AP NEWS
Related topics

Soviet Vets Cope With War as Superpowers Try to End It With AM-Baker, Bjt

July 31, 1990

LISTVYANKA, U.S.S.R. (AP) _ While the U.S. secretary of state and the Soviet foreign minister try Wednesday to bring peace to Afghanistan, Soviet veterans scarred by the Afghan war will be undergoing therapy nearby.

Some of the 1 million Soviets who fought during the Red Army’s nine-year intervention in Afghanistan are being treated at the Baikal Sanitorium, a 192- acre health resort overlooking Lake Baikal.

The hilltop retreat, set among cedars and birch trees, is best known as the intended site of a 1960 superpower summit between Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The summit was scrapped after the downing of American Gary Powers’ spy plane.

Three decades later, Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze will be meeting in the central Siberian city of Irkutsk, 43 miles to the northwest. They will try to agree on a formula for a cease-fire and a political reconciliation in Afghanistan, where Moslem rebels have been fighting the Soviet-backed government for 12 years.

The sanitorium is one of eight nationwide treating Soviet veterans of the war that Baker and Shevardnadze will try to end.

Capt. Anatoly Sadayev is still tormented physically and emotionally by the machine-gun attack that put a bullet in his leg while he served in Afghanistan from 1983 to 1985.

″I remember it as though it were yesterday, but I don’t want to recall it again,″ the 34-year-old officer said Tuesday as he pedaled an exercise bicycle.

Sadayev has undergone several operations on his leg and is receiving further treatment during a 24-day stay at the sanitorium. Trousers hide the scar, but he walks with a limp. A fixed pad on the bottom of his left sneaker helps him walk.

In another room, a 24-year-old veteran was being treated for lower back pain. Medicated cloth patches were placed on his back.

Aside from treatment of their physical wounds, the veterans also see psychologists at the center.

Like some American veterans of the Vietnam War, some Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan feel their countrymen do not appreciate their suffering. Sadayev is one of them.

″If you remember the film ‘Rambo,’ where he says ‘I love my motherland,’ well let my homeland love me as much as I love it, and then there won’t be any problems,″ Sadayev said.

Among the problems, veterans say, are the government’s slowness in providing free medical care, counseling, proper housing and jobs.

The Soviets began withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan in May 1988 but did not decide until October 1988 to set up rehabilitation centers. The Baikal Sanitorium was opened to veterans in March 1989.

Sanitorium doctors have complained they are virtually cut off from foreign colleagues and therefore cannot learn from their experiences, especially from doctors treating Vietnam War veterans. They have no detailed, specialized programs for treating soldiers, who are mixed with other guests at the sprawling complex.

″Our task is to do everything so they and their families live normally, so they have everything, because they weren’t guilty for that war and didn’t want to be there,″ said Dr. Alexander Kitaisky, Baikal Sanitorium’s chief doctor.

Sadayev calls the Soviet intervention a ″mistake of history″ that cost more than 13,000 Soviet lives. But he doesn’t dwell on the past.

″I am happy that I am alive. I continue to live. I have a family,″ he said. He is now studying law in the Russian city of Kurgan.

AP RADIO
Update hourly