30 years ago, Sergei Burlakov, then a conscript, had an accident: the car in which he was a passenger fell into a cliff from a 15-meter height. He received serious injuries and frostbite (lay without help all night, in 45-degree frost). Outcome: I lost my hands and legs up to the knee. It would seem – a catastrophe, a cross on all plans.
Years have passed. Today he is a winner of many championships, a marathon runner, a world champion in para-karate, the owner of the Spirit of Space, which is called the unofficial sports “Oscar”. Twice he spoke at the UN. Married. Since last year, he has been a member of the State Duma. That is, life goes on, which Sergey is trying to convince our soldiers wounded in Ukraine.
When you’re not ashamed of yourself
Sergei Vladimirovich, when you left the hospital in Rostov-on-Don, you said that you did not see hatred or regret in the eyes of the guys. Is it because you show by your example that everything in life can be overcome?
Sergey Burlakov: There are many such examples. I am not the only one who was able to accept what happened to me and continue to live happily. Sometimes I even think that if it were not for the injury, my life would not be so bright and interesting. I shared this thought with the guys in the hospital.
There is no hatred and regret in the eyes of the wounded fighters, because I was lucky to meet conscious and thinking people. I saw that they understand why they did their duty, they are not ashamed of themselves. Now the whole world knows that they are real men, heroes. And it is easier to live with this feeling.
It’s hard to surprise you. But is any particular soldier, his story or situation remembered?
Sergey Burlakov: I remember a guy who cried after we talked about life with him. I didn’t tell him anything supernatural, I just shared my philosophy. He was imbued and said that he had not heard such words even from his father. Worldly wisdom is able to overcome any sorrows and difficulties that we face. But this wisdom comes with experience, which is why it is so important for young guys to talk with a person who has already gone through a thorny path.
Will you continue communication with some of the wounded?
Sergey Burlakov: I exchanged phone numbers with many. The geography is large, but I travel around the country, always ready to help and participate in their lives. I saw promising guys from a sports point of view. If they want, I will make every effort to create all the conditions for sports. I am sure they have every chance to win Russian championships and international competitions.
Dude, do you need help?
People in wheelchairs report that passers-by on the street often choose the wrong demeanor. Rude, fortunately, rarely. But they try to help them when they don’t need to. This is frustrating and frustrating to say the least. How will be correct?
Sergey Burlakov: Here you are in my office. And you feel embarrassed, you don’t know, maybe I need help, or maybe this is not correct. The easiest way to get out of an uncomfortable situation is to ask a question. All you need to do is ask a person with disabilities: buddy, do you need help?
Well, but, let’s say, relatives find out that their son is wounded, he is in the hospital. What words of support are most specifically needed in such a situation? If I am not mistaken, your doctor, reporting on the amputation, immediately asked: what do you plan to do in life? So it is possible?
Sergey Burlakov: There is no universal answer. We are all different, each needs an individual approach. But I know for sure that pity is a disgusting feeling. In my opinion, the easiest way to support a loved one is to love him as he is now in front of you, and do not forget to confess your love to him.
Pity is a disgusting feeling. Just love your loved one
There is an episode in the film “Barge haulers. Russia. Taganrog”: you say that after a monstrous accident, compensation for arms and legs from the state amounted to $ 150. And then – mockingly beggarly pension. We have been looking for the truth for a long time. It’s not about money, but about the fact that a person must realize himself, be no worse than a man with hands who can provide for his family. But now you are the very state to which they turn for the truth. What has been done, what is the State Duma to do in this regard?
Sergey Burlakov: As a deputy, I try to listen to people and respond to their requests to the best of my ability. Since we started talking about the hospital, when I went there, I asked the doctors what they needed. They say: drills are needed, not enough. They were not so easy to acquire, but we found them. The same principle applies to lawmaking. I am open to communication. There are initiatives, you face difficulties – write. You can even contact me on social media. I will definitely listen to a good offer.
Not all those who fought and are now fighting for Russia and for the Donbass will continue their military careers. If such people find themselves tomorrow in government bodies, and the day after tomorrow they become ministers and governors, this will make the country stronger.
Sergey Burlakov: It all depends on the person. There is a desire to reach any heights. With modern methods of prosthetics, there are definitely no problems with employment. And you can drive a car, work on a computer, and participate in running marathons. Obviously, I don’t know much about this.
Relatives and friends of those who were seriously injured turn to me with a request to call and support the guys. I communicate with them. I will respond to any request. If a person wants to go to study, let him not hesitate to act. If you want to go to sports, please. Believe me, it’s not about connections and acquaintances, but about desire. If a serviceman has the most powerful potential, and he copes with the role of a governor or a minister, I will be happy. I think there are not so many such competent managers, after all, this is a certain type of people. But if there are such among the military, it is pride and joy for the whole country.
Behind the scenes
“I just got lucky in life”
Somehow the president suddenly turned to you unexpectedly for those around him: “Hi, Sergey!” How to become a person whom Putin himself calls by name?
Sergey Burlakov: How to become such a person, I do not know. I’m sure I’ve just been lucky in this life.
Voenkor Alexander Sladkov posted an amusing video. He is talking to a captured soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “Do not beat, do not torture?” – “Everything is fine, they gave me an interesting book. About a pilot who lost his legs in the war. I won’t say his last name, I don’t remember.” – “Well, you give! Maresyev, or what?” – “Yes, yes, that’s the name!”. One would like to say: it is in Ukraine that there is a generation that has not read Boris Polevoy’s The Tale of a Real Man. But what do you think, only there?
Sergey Burlakov: I recently visited one of the Moscow schools. My teachers told me that the special operation in Ukraine inspired Russian schoolchildren to become interested in history. Can you imagine that high school students ask teachers to conduct extra classes and talk about the Yugoslav, Afghan and Chechen conflicts? The children realized that history has a serious impact on contemporaries, they need to learn from their ancestors. The schoolchildren themselves told me that recently there have been many bloggers who tell about historical events. Of course, there are young people in our country who read little, are not interested in culture, history, and literature. But when I hear such stories, I am proud of the younger generation.
Taganrog instead of Manhattan
You amazed the Americans by running the New York Marathon twice. The name of Sergei Burlakov is listed in the Guinness Book of Records three times. Tell me, is there any feedback from the Americans, for whom you are an idol? Not everyone there is a victim of anti-Russian phobias?
Sergey Burlakov: I have a huge number of acquaintances in the USA, Europe, with whom I communicate. People from Ukraine call me, whose relatives are now in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They retained their human form. They want to communicate, ask for advice, do not divide people along ethnic lines. Although there are those who stopped communicating with me after the start of the special operation. Now it is fashionable to throw mud at Russians. Such is the fashion trend for nonsense and fascism.
Were you invited to stay in the USA? You showed your wife a skyscraper in Manhattan, where you were offered an apartment. Do you regret not living in New York?
Sergey Burlakov: For me, living in America is like marrying not for love and thinking all my life: did I marry the one? I don’t go on vacation abroad, because for me a real vacation is in Taganrog, in my homeland. And in the USA it’s stuffy for me.
You have achievements in athletics, karate, shooting, cycling, swimming. Are you a politician, legislator… Is there anything left to dream about?
Sergey Burlakov: I want to be useful to people. I want the laws that we adopt in the Duma to be popular and improve people’s lives.