This essay by Ukrainian poet Olha Sloniovska is dedicated to fallen Defender Roman Furyk, who was killed on January 9, 2015 by Russian-backed militants near Stanytsia Luhanska, Luhansk Oblast. He was born in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast on February 20, 1963.
Roman Furyk, call sign “Sensei”, initially served in the special police patrol battalion ‘Myrotvorets’ of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and then in the Kulchytsky Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine.
On January 9, 2015, Roman’s unit set out on a combat mission near the village of Stanytsia Luhanska. The men were caught in an enemy ambush, a two-hour battle ensued, two men were killed and 14 were wounded. Roman was fatally wounded by a sniper bullet that pierced his carotid artery; he died during evacuation. Roman Lahno, a senior reserve soldier, was killed in the same battle.
It is part of the Plus 1 project created to memorialize the fallen Defenders of Ukraine.
Why build a monument if I’m still alive? Roman Furyk: In Memoriam
Author: Olha Sloniovska
Roman Furyk was born in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. He was the eldest of two sons, and a role model for his younger brother, who imitated and followed him everywhere. Since childhood, Roman dreamed of serving as a border guard, so he began training a dog, which he called Radar. But, even though he was a skilled cynologist, he was called to serve in another division. Of course, Roman took his faithful four-legged friend with him.
Both boys grew up in a good family, and received proper higher education. But, Roman was worried by the chaos in his country. He was an orderly, disciplined young man with high moral standards. His wife Uliana recalls a family wedding, where a drunken bully began brandishing a knife. Risking his own life, Roman intervened so that the wedding guests would not get hurt. A scuffle ensued, Roman was injured, but managed to overpower his opponent and bring him to the police station. Only after he had handed the drunk over to the law enforcement officers did Roman take care of himself. So, when it became apparent that the hopes and dreams of the 2004 Orange Revolution were dashed, and when later, Yanukovych and his criminal government began exploiting and weakening Ukraine, Roman decided enough was enough and travelled to Kyiv to support the Maidan protests.
During his days on the Maidan, Roman was wounded in the face when a stun grenade exploded on his barricade.
Then in February 2014, when the war in Donbas began, Roman said to Uliana:
“I’m going as a volunteer so that our young people won’t be killed. They have no experience in life, and their whole future lies before them; they can still get married, have children. It’s better for my generation to go and serve! We’ve seen something of the world, served in the army, we’ve been shot at, we’ve been in difficult situations, and we’ve gained a lot more military experience!”
Uliana shakes her head thoughtfully, tries to recollect the important events, and continues:
“I never thought that Roman was such a patriot! When he served in the police, I was the last to learn about the bad things that happened to him. Sometimes, the whole city was buzzing with rumours, but Roman didn’t say a word. I ask him for an explanation, and he answers that yes, it was a dangerous situation, but you don’t need to know.”
He volunteered to serve in the General Serhiy Kulchytsky Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine. There were five volunteers from Kolomyia in this military unit. Four, thank God, are still alive, but Roman was killed. He served in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) three times. Not as a lieutenant colonel, but as an ordinary soldier. Such were the terms of his contract. First, in Sloviansk, then in Debaltseve, and lastly, in Stanytsia Luhanska. He didn’t feel any special danger in the first two places. First of all, Roman was an experienced soldier; secondly, for some reason, everyone believed that all this fighting would end very quickly in Donbas and that what was happening there was not very critical.
“Would you believe it? I even went to Moscow to earn some money and from there, I called Roman in the ATO zone. It never occurred to me that our conversations could be recorded, or that they could kidnap me and demand that Roman come and get me. Of course, he would’ve come, despite the danger and the consequences. I always called him; he never did. So, Roman was well aware of the dangers in talking over the phone. Our conversations were very short, not more than a minute” recalls Uliana.
Uliana returned home immediately. Roman was home on leave in Kolomyia. He tried to relax, but felt jittery about staying in one place. He was impatient to return to the Donbas. Roman’s mother was firmly against him returning to the front for a third time. And his wife and sons begged him not to go, but to no avail. Roman’s comrades-in-arms were over there, and he himself lived and breathed the conflict in the Donbas. He used to be very cautious and calm. But suddenly, he began waking up at night, calling for someone in his sleep or shouting out orders. War considerably changes a person’s psyche. Roman kept everything to himself, and refused to voice negative thoughts. He uttered not a word about someone’s death. When he did decide to explain something to his family, he spoke about it jokingly, about how they built dugouts or how they fortified the trenches with logs.
“There were no harbingers of his death,” says Uliana. “Nothing. Nothing at all. Just before my mother died, our balcony window shattered for no reason and the glass in the oven cracked. But, in Roman’s case – nothing. Just one of my friends dreamed that her deceased relatives were very worried about how to bring Roman home. And, perhaps Roman’s car also sensed trouble. The day before, Roman was involved in an accident, and hastily repaired the car in order to be in Kyiv on January 2-3. It seems that in the ATO zone, all the military vehicles began breaking down one after the other, as if they sensed the threats in the air and were trying to keep the guys away from danger. Roman was supposed to be behind the wheel, so he was very nervous about the military vehicles acting up.”
The last time he called his wife, she was visiting with friends. They joked, laughed, talked about how and where they had celebrated Christmas. The next day, the two brothers recalled Roman’s optimistic words:
“Today is St. Stephen’s Day [January 9th-Ed]. My father was Stepan, so that means that no one will be killed today.”
So, how did it happen?
“The military vehicle kept breaking down. The guys were returning from a combat mission, and decided to take a short cut. They fell into an enemy ambush. Fighting ensued. They set fire to the vehicle so that the weapons and ammunition wouldn’t be captured by the enemy. Two soldiers named Roman provided cover for our retreating soldiers. They told me that for some reason or other, my husband returned to check that no wounded had been left behind and then, the sniper got him. My eldest son was the first to find out. He called me and said: “Mom, Dad’s gone.” We waited several days, because for some reason the bodies were taken to Kharkiv. Roman’s friends went there immediately. They brought him home, sat by the coffin all night and reminisced about the past and all the good times they had shared together.”
We say goodbye. Her mobile beeps and I hear the song ringtone: “Just visit me in a dream; we’ll sit alone in sadness. I’ll be waiting. Do you believe me? I believe you and I’ll come to visit, but you must open the door!”
I look into her eyes and understand how difficult it must be for this woman to act with calm and patience. How she longs for her Roman!
The project is built around 22 individual exhibition stands. In iconic and powerful moments captured by a photographer’s camera – Youry Bilak, a Frenchman of Ukrainian descent – Ukrainian families tell the stories of their loved ones – Ukrainian soldiers who perished in the war. Each narrative, each individual is but one small grain, one tiny unit of a module in a living organism. By telling his story, we bring him back to life.
Each family chose an object that most reminds them of their departed: a father’s jacket, a guitar, a suit of medieval armour, a book. These family artifacts reflect a living continuation of the departed loved one. Ukrainian artists, intellectuals, and journalists were invited to create original texts about each soldier.