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“Where do heroes like Zhora come from?”- do not forget murdered Defender Heorhiy Toropovsky

“Where do heroes like Zhora come from?”- do not forget murdered Defender Heorhiy Toropovsky
Article by: Bohdan Zholdak
Translated by: Christine Eliashevsky-Chraibi
Edited by: Lydia Eliashevsky-Replansky
18-year-old Heorhiy “Zhora” Toropovskyi, call sign “Hunter”, was killed on September 17, 2014. He was returning to his place of deployment with the 40th Motorized Infantry Battalion “Kryvbas” when a group of pro-Russian militants attacked him on the train, smashed his skull and threw his body onto the rails.

Later, it became known that ORDLO had announced a reward for Heorhiy’s death and the Tribunal site (“DNR” database) had listed him as a “каратель (punisher) to be liquidated”.

It is part of the Plus 1 project created to memorialize the fallen Defenders of Ukraine.


Author: Bohdan Zholdak     

Over the centuries, to the present day, leaders who have governed Ukraine have done absolutely nothing to ensure that Ukrainian heroes are commemorated in our country.

So where do these heroes come from?

It’s even more difficult to say anything about Zhora Toropovskyi, because he grew up without a father. We all know that “momma’s boys” usually grow up to be apathetic and timid, in short, rather wimpy and yellow-bellied.

But, once upon a time, Herodotus, the father of history claimed that our country was inhabited by female Amazon warriors (and these claims have recently been supported by archaeological excavations). So, perhaps Ms. Tetiana Toropovska inherited that ancient fighting spirit and passed it on to her son? From an early age, Zhora showed great courage in all his actions and constantly looked for challenges and difficult situations where he could put himself to the test. Another mother would have tried hard to curb her son’s elemental forces. But not Mama Tania; on the contrary, she encouraged her son Zhora to grow free and decisive, sometimes even reckless.


Here we see another hidden female quality – the desire to have a brave man in the family. A Defender? Maybe. But if we look back on Zhora’s childhood, did his mother see him as a future Defender of the Motherland? After all, in those so-called “joyful and cloudless days” of the Soviet Union, such an idea didn’t impress anyone, because the USSR was a fictitious homeland.

Maybe Zhora’s mother was able to look into the future and feel in her bones what the real future of Ukraine would be? And why not? After all, maternal intuition is much more complex and far-reaching than it appears to some men, who believe that such instincts should be limited to diapers and nappies. There is a lot to discuss here, but if we consider Zhora Toropovskyi’s upbringing it’s obvious that his mother didn’t view her boy’s future through rose-coloured glasses and therefore, allowed him to fight his own battles, free and unrestrained. Zhora channeled his abundant energy into a great passion for military affairs, technology, invention, and construction and design.

But what did headstrong Zhora use his great scientific skills for? Of all things, it was rooftopping. What a powerful adrenaline rush! Accessing and exploring hard-to-reach high-altitude sites. Few people are physically capable of scaling such incredible heights. There’s no one else to rely on but yourself – you’re all alone. This extreme sport cultivates independence and a spirit of adventure.

And what about extreme caving? Descending into and exploring dangerous subterranean tunnels… we know very well the treacherous conditions underground, so why would we allow our children to venture inside?

Did Tetiana oppose her son? No. She decided to do just the opposite, that is, help her son to control such impulses, hoping that her understanding, her maternal care and affection would protect him from many hazards. And really, what to do in such a case? When your child gets involved in extreme sports, if he has a strong adventurous spirit, then maybe it’s worth strengthening him, building up his confidence so that he will be able to overcome such incredible obstacles? As a mother, Tetiana worried day and night, but she trusted her son and knew that he would never undertake an adventure without thinking it through.

What are the results of such an upbringing? It’s quite simple – boundless trust in his mother, no secrets between them. This is the only possible way to raise a headstrong son. There were no secrets between them, but only boundless trust in his mother to resolve his problems. What other mother can boast of having such instructive skills? Yes, unfortunately, we have very few mothers of this class.

Such care and guidance is not regulated either in our country or abroad. On the contrary, it is forbidden. However, Mama Tania felt that her son was preparing himself for upcoming trials and tribulations, because he trusted her with all his historical predictions.

What? A mere child? How could this be?

Unfortunately, that’s how it turned out. First, this insidious hybrid war, then appalling treachery coupled with dangerous and deceitful military high-command orders near Ilovaisk, but Zhora survived and even saved several comrades-in arms. Oh yes, that’s the way he was…

And this is where his mother’s knowledge comes in. She’s a historian by profession. With a child’s hand, her young son used to draw futuristic geographical maps redefining the state borders of Ukraine. Yes, this happened much earlier, many years before the crisis began, when our rigid statesmen didn’t even dream of such a thing. But, Tania’s son saw it. We are struck by his tactical and strategic assessments of our northern neighbour. Moreover, Zhora even wrote a novel about the upcoming war with Muscovy. Yes, teen fiction may be stylistically imperfect, but the political reasoning is impressively accurate.

So, should we forbid a child to anticipate such events? Should we prohibit them from preparing for this? Zhora’s mother understood that this wasn’t just about shooting games, but about real fighting, and she believed in her son, who was gifted with distinctly prophetic talents.

How so? Our politicians strongly believed in the Budapest Agreement, but Tania’s son did not? This is a real case for reflection… But, it’s not a dilemma for the mother, because a mother’s heart gives her a more accurate outlook than rigid government agreements.

So, what happened? The agreements went up in smoke. Everyone was wrong, except for Zhora and Tetiana Toropovski. But, let’s not hide our sins and credulity; all of us, Ukrainians, firmly believed in the documents [Budapest Memorandum-Ed] supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine… That’s right. The only problem is that the Toporovsky stood alone.

However, her son’s passion for “manly” pastimes and her remarkable support brought practical results. For example, Zhora’s youthful passion for aviation grew into drone designs, participation in Ukrainian contests for young inventors, construction of a drone, “Black Hunter”, which was manufactured in Dnipropetrovsk and used in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO).

But, we should also consider how a woman with a humanities education was able to get involved in her son’s intricate technical designs. What for? Is this easy for a woman? Not easy, but… necessary in order to remain his true friend, not just his mother. Not to mention his passion for extreme sports, which, in truth, can’t really be called sports. These activities represent something much more demanding than sports; these are choices that led her son through life in the predicted difficult direction.

However, Mama Tania and her son were well prepared for the future war. For example, chess, where Zhora was listed in the second category. Chess helped him in complex combat situations to rely entirely on intuition when making important and quick decisions, and not on logical reasoning.

Or taekwondo. Her son had a black belt. Would he have achieved this without his mother’s support and understanding? Another mother would have insisted her son attend ballroom dancing classes or a botany club. However, Tetiana Toropovska knew exactly why her son needed such fighting skills, why he continued training. Not for imaginary battles but, unfortunately, for real ones.

Such is a mother. A real mother. 

The PLUS 1 exhibit was created to depict a new socio-cultural image of Ukrainians in search of their own identity. It is also part of a comprehensive multimedia advocacy campaign in which the narratives of Ukrainian soldiers, who perished in the Russo-Ukrainian war, are told through portrait photography and original texts written by eminent Ukrainians.

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.Here is the content

Translated by: Christine Eliashevsky-Chraibi
Edited by: Lydia Eliashevsky-Replansky
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