Petro Polytsiak. Photo: Memory Book for the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine 

War in Donbas

Article by: Christine Chraibi
On the eve of the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, December 6, 2021, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine to Petro Polytsiak, one of Ukraine’s legendary Cyborgs.

Decree No.620/2021 dated December 3: “For personal courage and heroism shown in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, I hereby resolve to award the title of Hero of Ukraine with the Order of the Golden Star to soldier Petro Petrovych Polytsiak (posthumously).”


Petro Polytsiak. Photo: Memory Book for the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine

Petro Polytsiak, call sign “Chorny” (Blackie), was born on July 5, 1992 in the village of Borbyn, Mlynivsky Raion, Rivne Oblast. He was 22 years old when he met his death in the smoking, battle-scarred ruins of Donetsk Airport.

When war broke out in eastern Ukraine, Petro was mobilized and deployed almost immediately to the war zone. He served as sharpshooter and platoon commander in the 80th Air Assault Brigade.

Surrounded by enemy forces, Petro and his commander Ivan, call sign “Katana”, both unarmed, carried their wounded comrade, Ihor Rymar, over 1.5 km to safety. Petro also survived a major gas attack launched by Russian-led militants.

“Petro was a calm man, but he always ready for combat. We were at Donetsk Airport together in January. The shelling was constant. On January 7, on Christmas Day, our comrade Ihor Rymar was severely wounded by a high-explosive charge. His arm and jaw were shattered. Our doc, call sign “Psycho”, stopped the bleeding and put a tube in the trachea so Ihor could breathe. The situation was critical; Ihor needed immediate medical aid, but the evacuation route was controlled by the “DNR”. Headquarters spent the whole day negotiating with the militants who finally agreed to hand Ihor over to the Ukrainian side. Petro volunteered to help. He was always the first to carry out combat missions under a rain of enemy bullets and shells. So, I wasn’t at all surprised that he offered to help me get Ihor Rymar out of the airport…

We walked some 2 kilometres in freezing weather, snow and strong winds. It was pitch dark… We fell several times; our hands were frozen to the metal bars of the stretcher. At one time, Ihor’s tube popped out of his trachea, so I had to put it back in place.

We walked for hours… it was tough going. We were completely exhausted, both physically and mentally. Finally, we saw the headlights of an approaching car. It was a group of “DNR” militants headed by “Shaman” (commander of the “DPR special forces” Oleg Frolov-Ed). He treated us with respect and gave me his word that he’d hand Ihor over to the Ukrainian side. He fulfilled his promise.” says “Katana”.

Ihor Rymar died in the hospital. On the way back to the airport, Ivan felt very ill, so Petro had to carry him practically all the way.


Petro Polytsiak at Donetsk Airport. Photo: Memory Book for the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine

On January 20, 2015, Petro Polytsiak called his parents for the last time. He was wounded in the arm, but refused to abandon his comrades and mount the last armoured personnel carrier leaving Donetsk Airport.

“Our son called us almost every day. He kept saying that everything was in order; he never complained. When we asked him for details, he replied that it would be better for us not to know. True, he did share some news with us a couple of times. For example, he told how he and his commander carried a wounded comrade out of the airport under enemy fire.

‘…dead or alive, I’ll never leave you. I’ll always be at your side’. That’s what he repeated to us every time he called.” recalls his father, Petro Volodymyrovych.

In fact, Petro performed his last heroic act on that fatal day in Donetsk Airport. He convinced his comrade Oleksandr, the father of two children and whose wife was expecting their third child, to take his place in the vehicle. He added that he had to stay and look after another soldier – Volodymyr Buzenko – who was shell-shocked and could not be evacuated due to his serious injuries.

Petro Polytsiak was killed by Russian-led militants on January 20, 2015. His body was identified among the many dead Heroes, who were subsequently evacuated by Ukrainian volunteers from Donetsk Airport to the morgue in Dnipro. Petro’s body was recognized thanks to his grandfather’s watch, which he had taken from home during a short period of leave. He was not recognizable; his face had been shattered. The attackers probably used brass knuckles to pummel his head.

“My brother, Cyborg “Chorny” was tortured by the terrorists. His hands were tied, his eyes had been gouged out; his arms were slashed…” remembers his comrade-in-arms Oleksandr.


Petro Polytsiak. Photo: Memory Book for the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine

Petro Polytsiak was buried in his hometown on February 20, 2015. Over 3,000 people accompanied the Cyborg on his last journey. Mourning was declared in Mlynivsky Raion from February 20 to 22.

Petro is survived by his parents, four sisters and his fiancée.

On May 23, 2015, Petro Polytsiak was awarded the Order For Courage III class by President Petro Poroshenko (posthumously) – “for personal courage and high professionalism shown in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, loyalty to the military oath.”

He was also awarded the Medal – For the Defense of Donetsk Airport (posthumously).


Petro Polytsiak. Photo: Memory Book for the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine

Ukraine needs independent journalism. And we need you. Join our community on Patreon and help us better connect Ukraine to the world. We’ll use your contribution to attract new authors, upgrade our website, and optimize its SEO. For as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support. Become a Patron!

Tags: , ,