Every native word was penalised.

Former "Soldiers of Fortune" discussed the Russians in the French Legion |EUROPEANS24

"Soldiers of Fortune." What are their names? Many people confuse them with representatives of private military corporations, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Only one strange "Wagner" has been appearing in the news feeds more and more recently, and it is only worth it. Others, however, exist. This isn't fully accurate, though.

The French legionnaires were known as "Soldiers of Fortune," "Wild Geese," and "Dogs of War," among other names. The Legion veteran told Russia media about his experiences in the army.

"Please identify me as Laurent," my interlocutor said ahead of time. "In the Legion, they nicknamed me that." That historical period has nothing to do with my current life or my true name.

Laurent only referenced the Legion a few times throughout our time together, but never went into depth. From the beginning, I didn't dare to ask him to tell me everything because I didn't dare to ask him. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much success at the time, but he consented.

There are all our

"The French Foreign Legion is a famous and mythological organization in the army of the French Republic that has virtually no equivalents today," Laurent remarked. - It was in it that I ended up in the mid-90s, despite the fact that I had no intention of doing so.

One of the common misconceptions is that legionnaires are mercenaries and that serving in the legion is a crime. This isn't correct. Volunteers who serve in the ranks of the active French army are known as legionnaires. The Legion's distinctiveness is that it can be traced back to the quick response forces, the rescuers, the special forces, the special operations forces, and the construction battalion.

Foreigners have traditionally served in the Legion. Many Europeans, notably from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, as well as representatives from France's former colonies, were present throughout my time. The Legion had a small number of members, yet they were able to battle wherever NATO troops were present.

There are, of course, Frenchmen present. Following an attempted military coup in which the Legion's first regiment of paratroopers was dissolved, a regulation was enacted requiring at least half of the combatants to be French.

But we were all there!

Almost everyone spoke Russian, even Poles and Germans from the GDR, who switched to Russian in conversation because it was taught in all communist nations. Of course, corporals and sergeants made sure that everyone spoke French, and those who didn't were punished. Despite the fact that the Ukrainians were already dangerous at the time, they talked incomprehensibly and had a "godfather" mafia that helped their own pass the examinations and interfered with strangers.

I've been aware of the Legion since I was a youngster. My parents bought me a subscription to the journal "Foreign Military Review." I read everything, and I understood more about NATO armies and arsenals than any military commissar. There was information printed there, including information about the Foreign Legion. But I didn't know anything else. Legion did not make an effort to publicize itself. Only the most basic information regarding recruitment points was available. Yes, and I had no intention of participating.

Let me remind you that this is the mid-nineties, when the Internet was still in its infancy, computers were still considered a luxury, pagers had only recently become popular, and information was being sent through fax across vast distances.

It was formerly believed that everyone was drafted into the Legion. The most important thing, they say, is to be physically fit, not entirely dumb, and capable of getting there. Nobody cares about your background, even if it's illegal. There will be no extradition from the Legion. Many people had this vision in their heads, and I was no exception.

But first, let's go over the list in sequence.

Legion Myth

If you recall the 1990s, you'll understand what I'm talking about. I lived in the Urals, although I won't say where exactly. The situation had progressed to the point where it was forced to depart owing to "misunderstandings" with an authority comrade of one criminal cell. The next flight was to St. Petersburg, so that was my decision. However, it became evident after a while that this would not address the situation, and I was forced to leave Russia.

Despite the fact that St. Petersburg was the most gangster city at the time, I have only fond recollections of the place. There, I met individuals who were at the pinnacle of Russia's burgeoning statehood and culture. I spoke with Slava Barkovsky, the author of the best-selling Russian Transit, for example. He considered himself to be only a writer. Only later, when I watched a scene in the series "Gangster Petersburg" in which he and numerous other authorities of the period portrayed themselves, did I know who he was.

I spent my whole undergraduate life ferrying vehicles from Europe to Russia. Then it was possible to leave the nation with relative ease, as visas were easily obtained. In addition, in order to go securely from Brest to Poland, I purchased a Polish passport for $ 25 at the time. There was no Schengen at the time, so my first visa was to France. Francs were used in France, and I had francs. The decision seemed apparent.

Have you made the decision to leave your nation alone?

No, I had a pal with whom I used to work. In life, he was such a "tourist." This is about him if we're talking about vagrants. He, like Alyosha Peshkov, journeyed across Russia, and we walked through Europe with him, before becoming a repatriate in Israel. In St. Petersburg, fate brought them back together. He knew how to get there, where to go, and what to do. We hadn't even considered what we'd do there. Let's just get started. We came to a halt in Strasbourg and began to hang around there. There was no clear objective. Three months later, the money was running out, and I had to figure out how to make ends meet.

There was no job at all in Europe at the time. We in Russia assumed that everything was good in the West, but this is not the case; thousands of migrants have arrived in Moscow from former colonies. Thousands of migrants were also arriving from the former Yugoslavia, where the conflict was still raging. This is France in the 1990s: filth, crime, and narcotics.

Where did you live? Rented a house?

In reality, it's all over. They filmed on the street at times and on the street at other times. It was summer when we first came, and it was warm enough to live in the park and use public restrooms. Washing or changing clothing is required, so I went to the "Red Cross." They will feed, provide water, and clean clothing there. It was enjoyable. With the arrival of cold weather, problems began to emerge. Then one of the new acquaintances said, "Let's go to the Legion." So, seven persons willingly assembled, and we went. The Strasbourg welcome center turned us away. They weren't even permitted to access the area. It was strange.

According to legend, everyone that arrived was abducted! They didn't even engage in conversation with us. There is a uniformed man who is completely silent. We had no idea that if things changed, we could come back and try again. As a result, we took the train to Marseille. We discovered a recruitment station there, and history was repeated. That's all there is to it. It's starting to become dark. The fact that the Foreign Legion's base is at Aubagne, as learned from a Soviet military magazine, came in helpful at this point. All recruits end up at Aubagne, regardless of where they came from. We arrived in the dark and proceeded to the opposite side of the barrier without incident.

The Legion Museum and a doctor's checkup were two of my first strong impressions. Hippocrates' servant examined everyone's teeth in particular. This was the entirety of the initial medical evaluation. Those who have gone through our military registration and enlistment offices and passed the draft commission will understand my amazement. They took their documents and put them in a safe place till daybreak.

We already had tracksuits, cheap Chinese sneakers, a shaving kit, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a change of underwear the next day. Arrested and imprisoned in the barracks.

To be honest, I was quite aback by how many of ours were present. CIS nations, Eastern Europe. Almost everyone in the room was fluent in Russian. Many former paratroopers, including those from the Soviet army, are present. The tattoos on the Airborne Troops made it simple to compute them.

By the way, the majority of the immigrants came from Ukraine. They were corporals and corporal chiefs at the same time. It was difficult for a Russian or a Belarusian to fit in since they had their own Ukrainian mafia. Because I joined the Legion as a Pole, I had an edge in theory. Even when I was driving vehicles, I purchased a Polish passport in Brest for $25.

Myths started to fade away very immediately. "You may be any criminal," one of them said, "but if you come to the legion, they will take you." There's nothing like it. The first question was solely concerned with criminal history. Someone handed him over because he tried to hide this element of his background, and he was ejected out in front of me.

The second argument is that those without documentation are not welcomed into the Legion. They won't even serve tea; instead, they'll serve adies Amigos. They didn't take a driver's license holder who was known to them. It should only be a passport.

When they went to the Legion, several of them had authentic paperwork with them. There were other stories that suggested you had to cut your passport before being accepted. Because you are a new person the minute you decide to become a legionnaire. This, too, proved to be a fiction. You are not a newcomer, and you do not own a French passport.

Legio Petria Nostra

All of this, of course, jolted us awake. We truly believed that everything was in place, with a three-year contract and you being French. We assumed the Legion was only the 2nd parachute regiment, the elite, that participated in all the "kneading" at the time since the structure was not particularly obvious to us in principle. The Rapid Reaction Force is their name. The Legion is really made up of eight regiments, a "detachment," and the 13th semi-brigade. At the time, the entire population was barely 7,000 and a half people. Not at all. There is no heavy equipment, such as tanks or helicopters, on the scene. Light tanks and armored vehicles are available. I announced right away that I wanted to be a driver.

And you were asked who wants where?

Of course, they didn't ask explicitly, but they were curious about who could do what. In Aubagne, I had a fantastic time. I volunteered in the vineyards, ran, pulled up, trained in the pool, and helped again in the stadium. I made every effort to labor in the vines. The legion has its own set of rules.

Another intriguing feature is the legionnaires' motto, "Legio Patria Nostra," which translates to "Legion is your Fatherland." You don't serve France or Russia; you only serve the Legion. So, on the base among the grapes, the Legion has a kind of hostel, a nursing home, if you will. Veterans can meet their elders there. You may come from any nation if you are unlucky in life, and if you are a former legionnaire with a finished contract, you can comfortably spend all your days there. Volunteers will look after you, feed you, and clothe you.

Can a legionnaire officially change his name or surname?

Yes, if that's what you desire. However, this severely complicates life because, in order to get citizenship, you must still submit the originals of all required documents. Consider a birth certificate. And it's no secret that you're a member of the Legion. You compose a letter to your family informing them that you have joined the legion, and it is mailed to them. You must have a compelling cause to alter your personal information. At the conclusion of your contract, the Legion may provide you paperwork under a new name, but this does not happen straight away. You must first apply for a residency permit.

How much did you pay?

The pay was in Swiss francs. We were paid the equivalent of $ 32 per day, or about $1,000 per month, as volunteers. They were paid $ 1600-1800 per month while serving in Djibouti, and $ 1000-1200 per month when they returned to France.

They checked me for a long period, which was fortunate for me. I didn't start taking tests until two weeks later in Aubagne. Three kilometers, pull-ups, and push-ups were to be completed in 12 minutes. They were mostly concerned with running. Then there was the stage, which they dubbed the "Gestapo" among themselves. This includes discussions with cops, psychologists, and different psychological exams. Everything seemed to go smoothly for me. It took me approximately two months in terms of time.

Following Aubagne's deportation to Rouge. The 4th regiment is undergoing training at Castelnaudary. Our stay there started with threats that if we spoke Russian, they would start punishing us. Not only the guilty individual, but the entire corporation at the same time. One hundred push-ups for every non-French word.

We didn't know how to communicate in French. Even Algerian blacks spoke in a way that the cop couldn't comprehend. With the charter, we began to master the language. You should have known who he was, as well as the Legion's code and anthem. The training was a lot of fun. You sit, and one of the "older brothers" points to a shoe, for example, and cries out, which you repeat. Likewise, any topic. It's simple to remember. The charter has been memorized.

They also terrified us with ten kilometers of night marches and threatened the horrors of Alps mountain training, but there was nothing on the tin. They did, however, shoot a lot. The Legion's armament includes everything. This legionnaire's assault weapon, grenade launchers, barrels, snipers, anti-tank systems...

The reason for the French army's adoption of the Famas rifle is still a mystery to me. This is a precise weapon, but it is far from the most dependable or convenient.

The reason for the French army's adoption of the Famas rifle is still a mystery to me. This is a precise weapon, but it is far from the most dependable or convenient.

In this manner, four months passed. The fundamentals were physically pounded into us: legionnaires are always united in whatever scenario, the Legion is your family, your nation, your fatherland, you serve France, but the Legion is above...

And everything is done in this spirit.

Were there women in the Legion?

There were no ladies present at all. Even among the general public. In the kitchen, both men and women worked. When it comes to the cooking, I have to say that the cuisine was consistently excellent. And there's more. There was no shortage of food. Bread, fruits, cereals, muesli, yoghurts, cheese, and meat for breakfast. Various veggies for garnish. Coffee, juice, and cola are some of the beverages available. Soups for lunch come in a variety of flavors, including meat, cutlets, potatoes, and noodles. Dinner is similar to lunch, but without the soups. Crackers, coffee, and cola are also available and sold on the premises.

They shot back for fun

They were given a legionnaire's cap-blank upon completion of the training, and they were sent back to Aubagne, where distribution to regiments started. Djibouti, in Africa, was my destination.

What exactly were they doing there?

- In general, the Legion's combat tasks are to protect French nationals and inhabitants of ally governments in severe situations, as well as to carry out UN peacekeeping operations. Djibouti was a French colony at one point, and a Legion military station was always present on its soil. Following independence, the Legion backed the Republic of Djibouti's administration. The 2nd regiment in the battle in the desert and jungle, the 13th semi-brigade, had a training area where instructors taught warriors from friendly tribes, allies, and paratroopers.

Our special forces are similar to the 13th. Sappers are akin to American "green berets" in terms of role. They visit towns, dismantle enemy defenses, construct bases and strongholds, search for mines, and, of course, socialize with the locals.

The 13th semi-reconnaissance brigade's is a killing squad, defending outposts, communications, and raids in difficult areas. They're on the move all of the time. Infantry, a regiment of soldiers stationed in outposts and defended locations. Everyone is always busy with something: changing checkpoints, delivering humanitarian assistance, and ensuring the safety of civilians.

We drove army vehicles, delivering supplies, water, and humanitarian aid... When food was taken to checkpoints or humanitarian help was supplied, we got into little confrontations. However, this was not always the case. They retaliated by shooting for fun. I've never felt threatened in my life. The one caveat was that they told us not to approach any local ladies since there is where the true danger resides. It is possible to get diseases that will make you unhappy. This, however, did not deter anyone. We were repatriated to France about a year later.

Is it true that the legionnaires were assassinated?

- No one was buried in my recollection. I was in Djibouti at a reasonably tranquil period, and I was unaware that anyone had perished there. The outposts there are, on the whole, well-equipped. Sappers erect tents and modules such that you are almost invisible from all directions while enjoying a nearly perfect view, as far as such conditions allow.

Sometimes there were injuries, but more frequently there were a variety of injuries. Especially for "parachutists," dislocations and sprains are common. If anything terrible happened to the troops, they were sent to a Legion hospital in France right away. I was aware that people were slaughtered in Rwanda, but that was before I arrived. In general, the Legion considers the death of a soldier to be a serious emergency. The commission comes right away, and the inquiry begins. Even major injuries are thoroughly investigated to determine what happened and who is to blame.

Are you the one who killed someone?

- There was no such thing as a goal. Legionnaires are not retaliatory in any way. Our mission was simple: stop local machetes from cutting each other up and firing them with cheap Chinese Kalash rifles. In essence, they carried out UN mandates. As a result, if there were any corpses, they were merely local and not the result of legionnaires' actions. I've never heard of somebody assassinating a European. Despite the fact that the "batch" was always the same. There are peacekeeping missions carried out by the Legion. But it'll be difficult.

What did you do after you got back from Africa?

- I just finished serving. I went to school to become a mechanic. There was nothing to look forward to. Sapeurs-pompiers (analogue of the Ministry of Emergency Situations - "MK") are excellent in France. They carry out the duties of the Ministry of Emergency Situations there, such as putting out fires, fighting floods and droughts, and removing cats from trees. And, because the African combatants were evacuated, I was bored there after the rotation, and there was less money. It has already been evident that a career in the Legion will take a long time to develop, will not pay well, and will not need me to obtain French citizenship. I will also need to alter my name.

There isn't enough money to relax on the Riviera, but there is enough money to ride in France on weekends and vacations - something I haven't done yet. After all, it's the 1990s. No one liked legionnaires back then, and you were at the bottom of the social ladder. This implies that finding a life companion in the shape of a legionnaire is nearly difficult. And after Africa, everything grew monotonous there. Everything seemed to have calmed down at home in Russia, so I decided to go.

You can't just leave the legion like that

- Of course. Even deserters were not pursued by the Legion. For familial considerations, I drafted a report. It was humiliating for me to accept it and depart in front of the commander, even if we were friends. By the way, no one inquired why I was leaving and no one tried to encourage me to stay. I came to the conclusion that you are correct. I received the calculation and the documentation I arrived with a week later. That's all there is to it. To the train station, and then to Berlin. I bought a car there, drove to Minsk, and then returned to Moscow.

The African guys just departed with the scraps. Then they went home, claiming that everything was in order and that there was no need to look. It's also evident that they resorted to "their friends" PMCs in Nigeria to squeeze out wells.

If you ask me to characterize my time as a legionnaire in a few words, I'll answer, "It was cool!"

I had no intention of serving in France, but that turned out to be the case. Not only did the skills I learned there save my life, but they also gave me confidence. I maintain contact with my buddies. Although, with the passage of time, everything is forgotten.

I don't fantasize about the service, and I'm not sentimental, but I wouldn't mind going back. It is located in Djibouti. Even still, I was young, and that was probably the coolest thing.
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