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do not neglect adventure

Do Not Neglect Adventure! | Interview with a Ukrainian Volunteer

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Interview with Guenon, a volunteer fighter of the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces and a member of Avantgardia (AKS), a club of gentleman adventurers, most of whom fight as volunteers in the Russo-Ukrainian war. Guenon has served as a mortar operator and stormtrooper before being wounded in action during the storming of Andriivka near Bakhmut.

Original in Polish, translated by Stibor. Interview conducted by Trzecia Droga.

Trzecia Droga: Welcome! Please tell us a bit about yourself, your life prior to the war and the Avantgardia organization. 

Guenon: Good evening, I go by Guénon. As far as my previous life goes, I reached my adventure-hungry, right-wing worldview through empirical means. In general, only my membership of Avantgardia (AKS) – a society of right-wing adventurers has any significance here. Before the war, our organization focused on educating young people and forging a fraternal community united by shared values – physicial training, martial arts, marches across the Fatherland – actions in support of all that is good and against all that is evil. Another important direction was the creation of a cultural milieu – our members have been involved in translating works of European right-wing intelectuals, gave lectures; several years ago the “Vistnyk Avangardu” (“Trail of the Vanguard”) magazine has entered publication, and now, despite Avantgardia’s involvement in the war, many of us spend their free time writing articles, translations and acquiring new knowledge.

TD: We know that you have spent a long time on the front. Tell us about your combat experiences. How do they compare to the “romantic” writings of Junger, Barbus or Aldington on that topic? 

Guenon: Yes, I was lucky to remain in one piece for a long time. Partially as a result of being assigned to a mortar unit – the second echelon is somewhat calmer. However, when the opportunity arose, I transferred to the storm troopers, because that’s what I felt my calling was. Since then, I’ve been counting my blessings, we sometimes call them new birthdays. The first time, it was a summer-winter position, with a firing distance of several hundred metres, artillery fire, and the omnipresent mice and dirt. The second time storming a position through in fields and belts of woodland. Under near-constant aerial assault, struggling against fear and unfavorable conditions, having close calls with the enemy, firing grenade launchers into dugouts, throwing grenades, with ever present Death and Fortune. All raids i’ve participated in were successful, though it would be better to say that tasks have been completed, because the death and injury of one’s comrades mix “successes” with bitterness. As for the successes of the attacks, we owe them to the brigade’s idealism and its spirit, despite the conditions of modern warfare.

My experience does not resonate in any way with the works of aforementioned authors. Among them, i’ve only ever had some admiration for Junger, particularly his poems. But because your question specifically mentions the term “romantic”, and these authors wrote about war, I can say that there is still plenty of romanticism on the frontline. Judge for yourselves – oaths and duels are becoming increasingly rarer, courage only works with heavy cooperation between units, artillery and drones reap scores of infantry no matter its characteristics. I wouldn’t say the spirit of romanticism has left the field of battle, but it had certainly grown more nightmarish. As far as the aforementioned writers go, it would be more relevant to read Apuleius’ “Metamorphoses”, certain sagas and myths to understand that life is a always a game and one must be more careful with romantic beliefs and expectations (though I still am a romantic to some degree) – they often get in the way of practical solutions for life’s problems. 

TD: How many men have you killed during war? Tell our readers how that affects your life.

Guenon: Three people for certain. Perhaps more, hidden behind the fog of war – most battles are blind skirmishes. Blew one up in a dugout with an RPG. It affects my life very little. Both then or now I felt next to nothing, feeling somewhat like an external observer, though in everyday life I find it difficult to hurt someone, even if it’s necessary. In war, it’s all about life, avenging your fallen comrades and the simple confrontation with a specific, eternal enemy. 

TD: How did you lose your leg? How did you feel and what issues to you have to deal with now? If possible, tell us how your injuries manifest in your everyday life.

Guenon: I had my leg amputated below the knee, so you could say I got lucky1 – there will be a prosthesis and there will be life. It happened while storming enemy positions in the Andriivka direction. My unit had completed its mission of taking enemy-held terrain given to us by the leadership, we spent several hours under heavy fire, until we were rotated out and just as I was 50 metres from the the frontline’s exit point, I stepped on a landmine. Luckily, my other leg and my groin area remained intact. As far as I can tell, I didn’t even suffer a concussion. I remained conscious and felt a lot of pain, but my comrade immediately applied a tourniquet and we moved as far away as possible from the exposed parts of the frontline. 

My main problem is that I can no longer storm positions, another is that I cannot take long walks or hikes, and sometimes I am plagued by phantom pain. As far as injuries go, I also got lucky here – I was deafened more than once. Sometimes explosions were close enough that all I could see was smoke and flash, but none of this left any [permanent] sensory consequences. 

TD: Going back to the topic of your organization – what is the foundation of it and what brought you in? 

Guenon: The foundation of Avantgardia is the pursuit of adventure and heroism, both of which are nearly gone from the modern world. The virtues of Avantgardists are the virtues of the hero. 

TD: Tell us about the combat path that you have gone through with the organization, how did it help you? We also know you have a pantheon of fallen comrades – can you tell us about it?

Guenon: The majority of Avantgardia fights in the 78th regiment of UAAF, so my military experience is somewhat different from that of my brothers. But even here, in the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, there is a group of Avantgardists in the air recon company that leads us to combat as our eyes in the sky. My friend Yad is involved in providing explosives for drones, and a handful of friends are scattered in artillery and other units. Obviously, we all exchange experiences, impressions and jokes. 

Regarding the pantheon of the dead – all fallen Avantgardists had their place in the fate of their nation, and like the warriors of times past, they had grown beyond just individuals, and their memory will inspire the generations to come. You know, recently some idiot on the internet said that he doesn’t like Ukrainian cities turning into cemeteries with all the monuments and memorials, but that’s the way things should be, because the dead show us who we are and what awaits every man, as well as nurture a desire for vengeance in worthy people. We remember thus our fallen brothers and spend this day of commemoration in Kholodny Yar. I knew some of them but unfortunately didn’t get to know them better due to our adventures. Some, I know only from photos and conversations. I don’t doubt their worth, because we share a common path. Glory and remembrance to all soldiers who died for the Ukrainian nation! 

TD: In Poland, 3DOM is the largest right-wing publishing house. Tell our readers about the “Flame” [publishing house] that your organization is the caretaker of. Which of their publications have you read and what can you advise our readers?

The publishing house was founded in 2018. It made and continues to make many contributions to the European literary tradition in Ukraine. The main topics covered are philosophy, history, war and study of european right-wing. Out of its publications, I have only read “The Rebel Heart” by Dominique Venner. I think it is a fairly honest essay on military history from “the inside perspective” and a study of events of the Algerian War, its causes and consquences for the societies of France and Europe as a whole. So I recommend it.

TD: Your organization used the slogan “We shall repeat Koliivshchyna“. What’s the meaning behind it and what is your general opinion on Polish-Ukrainian relationships?

Guenon: There’s nothing problematic or hostile to specific nations here – Koliivshchyna and the Haydamak movement were a response to the opression of a nation, its faith and beliefs by lords and the clergy. To me, the spirit of this uprising has its roots in the knight-and-peasant rebellions, where two social classes – the knighthood and the peasantry – would rise up against centralization of power, excessive control and the restrictions of empires and the Church.

TD: We are aware of your collaboration with Albanian Third Position. What other organizations work with you?

Guenon: We maintain friendly and close ties with Tradition and Order, now reformed as Carpathian Sich, as we did prior to the war, as well as with the “Flame” itself as a platform and one of the civic pillars.

TD: What is your opinion on prospects for development of this war and its ending? How will a defeat or victory affect Ukraine?

Guenon: The perspectives for the future are very unclear, the Ukrainian army is very grateful for the help of the European community, but Russia’s poisonous ideologies have spread themselves over the world, including to Ukraine itself, like an octopus, blinding people or making them cowards. We hope for the best but we are prepared for the worst. Maybe everything will turn into a World War, maybe things will get better, maybe everything will meet a bad end. At the moment I don’t think a complete Ukrainian defeat is possible, but any agreements will only delay Russia’s westward expansion. Remember the borders of USSR post-World War 2? Victory will allow us to build a state for the Ukrainian people, friendly to Europe. 

TD: And just before we finish the interview – what are you thinking of doing after the loss of a limb?

Guenon: Currently I’m waiting for my prosthesis and I’m planning to master it and understand what I’m capable of, and depending on that, either return to the army in some other role (unfortunately not as a stormtrooper) or build myself some sort of civilian life, without forgetting about the war and society.

TD: According to our website’s tradition, the final word belongs to the guest.

Drink milk and do not neglect adventure.

Interview conducted and originally published in Polish by 3Droga.pl

  1. The interviewee here alludes to the fact that it is far easier to build a prosthesis for a leg amputated below the knee than one for a leg where the knee is also lost. ↩︎

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Carpathian Sich and Tradition and Order is different organisations, there are mistake in translation

How would you phrase the sentence?

The foundation of Avantgardia is the pursuit of adventure and heroism, both of which are nearly gone from the modern world. The virtues of Avantgardists are the virtues of the hero. “

This really is something we’ve lost in the modern, “civilized” world.

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