Today a very sad day for many Russians: In the city of Donetsk, people are saying goodbye to Givi. Hundreds of mourners attended the ceremony; and thousands more have arrived to the viewing to part with Givi forever; current count is up to 4,000. The wake and the showing of Givi’s body is being held in the Donetsk State Academic Theater of Ballet and Opera. Mourners range from small children to elderly pensioners. Entire families wait in line to show their respect. People bring flowers, mostly red carnations and red roses. Many of the mourners are unable to hold back tears.
Typical Donetsk resident Lidiya Azizova told the reporter: “We are accompanying [his coffin] as if he were our own son.”
Givi, of course, was Commander Mikhail Tolstykh of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and Armed Forces of Novorossiya.
Givi was famous for his fearlessness in battle. He could stand in the middle of a shelling, with shrapnel rolling right up to his feet, and never bat an eyelash. Givi fought against the Banderite junta in several of the fiercest battles of the Ukrainian Civil War, including the battle for Donetsk Airport. He survived several assassination attempts, and it was said jokingly that he had nine lives, like a cat.
But in the end, even Givi’s cat-like reflexes were not a match for the assassin’s shoulder-fired rocket launched directly into the office where he worked. Givi died two days ago, February 8, 2017. Ukrainian nationalists rejoiced and gloated; but most of the Russian world mourned the loss of this brave and amiable hero.
Tolstykh was born in the city of Ilovaisk in 1980, in what was then still the Soviet Union. In those days ethnic differences between, say, Russians and Ukrainians; or people speaking different dialects of Russian or Ukrainian — didn’t matter all that much. Everybody was just a Soviet citizen. Like many Soviet people, Tolstykh was an ethnic mix: Some Russian, some Ukrainian, some Gruzian. His Gruzian heritage can clearly be seen in his physical features, and also possibly in his thickly-accented patois. Among his comrades in the Donbass regiments, Tolstykh was alloted the callsign Givi as a joking reference to his ethnicity. Among Russians, “Givi” is considered a typical Gruzian name, like (among Americans), say, “Patrick” for an Irishman.
As he was growing up, Mikhail was a typical representative of the Soviet/Ukrainian working class. He came from a humble family and received just a basic education. To make a living he worked various jobs, for example in a rope factory; and also as a security guard in a supermarket. Nobody at that time knew that Givi’s true calling, and his true talent, was to be a soldier. And quite a brilliant soldier, if truth be told. Here is what DPR President Alexander Zakharchenko said about Givi during his funeral oration earlier today:
This hero of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Colonel Mikhail Tolstykh, will be remembered by the entire world as the legendary Commander Givi. And thus will he remain in our memory as an undefeated warrior, a true son of his people, a defender of the Donbass.
Givi showed us what a warrior spirit is made of, he showed us what the Donbass character is made of. With just a small unit of soldiers he fought against the numerically superior forces of the Punishers, and he always delivered major defeats to them in battle.