10 impressive life stories of people defending Ukraine

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2014/07/21 • War in the Donbas

Ukraine’s recent history saw a lot of controversial politicians, corrupt officials and even a fugitive president. What the country lacked was positive heroes – people that could go down in history as an example to their descendants and enter the panteon of legend.

During the three months of fighting in Donbas, Ukraine suffered several hundred of victims, thousands of wounded, tens of thousands of refugees – and saw lots of real heroes emerge. Nvua.net brings you ten people whose stories and deeds are ready material for the future history books of new Ukraine.

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Pavel Choryi, paratrooper

Was wounded in battle, saved four comrades

Pavel Choryi, a paratrooper from Mykolayiv serving in the 79‑th Airborne Brigade, could be remembered by his colleagues as one of the many sharpshooters. But he became a hero.

Once a shard damaged his right eye during a night battle with DNR separatists. The sharpshooter, holding the leaking-out eye with his hand, continued to fire at the enemy. Then he got to a truck that was being shelled, where his comrades-in-arms were trapped. Choryi single-handedly pulled four wounded fellow soldiers out of it and volunteered to guard them on the way to the hospital. It was at the hospital when he lost his consciousness.

On the June 20, President Poroshenko awarded Choryi with a 3rd degree Order of Courage. Now he has a temporary prosthesis where his right eye used to be. He hopes an operation in France will get him a new, better one.

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Armen Nikogosian, doctor

Armen set up an ambulance brigade he brings to the hottest zones in Donbas to save Ukrainian soldiers.

The doctor Armen Nikogosian became known after a report by STB TV channel. He worked as a surgeon in Siberia. He came to Ukraine when he learned of mass protests at the Maidan in Kyiv. “I believed they needed me more at the Maidan than in Russia,” says Nikogosian.

The doctor joined the Medical hundred operating from a cafe near Kozatskyi hotel – here the bodies of those massacred at vul. Institutska were brought on February 20. Now Nikogosian has been driving into the war zone for two months together with nurse Olena and driver Illia he met while sightseeing at the fugitive president Yanukovych’s residence in Mezhyhiria. The German ambulance which has also gone through the Maidan usually starts off from the Izium city hospital and reaches the furthest checkpoints. The brigade renders first aid and brings the gravely wounded soldiers to Izyum.

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Tetyana Rychkova, volunteer

Tetyana raises money for the army and then single-handedly brings food and ammunition right to the anti-terrorist forces’ positions.

Tetyana Rychkova, a 35‑year old woman from Dnipropetrovsk, metallurgic engineer by education and owner of a mini-bakery, first came into the war zone to visit her husband: he went to fight the separatists as a volunteer. When Rychkova saw how many things the soldiers lacked, she decided to supply 300 of them with footwear, clothes and everything else they needed. She sold her own country house to get the money.

Then she started raising money through social networks to supply other units as well. She brings food, medicines, and bulletproof vests to the Donbas hot spots on an old family car that’s on the verge of breaking down. Before that, Rychkova was even afraid of driving a car.

Now this fragile Ukrainian woman brings aid to the war zone. She gave up her work, seldom has time to see her son and keeps driving back and forth from Dnipropetrovsk to the checkpoints. Sometimes she gets under fire. Sometimes he brings toothbrushes for soldiers who turn out to be already dead.

Recently, Rychkova raised her ambitions to manufacturing bulletproof vests which are hard to come by in Ukraine. Other volunteers decided to buy the humble heroine a new car in honor of her services.

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Petro Dudnyk, pastor of the church of the Glad Tidings

Helped over a thousand of civilians to leave the town of Sloviansk, occupied by separatists and besieged by Ukrainian forces.

Petro Dudnyk, resident of Sloviansk, Master of pedagogics, father of seven children and pastor of a non-canonical Glad Tidings church, did not lose his heart during the recent events in Sloviansk but started aiding his townsmen – religious and atheists alike. Each day he evacuated over 100 people from the besieged town – mostly mothers with children, the elderly, the disabled, and the bedridden.

His activities forced him to escape the city on his own – the terrorists did not like their human shield escaping from them. Then Dudnik started helping his townsmen from the outside – he organized the transportation, met the evacuees and drove them to prayer houses around Izyum and Kharkiv. People could either stay there or go wherever they wanted.

Dudnik did not want to go far from Sloviansk so that he’d still be able to get food and medicine there every day. The pastor writes of his deeds to Facebook: he tells the stories of the people he saves and posts their photos. Until late at night he answers to messages asking for help.

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Taras Seniuk, lieutenant colonel, commander of the 95‑th Airborne Brigade’s 1st Airborne Battalion

When his unit was caught in an ambush he sacrificed his life to save his subordinates

Taras Seniuk, born in Kolomiya, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, died 19 days short of celebrating his 34th birthday. On June 3 the terrorists attacked an anti-terrorist force convoy heading from Izium to Sloviansk. His unit was caught in a separatist ambush.

Fighting broke out, the separatists were repelled, but two soldiers died. One of them was Taras Seniuk” – major general Mykola Popilskyi, the deputy chief of staff told during the funeral.

Seniuk served in the army for over 13 years. In 2001 he finished the Odesa military institute and was sent to the 95th Airborne. He started as platoon commander and slowly rose to battalion commander. The unit considered him a creative officer and experienced commander. Seniuk did have experience – he served through two peacekeeping operations: in Iraq in 2003 and in Kosovo in 2007.

Seniuk was named Hero of Ukraine posthumously. He left behind a wife and an 8-year old daughter.

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Yuriy Biriukov aka Phoenix

Founded the largest fund to aid the Ukrainian army.

Yuriy Biryukov, a Kyiv businessman from Dnipropetrovsk, is now known across Ukraine as Phoenix. He has been literally restoring the Ukrainian army from the ashes. A tourist agency director, fired this winter for absenteeism – as he says, he “spent days at the Maidan” – Biriukov started helping the military back when the Russian aggression in Crimea started. Back then he couldn’t expect it would take up the whole of his free time.

Biryukov leaves only 4-5 hours a day for sleep – the rest he spends driving across the country in search of military equipment and then bringing it to the war zone. Phoenix has raised over UAH 5 mn ($429 thousand), purchased 3 thousand bulletproof vests, hundreds of kevlar helmets and even one state-of-the-art rifle, repaired a transport plane and built a headquarters.

He personally brings in the aid, provides medical treatment to the soldiers, orders large batches of helmets, infrared scanners, medical kits and clothes. Currently Biryukov fully supplies over 10 brigades and regiments from all over the country, sends tons of food and equipment to the frontlines. Over 30 people that aid him are called Wings of Phoenix – like the fund he’s founded.

Biriukov does his work for free, he regularly posts reports on the money spent and the only personal expenses he compensates from volunteer money are for fuel.

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Nadiya Savchenko, senior lieutenant, SU-24M bomber pilot

Fought the separatists in a volunteer battalion, got captured trying to save her wounded comrades, behaved there like a true patriot.

On June 18 LNR terrorists captured Nadiya Savchenko. She fought as a volunteer in Aidar battalion based near Shchastia in Luhansk Oblast. Separatists attacked the battalion’s recon, some soldiers were wounded in the fight and Savchenko went to save them on an APC together with Aidar fighers. The rescuers took losses during the fight. The APC was disabled, and the girl ended up imprisoned.

Later  a video of her interrogation appeared on Youtube. Savchenko, who had served for ten years in the Ukrainian army and half a year in the Iraq peacekeeping force, was fearless during the interrogation. She told that she’d taken a vow to her people to defend Ukraine and its territorial integrity from invaders. 

She also refused to divulge information on anti-terrorist forces. “You think I know that? I think it’s the whole of Ukraine,”- Savchenko answered when a terrorist asked her what forces were fighting against them. The airwoman has been transferred to a jail in Russia.

Previously Savchenko said: “A person who dies on his job is a happy person. When a surfer gets buried under a wave, or a sky-diver’s parachute fails to open. This might be awful and cruel… But I know that there are people who would like to die such a death. I believe I’m one of them”.

The President and the Ministry of foreign affairs promised to do anything to free Savchenko from imprisonment in Russia.

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Serhiy Kulchitskyi, major general, former Director of Army and Special Force Training of the National Guard of Ukraine

Personally took part in several operations, died in a shot down helicopter.

Kulchitskyi was born to a soldier’s family in Wiemar in Germany. He graduated from the Ussuriysk military school named after Suvorov, and then the Far Eastern Higher Command School named after Rokossovskyi with honors.

He served in the North Fleet marines and went to live in Ukraine Ukraine after the USSR fell apart. Since 2011 Kulchitskyi has been a colonel, deputy director of the Western territorial internal forces command.

Since the creation of the National Guard in April this year has been heading the Army and Special Force Training Directorate. “He liked discipline and order, has always been a man of his word. His first rule was that a soldier should always be well fed and clothed,” Stepan Borchuk, Kulchitskyi’s friend, told Dyen. He added that Kulchitskyi himself joked that soldiers called him “mom and dad” because he took care of them like they were his own children: he tried to supply them with all the weapons and food they needed.

The general was killed together with 13 other soldiers under Sloviansk in May 29. The Mi-8 helicopter carrying them was shot down by terrorists. Kulchitskyi was named Hero of Ukraine posthumously.

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Kostiantyn Mohylko, lieutenant colonel, commander of Blakitna Stezhka of the 15th transport aviation brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force

When his An-30 transport plane was shot down by terrorists over Sloviansk, he managed to lead the plane away from a residential area. He died in the fall of his aircraft.

Kostiantyn Mohylko, born in Vinnytsia, joined a flying club back when he was in high school. He flew gliders and went parachuting. When he finished school he enrolled in the Ivan Kozhedub Kharkiv Airforce University. After graduating he served in Lviv.

On June 6, the crew of Mohylko’s An-30 plane was doing air photography in the fighting zone of Sloviansk. The terrorists shot the plane with a portable missile launcher. First the right engine and then the wing caught fire. Five out of eight crewmen died. Mogilko was among them, although he could have bailed with a parachute. But then the burning plane would fall right on the town. The pilot led his plane to the side and it fell 60 kilometers from Sloviansk.

Mohylko was named Hero of Ukraine posthumously. He left behind a wife and a 2-year old son Arsen.

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Andriy Biletskyi, Azov volunteer battalion commander

Personally initiated, planned and executed together with his comrades an operation to free Mariupol from terrorists.

Last year, 34‑year old Kharkiv resident Andriy Biletskiy was in jail under suspicion of a murder attempt and extremism. He was freed right after the old regime fell.

Now the former historian and head of the nationalist group “Patriots of Ukraine” became the commander of the most efficient Internal Ministry special forcers unit  – the volunteer Azov battalion. 

Just a couple dozen men headed by Biletskiy, a man with no military experience, who explained his plan to his fellow soldiers and policemen in lay terms, freed Mariupol from bandits. It is currently the largest city freed by Ukrainian forces. They also took prisoner the self-proclaimed Mariupol mayor Oleksandr Fomenko. Azov suffered only two serious casualties in the operation: one soldier was killed and another gravely wounded.

There are now lots of volunteers willing to fight under Biletskiy. Azov oversees the territory from Berdiansk to Mariupol in Southern Donbas. The battalion commander is often invited to interviews and talk shows. Unlike many other volunteers, he never wears a mask to hide his face. After the war Biletskyi plans to leave the battalion and go back to his family he had to move out from Kharkiv.

Source: Nvua.net

By Anastasiya BerezaMariya Zhartovska

July 8, 12.00

Translated by Kirill Mikhailov, edited by Alya Shandra

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  • Ardi

    I’m horrified that you would include a nazi leader in your fine article.
    Do you know what the Social-National Assembly stands for?
    Do you want Ukraine to introduce racial laws to maintain ethnic purity?
    Re Azov: http://maidantranslations.com/2014/07/12/shekhovstov-ukrainian-neo-nazis-are-preparing-a-new-revolution/

    • deeline

      on last elections ultra-right parties did not get any sugnifficant number of votes. so, support of SNA in Ukraine are a little less than zero. nothing to worry about.

    • http://ukrainianpolicy.com/ UkrainianPolicy

      We didn’t write it, but editors found the article worthy of publishing. That said, at least the author mentioned the murder charge and his running of Patriot – but I do agree they brushed over that PU is hardly a “nationalist group” and something much worse.

      He deserves credit though, his group is doing a good job in the field and providing training to a lot of other balanced people. Hopefully his personal politics don’t mix with the battalion.

    • Brent

      But you’re okay with the “People’s Governer of Donetsk”, Pavel Gubarev?

  • Ardi

    Thanks for all your articles and replies.