“The whole town was on their knees the day of her father’s funeral… Today the country weeps for Yaroslava…” 

Photo: different Internet sources 

Op-ed, War in the Donbas

36-year-old Yaroslava Nykonenko was killed by an enemy sniper on October 15, 2019 in the Donbas.

Journalist Yuriy Butusov wrote the following comment on his Facebook page: “We bow our heads in sorrow and show our respect to the Nykonenko family on news of this terrible loss.”

Photo: different Internet sources

Yaroslava’s father, Serhiy Nykonenko never knew his own father, who had abandoned his family; Serhiy’s mother died after a serious illness when Serhiy was only nine years old. He was raised by his grandmother and grandfather, and then went to fight in the Second World War. The family was so poor that they surrendered their grandchild to an orphanage. As a young man, he was in a serious car accident, suffering injuries to his back and head, and became paralyzed. The doctors operated several times, though they did not promise him much.

However, Serhiy was a brave and strong-willed man. He fought for his life against daunting odds, first moving about on his hands, then on his feet with the help of crutches and walkers. Then surprisingly, he learned to walk again…

He obtained his higher education, and committed himself to his chosen profession, becoming a geological engineer. He worked for many years in Russia, amazing his colleagues with the strength of will over body. He lived in the Siberian taiga, thus honing his strength and endurance to survive in the wild. He became a marksman with a rifle.

When he returned to Ukraine, Serhiy settled in his native Myrhorod. He established a small business, making everything he needed by hand for his fish farm, apiary, and hog farm. He would sleep only 3-4 hours in order to provide for his family.

His greatest accomplishment was his healthy and loving family, something he had been deprived of in his childhood, and which he had always dreamed of. Yaroslava, the older daughter, and Bohdana, both adored their father. He taught them many skills, and the girls, like their father in many ways, learned to live off the land and had the spirit of warriors.

Photo: different Internet sources

Photo: different Internet sources

At the age of 51, Serhiy had a heart attack. He recovered and continued working. Then, when war came to his country, he refused to remain idle. In the early days of the war, he began collecting equipment to support the army, using his own vehicle to deliver the supplies to the front line. He would also stand guard duty at check points.

In the summer of 2014, he was accepted in the 24th Aidar Battalion. There was a great need for artillery reconnaissance and observers to correct the accuracy of fire.  Nykonenko was skilled at topography, reading maps, and using artillery measuring instruments and distance finders. At that time, Yaroslava was raising her young daughter, and so could not make trips to the front. Instead she did what she could from home. The younger daughter, Bohdana, was a constant companion for her father on all his excursions and assisted him in their hospital visits. Nykonenko fought in several battles, and was highly respected by his comrades-in-arms.

On January 18, the Aidar position near the village of Trokhizbenka, Luhansk Oblast, was bombarded by Russian Grad missiles. Serhiy was mortally wounded…

Farewell ceremony in honour of soldier Serhiy Nykonenko in Kyiv. Aidar fighter Bohdana Nykonenko brought her father’s body back home from the front. Bohdana has been at the front since 2014; she is now 26 years old. Photo: different Internet sources

A national farewell ceremony was organized on the Maidan. Then, his funeral at Myrhorod was attended by thousands of people.  After his death, both daughters joined the army, serving to this day.

On October 15, 36- year-old Yaroslava Nykonenko was deployed at the front in the ranks of the 101st Defence Brigade. She was mortally wounded by rifle fire. The Russian sniper showed no mercy…

She was an unwavering Ukrainian patriot with true warrior spirit. On her Facebook page, for example, there are a few pictures of different persons, and a mention of her birthday, but most photos reflect the war in Ukraine. Each month, she published a post in memory of Ukrainian soldiers killed in combat that month.  She participated in ceremonies honouring the memory of soldiers killed at Ilovaisk. She published items about living and fallen servicemen, and stories about battle operations. Her site reveals the soul of a true fighter, one who comprehends all the risks of war.

Having lived her life as a true patriot, Yaroslava gave her life for each of us and for her homeland.  Hers is a life to be remembered in our schools – a symbol of hope and honour. We must make the grief of the Nykonenko family our own, to do all we can in her memory.

Mother saying goodbye to daughter Yaroslava. Photo: different Internet sources

Yaroslava was laid to rest beside her father in Myrhorod on October 18, 2019. She leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter.

Financial help is accepted through her sister’s account.

Bohdana is also a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Никоненко Богдана Сергіївна (Nykonenko Bohdana Serhiyivna) 5168 7427 1943 9899

Photo: Styler

Translated by: Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk
Edited by: Christine Chraibi
Source: FB Yuriy Butusov

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