Maksym Kryvtsov represented one of the brightest promises of Ukraine’s young, creative generation – a patriotic poet and original thinker who truly listened to others and earned their respect in turn.
He now joins the growing pantheon of Ukrainian heroes who have given their lives in defense of their nation’s ideals since Russia’s brutal invasion began – courageous men and women like public activist Roman Ratushnyy, writer Viktoria Amelina, poets Oleksiy Ivakin, Volodymyr Vakulenko, and Yuriy Ruf, and far too many more.
Maksym actively participated in Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity and volunteered to join the Armed Forces in 2014 when war first erupted in the Donbas region. After serving, he dedicated himself to helping rehabilitate and support fellow veterans through organizations like the Centre for Rehabilitation and Readaptation of ATO and JFO Participants and the Veteran Hub.
But when full-scale war engulfed all of Ukraine in February 2022, Maksym felt compelled to return to the front lines. His passion for poetry also endured amidst the chaos of war – in late 2022 he published “Virshi z Biinytsi” (Poems from the Battlefield), which was hailed by PEN Ukraine as one of the year’s most impactful works of Ukrainian literature.
Fellow soldiers knew Maksym by his call sign “Dali,” a homage to his distinctive Salvador Dali-esque mustache.
“I was growing a mustache to curl it like Salvador Dali. The call sign asked for it,” he said with characteristic humor in one interview.
Maksym spoke simply and clearly about his motivations for fighting:
“You just have to. You have to be here or not, to exist or not, to breathe or suffocate. That is why I am at war.”
Yesterday, Ukraine lost a young man whose choice to keep breathing freely cost him his life. Maksym Kryvtsov was killed defending what he believed in most. His ginger tabby, who followed him around faithfully, died with him.
My Ginger Tabby
When he falls asleep
slowly stretches its front legs
he dreams of summer
dreams of an unscathed brick house
dreams of chickens
running around the yard
dreams of children
who treat him to meat pies
my helmet slips out of my hands
falls on the mud
the cat wakes up
squints his eyes
looks around carefully:
yes, they’re his people:
and falls asleep again.
(excerpt translated by Christine Chraibi)
Poem of death
Maksym Kryvtsov’s poem, written the day before his death.
My head rolls from tree to tree
or a ball
from my severed arms
violets will sprout in the spring
will be torn apart by dogs and cats
will paint the world a new red
a Pantone human blood red
will sink into the earth
and form a carcass
my shattered gun
my poor mate
my things and fatigues
will find new owners
How I wish it were spring
as a violet.
(translated by Christine Chraibi)
Maksym Kryvtsov’s spirit lives on as an embodiment of Ukraine’s will to survive and thrive against all odds.
Вічна Пам’ять! Eternal Memory!
Герої не вмирають! Heroes Never Die!
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