. All of the sudden we heard brigade’s HQ platoon soldiers shouting about something and pointing first at the dead FAPLA soldier, then at us. First, we were unable to understand what was wrong. When asked, we found out that they were accusing us of running over one of HQ platoon soldier’s head during the battle, supposedly, while maneuvering our APC. They brought and showed us dead soldier’s AKMS with destroyed barrel. The whole AKMS was in pieces of the human brain. It was like pouring gasoline into the burning fire because as soon as Tarasov heard that he started yelling at Ivanov again:
"Didn’t I command you, comrade senior warrant officer, not to move the APC? You did not listen to my orders! I'll court-martial you for disobeying my orders! Do you understand what you have done? You killed a man!"
Poor Ivanov didn’t even know what to do. Tarasov kept yelling at him until Kovtun intervened again and took Tarasov aside.
With all that noise and raucous captain Sureyra, the Chief of the Brigade’s HQ, showed up on his BRDM-2 (Combat Patrol & Reconnaissance Vehicle). He jumped out the BRDM and started dealing with the HQ platoon soldiers. While he was at that our security detail sergeant, Andre, called Frolov and showed him at BRDM’s front left wheel and the outer side of the board: the side of the wheel and the board were splattered with fresh blood and pieces of the human brain. Frolov called Tarasov and Kovtun and showed it to them – clearly, it wasn’t our fault, our APC didn’t run over the HQ platoon soldier. Andre also told us that he saw during the battle the HQ Chief’s BRDM passing from the port side of our APC. We couldn’t possibly see it because UNITA attacked us from the opposite site. Apparently, that’s when this incident occurred. After that we examined our URAL truck. We counted over 50 bullet holes on the truck’s bed side but mostly in the truck’s cabin right door. Fortunately to all of us, both Zlatkin and Bogatsky managed to get to our APC unharmed.
In the distance we saw that the battalion comprising the flank protection units returned to the positions – brigade’s flank was now covered and secured. Drobyshev took me aside and, without saying a word, shook my hand and tapped several times on the shoulder. Then he just made a head movement to follow him. We went in the direction from where UNITA attacked us. The spectacle before us was dreadful and not easy to take: the entire meadow in front of us was littered with UNITA soldiers corpses. The smell of the blood in particular – one remembers that smell for the rest of a life! Everywhere were parts and bits of human bodies – the somber result of KPVT machine gun fire. There was blood everywhere! We counted 19 killed UNITA soldiers. We found as many as 5 (!!!) empty tubes from the RPG. There were no wounded. All dead UNITA soldiers were dressed in FAPLA uniforms of Cuban origin. All were armed with Soviet-made AKMs with a full set of ammunitions. Drobyshev showed me one dead UNITA soldier, whose body was “cut” with automatic gun fire from the waist to the left shoulder, and nodded to me.
One of the soldiers from our security detail ran to us and informed that we were being called back to the APC. When approaching the APC, we saw Cuxixima was talking to the HQ Chief in loud tones. I gathered from their conversation that the HQC has disobeyed commander’s orders and left the HQ and us, the advisors, unattended. Later Cuxixima informed us that the brigades needed to move ahead just another half a click to establish our defensive perimeter - we were already at Cunjamba.
The armada moved on, and half an hour later we stopped for the night. As always, we and our protective detail quickly organized our HQ. We pulled the tent between the truck and the APC; we also unloaded benches, table and other things from the truck. Our cook, Manuel, took up cooking dinner. I was standing at the APC’s left front wheel and reloading AKS’s empty magazines with the bullets, when I saw Ivanov, climbing to the top of the APC. I noticed that after he already climbed half way inside the vehicle, he all of the sudden began sliding back on the APC’s side, falling on the ground. When I saw him falling I jumped to catch him. That’s when he fell on me with the whole weight of his body. I only managed to shout:
Frolov and Zlatkin were standing close by and immediately jumped next to me – the three of us were able to keep Ivanov from falling to the ground. We quickly picked him up and put him on our "dining table" – 2 empty ammunition boxes for table legs and 2 long boards nailed together. Ivanov was unconscious. Kovtun quickly pulled out a vial with ammonia from the first aid kit, opened it and slightly passed it under Ivanov’s nose. He woke up but he looked awful: he was all pale, with wide-open uncomprehending eyes. He was breathing heavily and obviously didn’t know what had happened to him. Kovtun gave him a cup of water with valerian, and after a while he started quietly calming down. Our mood was subdued, apparently the adrenaline rush passed and we’ve started coming to the realization of the events that had happened to us. Frolov and I stepped aside the APC to find a suitable place to install a dipole antenna for our R-143 radio station, but nothing that we tried did work - the hands did not obey us, the knees were trembling. We sat down beside the APC, lit up the cigarettes to somehow calm ourselves down. After being silent for a minute or two Frolov suggested:
"Andrei, when you finish smoking, would you take the radio message from Prokopiuk, alright? I'll go to the HQ and ask their radioman to use their RAKAL radio station. You know, somehow, I am really not in the mood to deploy the dipole antenna, okay?"
I nodded. He went to the brigade’s HQ. I returned back under our HQ’s tent after I finished smoking. I saw that Ivanov was gradually coming to back to his senses. He sat on a chair, leaning his back on the APC’s wheel but he was staring blankly at one point with semi-closed eyes. I approached Prokopiuk and asked him whether the radio message was ready.
"Nope, it is not,” he answered. “I don’t have it ready. You have to wait another 10 – 15 minutes, it is not ready yet. I had to rewrite the whole thing – Tarasov didn’t want me to include today’s events into the message."
I looked at him a little surprised, but he just shrugged his shoulders and went on to encrypt. I walked away and lit another cigarette – I just couldn’t calm down. At that moment I saw Zlatkin coming up to me and turning his right hand left and right:
"Oh, man, the wrist hurts. I can’t understand why. It’s not like that fell anywhere, right?"
I immediately thought that he was joking, but evidently he had no idea what had happened to him. When Prokopiuk approached us and handed me the encrypted radio message Zlatkin asked him:
"Ivan, did I fall? Oh, man, the wrist hurts, aches like a bitch, and I don’t know why."
Prokopiuk looked at him in amazement and said:
"Igor, are you kidding me?"
Zlatkin looked at him and replied:
"No, guys, well, seriously it hurts.”
He started turning his wrist left and right again and we saw that painful expression on his face:
“You see, it hurts, man," said Zlatkin
Prokopiuk and I looked at each other and laughed. Zlatkin looked first at me, then at Prokopiuk. Then Prokopiuk explained to Zlatkin what happened. One should’ve seen Zlatkin’s face! He looked at me in disbelief and I just nodded acknowledging Prokopiuk words. In short, it took several minutes to convince him of what has happened to him.
I took a coded message from Prokopiuk and went to the brigade’s HQ. It was a little after 6:00 pm. Frolov stood at the trench, in which HQ’s radioman was sitting and transmitting something through the RACAL radio station. When he completed the transmission, I sat down at the radio station. I managed to connect with our HQ in Cuito Cuanavale right the way. The transmission took about 10 minutes. After that I went back to our HQ. Everybody had already dinned: the cook, Manuel, was washing the dishes. I found my portion of the dinner on the edge of the table. I took the plate with the food and the drink and sat down with our protective detail – they were still having their dinner.
We started talking about today’s event. Andre, protective detail’s sergeant, sat down beside me and said:
"Camarada (Comrade) Andrei, if not for your APC, Kwacha (UNITA) could’ve caused a lot of problems."
“Didn’t you, guys, shoot at them as well?” I asked him.
“No, Camarada Andrei, it was just you, you repulsed them, none of the FAPLA shoot at Kwacha,” he answered back.