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A LETTER TO FORMER RUSSIAN FOES BY ROLAND DE VRIES AND MIKE BEYL

FROM MAXIM GL:ADKOV, UNION OF RUSSIAN VETERANS OF ANGOLA:

Great news!

I've just received three copies of the book "Eye of the Firestorm" by Gen. Roland de Vries! Thank you, General de Vries, thank you Mike Beyl for this wonderful opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a huge part of our common story as it is told on the other side. Although we still distinguish between the sides, you are very right to say that "we are no longer enemies, but friends forever"...

Here is the text of the letter, that I received from Roland de Vries and Mike Beyl prior to getting the book:

A LETTER TO FORMER RUSSIAN FOES BY ROLAND DE VRIES AND MIKE BEYL - VETERANS FROM THE ANGOLAN WAR

Dear fellow veterans of the Angolan War: Igor Ignatovich, Maxim Gladkov and Igor Gorbunov,

It is with immense pleasure that I write this letter to you. I was requested to do so by our mutual friend Mike Beyl - we are both members of the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group Veteran's Association (61mech.org.za) and as such can share memories of the Angolan campaign with you.

After Mike mentioned your acquaintance with him to me during a casual conversation I suggested that he send you each a copy of my book Eye of the Firestorm as a gift, which was recently published in May 2013 by Naledi in South Africa (see Eye of the Firestorm Facebook). It is an autobiography which also addresses the South African Border War; something you will be able to relate to.

We have the greatest respect for the Russian soldiers who had experienced war and hardship in Angola. Those of us who were there on the other side can bear witness to this fact.

By the way Russia was an ardent supporter of the two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State, during the Second Boer War between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers; as you well know this viscous war lasted from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902. Many Russians came out to fight for the Boers and to be their nurses and doctors. (See The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova, Published by: Human and Rousseau/Combined Book Services).

What I had found in Africa, and it is similar in other places in the world, is that when the politicians eventually make peace, many of the soldiers who were fighting each other soon afterwards become close friends - it is all about soldiery comradeship. As such one of the key objectives of the 61 Mech veterans is to reach out to our former enemies and to make friends with them. We did this recently when Mike and I accompanied other veterans on a battlefield tour to Namibia and southern Angola in October 2010 (I can imagine that he shared some photographs with you).

At times like these we sit around a campfire, as we share memories and tears and laughter about the fighting years of yore. During this particular tour we visited the Heroes Acre of SWAPO in Windhoek. A few of the veterans from erstwhile 61 Mechanised Battalion Group and 32 Battalion shared a memorable occasion in reaching out to our former enemies from SWAPO; one of them spontaneously voiced to our small group: “There are no winners here today; peace is the only victor… Come again, this is your home from home.” Our former enemies touched our souls through such simple utterances. Of course our destination also took us to Cuito Cuanavale, a place you know well.

I currently reside In Dubai with my wife Henriette, but will be returning to South Africa in a year's time - before that we want to visit Stalingrad and also do a boat cruise on the Volga. The other day I met young tourists in Dubai from Russia and invited them to come and visit magnificent Cape Town. Firstly, I tell them, fly via Angola and visit Cuito Cuanavale where your older generation had fought against us in the war for southern Angola. Read about their exploits and hardships in a book they had written about that war: “Bush War – The Road to Cuito Cuanavale” by Gennady Shubin and Andrei Tokarev Andrei. Thank you for the privilege that Mike and I can be friends with the three of you as well!

Roland de Vries and Mike Beyl

25 June 2013


Maxim Gladkov holding his copy of' EYE OF THE FIRESTORM, sent to him by Gen. Roland de Vries

Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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