24-year-old Tetyana Chubar is a Ukrainian woman who joined the nation’s army to fight the Russian invaders. While her first dream was to have a career in the confectionary industry, she first needs to fight off the “orcs” who have invaded Ukraine’s territory.
She spoke to NV about her life and her experiences in the war raging in Eastern Europe today – while the EU still depends on Russian oil and gas, and Russia still exports its agriculture products for the Western economies.
Chubar, a mother of two, is not afraid to call the Russians “orcs” – namesakes of the destructive, evil fantasy race created by famed author J.R.R. Tolkien, for his Middle-Earth series of novels.
“Fire! Fire!” – that’s a word that Chubar uses daily. She commands a Ukrainian artillery platoon, with a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer at its disposal. Despite the war and her combat experience, she still maintains her look - never going out without makeup.
Chubar smiles a lot, even though her role is a destroyer of the Russian army, with her 2S1 Gvozdika. That type of a howitzer, with its 122mm gun, makes a lot of noise, but she’s used to it – and seems to be in a good mood.
Born in the city of Konotop, Sumy Oblast, Chubar gained fame after a video taken of her operating on the battlefield was uploaded to the internet on April 16. It’s gained 1 million views in just five days.
NV called Chubar during a pause in combat operations – she took the time to have a little break, to visit her parents who are taking care of her two kids.
She declined to talk much about her private life, preferring to talk discuss her military experience instead.
NV: You used to work in confectionary industry, but decided to join Ukraine’s Armed Forces. How did that happen?
Chubar: When I was 10 or 11, my dad really wanted me to join the army. My wish was to become a doctor, to have a medical education and maybe obtain a degree in surgery for combat medicine. But I haven’t managed to do this – my parents got divorced and my life changed. I realized we wouldn’t be able to pay for my education. That’s why I studied for a career in the confectionary industry. But when I turned 18, I joined the army – not as a doctor, but just as a regular woman.
What did you do in the army?
I was a statistical analyst in a healthcare unit in 2017. Then I took parental leave [for taking care of my second child]. After coming back to military service, I joined a battlefield unit, he 58th Ivan Vygovsky Motorized Infantry Brigade. Basically, for putting the loading shells into howitzers.
And now you’re still operating the howitzer?
In 2019, after I was back from maternity leave, I joined an artillery platoon (in the Ukrainian army, an artillery platoon usually consists of the artillery system, commander, assistant, targeter, and driver). When I called my commander, he didn’t have a position for me. Then I came to him and said: I want to serve, that’s it. Kostyantyn Viter, the commander, told me: I have a vacant position for an assistant. But for that position, you have to prepare shells for launching. I said: I’m ready for this, if that’s necessary – I will do this, I’m prepared for everything. That’s because I really wanted to go back to the army.
People were telling me: do you really need to do it? I had my document signifying my military veteran status, but it didn’t stop me from re-joining the army. I like it, it gives me a feeling that I’ve found a purpose of my life.
My relatives didn’t want me to serve in the military. But I disagreed with them, and signed a contract with the Ukrainian army.
NV: It's a hard job: a shell might weigh up to several dozen kilograms. Are you able to do it?
Chubar: Yes. In the artillery platoon that I served in, I didn’t even have to carry those shells. Nevertheless, I did what I could. Most of my job was about conducting radio communications, just something that was really needed at that time. The thinking was back then: you’re a woman and women don’t have to do anything with the shells. I was saying: I don’t care – I’ll do whatever is needed. It’s not that here’s something I want to do and here’s something that I wouldn’t be happy with doing. I’m ready for what’s necessary.
NV: Why did you choose to become an artillery targeter?
Chubar: It’s just happened. People were asking me: “Do you want to learn a job of a targeter?” And I said: “I can do it”. I’m really interested in learning new things. After two months of studies at the preparatory unit in the town of Nemyriv in Vinnytsya Oblast, I’ve been serving as a targeter for two years.
NV: What is the hardest thing in military training? What are your biggest challenges as a targeter?
Chubar: The first thing is the ability to meet your deadlines. You shouldn’t be messing things up: you need to identify the target and you need to focus on the target with your artillery system. Sometimes people don’t make any differentiate between those jobs.
NV: What do you mean?
Chubar: Identifying a target has to do with using the panorama function of your system, while focusing on the target – that’s about having your artillery directed at it. I was doing lots of work for learning these things – and I was meeting the necessary deadlines in my studies. In the army, you have to be prepared to do things quickly.
NV: Does Ukrainian army have many women in the artillery divisions?
Chubar: There are a lot of women in the Ukrainian artillery, but they have very different positions. In our division, in our brigade, women mostly serve in tank units.
NV: Have they participated in combat during the ongoing war?
Chubar: Yes, in Chernihiv Oblast. “Orcs” were advancing along one of the roads – moving back and forth. They tried to get closer to Kyiv. And we were meeting them on the main road with “flowers” – with our Gvozdika howitzers.
NV: The Gvozdika is not a big howitzer – the caliber of its shells is 122 millimeters. But when it hits, it’s able to destroy 3-5 pieces of enemy equipment. Is this true?
Chubar: Yes. Even when the shell just explodes and you have its fragments flying around, that’s a lot of damage. And when we manage to hit a major building that has lots of military equipment nearby… We can do a so called “slow rocket” thing – hit the roof, then goes the explosion and whole building then is just ruined, burying all the military equipment that is stationed there.
NV: What was the hardest thing for you personally during the Russia’s war against our country?
Chubar: Once we moved on to take our position in a certain location. Our commander said: “Let’s act quickly and go home”. That means using only five shells – as quickly as possible. When we did that, our commander says again: “Five more shells, but let’s do the slow thing”. Even the officer overseeing our howitzer had to assist with bringing the shells for firing on the targets. We had to do everything quickly. He help outs, and all of us help, I do the targeting – and then we shoot the shells. After doing another round of five shells, we had to retreat quickly, taking our artillery system with us. And then we hear –the Russians are hitting us back. We managed to drive away – and our position was shelled with Russian fire. Thank God, we escaped.
NV: The Gvozdika howitzer is not protected by tank-level quality armor. Is this why a hit to a Gvozdika can be deadly?
Chubar: Yes. A Gvozdika can bury all of its operators after being hit.
NV: Usually, artillery systems of that type have a range of up to 15 kilometers. So, basically, you don’t have to meet with the enemy face to face?
Chubar: Artillery is usually protected by infantry. Once we had to operate in close proximity to the enemy – within four kilometers.
NV: What are your targets when you operate on the battlefield?
Chubar: Infantry and equipment columns, sabotage and intelligence groups. Once, such a group started operating on the territory that we had to look after. We looked at them, our unit met that group – and most of us were stationed four kilometers from them. It was fun.
NV: What’s it like on the battlefields right now?
Chubar: It’s pretty calm where we are, thank God. I think we will be relocated somewhere soon, so we will work and resist the enemy.