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“Kindly Pass Me My Helmet” (The Driver from God)

War Through My Eyes #9
by Oleg Veretskiy

In the latest in his “War Through My Eyes,” essay series, Oleg continues his commitment to “…write about everything so that it will never be forgotten.” In our collaborative publishing Signal group, Oleg said, “When I opened the 2022 archive gallery on my phone to find these photos, it was as if I was living it all over again. There are so many stories like this.” These essays will eventually be collected into a book.

“This guy is a driver from God,” the commander laughs. “I don’t remember anyone else who can manage such tricks on the road.”

“Enough of you all chattering about me,” answered the soldier, stocky in stature, with a dense yet neatly trimmed beard, his face bashfully crimson.

“Everyone knows that I’m the occasional stand-in for your guardian angels.”

“Tell me,” I ask. “I know this guy to be a trusted friend who always has my back. But I’ve only known him for four months. What was he like before this?”

“He’s always been this way,” the commander took a big sip of his mineral water and continued.

Illustration from Book 1 of Oleg’s trilogy.

“I knew him long before the war. He’s some daredevil, I’ll tell you. On the first day of the war he went to the public formation created to protect certain settlements near Kyiv. He’s been to Bucha, Irpin, and then nearly the entire eastern parts–even toward the Zaporizhia region. And how he loves his cars! He’s some Dominic Toretto, no one else compares. Sometimes, you think: that’s it, we definitely won’t get out of here alive, but he starts performing his miracles on the road that not only hope for salvation glimmers, but the confidence in it.

“This one time at the start of the war, the car was moving so quickly, even a hundred devils and Beelzebub himself couldn’t keep up. The broken asphalt turned into an extreme obstacle course. You can barely manage to dodge between explosion funnels and unexploded shells from the Grads.*

‘Maybe you should wear a helmet,’ our commander tells the driver severely. The other one laughs into his beard, ‘I’m in the car! What can happen to me?’

At that moment, the earth begins to tremble, and directly in front of the car, hell rises up – an explosion, dirt splatters in all directions, diluted with pieces of metal. And the noise–as if all of reality is ripping into shreds.

As the war rages, Oleg continues to tell the stories of “War Through My Eyes,” to be compiled into a book in due course. These are real photos of the soldiers in his essay.

The driver swerves to the left, scarcely sacrificing speed, and presses the gas pedal into the floor. The car makes a high-pitched roar and accelerates. At that moment, fragments of asphalt, thrown into the air by the explosion, and small pieces of the shell begin to rattle on top of the car.

‘Oh, the orcs got the damn artillery working now,’ shouts the driver with daredevil excitement, trying to block out the roar from outside with his voice.

‘Hold on, boys, we’ve been found out and they won’t let us go so easily.’

The car makes a smooth turn and levels out again.

Another explosion behind. Then another one. And then another one ahead.

‘They’re leading us,’  the commander casts alarming glances through the window from his side. ‘They’re driving us up from behind so they can later more precisely target the car and blow it to pieces.’

Tricks of the trade

‘Don’t worry, we are also not without our own tricks!’ The driver laughs thunderously, slows down a bit, loops between the potholes, and then hits the gas.

‘Freakin’ hell, I never knew a car could go this fast on a road this bumpy,’ one of the fighters from the back seat leans forward and looks at the speedometer. ‘Wow, we are going over 140 kilometers an hour! How can it be in these conditions?’

‘Oh believe me, it can,’ the driver playfully raises his brows. ‘Remember, boys, anything is possible on the road when the best driver in the world is behind the wheel.’

‘Hey, best driver in the world, maybe you’ll put on a helmet?’ the commander only shakes his head when the driver carelessly waves his hand. ‘Protect your head!’

‘You can command on the field of battle, but on the road, I’m in charge,’ the driver cheerfully answers the commander, though you can feel how his voice is cracking with extreme tension.

Ahead, the road leads to a traffic round-about, as the fighter from the back seat checks the map. “Be ready…”

The car increases its speed, flies out onto the round-about, and suddenly turns to the left.

May I suggest a helmet?

“What are you doing?” shouts the fighter from the back seat. “You turned in the wrong direction, we are going in the wrong lane!”

And at that moment, another explosion thunders so loudly that all the previous ones seem like the popping of soap bubbles. The enemy shell hits the exact spot where the car should have been had it turned right, in accordance to the traffic rules.

‘Now do you see why I did that?’ the driver casts a quick glance over his shoulder at the pale fighter. He silently nods.

Meanwhile, the air is filled with smoke, dust, stones and a lot of shell fragments. It flies up, as if a giant mixer has set out to mix a black death cocktail. Again stones and debris rattled on the roof.

One large shell fragment pierced the upper hatch and bit into the back of the driver’s seat.

The guy freezes, and then slowly turns his head back to his brothers from the back seat: ‘Dear boys, kindly pass me my helmet.’

Despite hearing the commander’s horror-filled story, everyone in the car burst into roaring laughter. Loudest of all laughed the driver himself. “We got out of there alive that time.”

The commander was first to stop laughing. “Every one of us. All thanks to this daredevil. And his little phrase, ‘Dear boys, kindly pass me my helmet,’ I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

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