Master Sergeant Anatoliy Svyryd

Master Sergeant Anatoliy Svyryd

Anatoliy Svyryd (nom de guerre Spartan) defended the Donetsk airport since November 2014 until the last days of the battle. Almost every day he was on the verge of death, yet continued to fight. During the battle, Svyryd was captured by Russia-backed militants. He was released in a round of prisoners’ exchange in February 2015, even though the militants were afraid of letting him go, fearing he would come back.

“For me personally the words of my son are most important. He recently asked me to guess who his idol was. I thought it is some football player. Then he replied: ‘It is you, Dad.’”

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
Staff Sergeant Vyacheslav Kubrak

Staff Sergeant Vyacheslav Kubrak

Vyacheslav Kubrak (nom de guerre Kulya [Bullet]) received baptism by fire on May 13, 2014. Kubrak’s airborne unit was ambushed by Russia-backed militants. Seven soldiers were killed and eight were injured in this skirmish.

Staff Sergeant Kubrak defended the Donetsk airport in November 2014, fighting as a machine gunner. Surrounded by hostile fire, he had to conquer the “way of life” — a road from the airport to the rear that was turned into a living hell by the militants. Yet, he survived and continued to serve in one of the top airborne units of Ukraine.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Major Yevhen Mezhevikin

Major Yevhen Mezhevikin

Yevhen Mezhevikin (nom de guerre Adam) gained fame as one of the best tank men of Ukraine-Russia conflict. Fellow Ukrainian warriors call him a guardian angel, while Russia-backed militants called him a pilot because he fought swiftly and unexpectedly. “Adam saved my life,” often say many Ukrainian servicemen.

Mezhevikin was born in Russia in a family of miners. He would never have imagined a war against the Russians, which were considered “friends and brothers.” Everything changed after the first battle.

“It is important to have rules and I have one: do not shoot at civilians. This is our land and our people. Sometimes it is hard because you cannot be passive, but our strength lies in the truth. That is why I have my rules. From the first battle, I realized that my goal was to save the lives of my fellow soldiers.”

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 2nd Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Ivan Zvyagin

Ivan Zvyagin

Ivan Zvyagin became a volunteer as Medical Service coordinator during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–2014. He started helping Ukrainian soldiers after Russia annexed Crimea, delivering medicine to the frontline hospitals. Zvyagin came under mortar fire at least three or four times and three times he was almost shot dead.

“I have seen many sincere and open people who love their country. I tried to collect aid for children from orphanages. Many families were affected by the war and children were suffering the most. This is my duty. I am doing that as a human being and as Ukrainian. There is nothing special about that.”

Maryna Komarova

Maryna Komarova

Maryna Komarova was born and raised in Crimea and later moved to Kyiv. She dreamt about coming back, but these plans were doomed when Russia occupied the peninsula.

She joined the volunteer movement to help the Ukrainian Army. Those who saw her in action, admit, “She is a real fighter and a true patriot. Many men envy her courage!”

Maryna personally drove to the front delivering weapons, food, clothes and medicine. She believes that Crimea will return to Ukraine and she will come back home.

  • Order of Princess Olga 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Captain Valeriy Chybinyeyev

Captain Valeriy Chybinyeyev

Valeriy Chybinyeyev is a member of the 1st Airborne Assault Battalion who became famous for capturing Russia-backed militants in eastern Ukraine. In June 2014, his unit captured two militants, while one month later he took part in capturing another three militants and a battle tank.

Captain Chybinyeyev’s led an operation that helped destroy 12 enemy warehouses. However, he soon was injured after the hostile artillery attack. Despite the wounds, he did not stop leading his unit that held positions under artillery bombardments of Russian regulars and its proxy forces.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
Colonel Petro Yakymets

Colonel Petro Yakymets

Petro Yakymets was directly involved in planning special operations aimed to search and destroy groups of Russia-backed militants throughout Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Thanks to his meticulous preparation and professional actions, the militants suffered severe casualties, while Ukrainian troops returned from their missions without any losses.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
Captain Andriy Yanchenko

Captain Andriy Yanchenko

Andriy Yanchenko gained extensive combat experience in clashes with reconnaissance and sabotage groups of Russia-backed militants whose goals were to infiltrate the city of Debaltseve, Donetsk region. On September 15, 2014 Captain Yanchenko personally fought against the Russian proxy forces during which he discovered and reported the enemy firing positions back to the military command. This allowed his unit to take over the designated position and set up a stronghold.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Major Yevhen Myachyn

Major Yevhen Myachyn

On June 8, 2014 while being on his post, Yevhen Myachyn (nom de guerre Myach [Ball]) spotted the movement of military hardware that belonged to Russia-backed militants. His further actions were swift and decisive: he engaged the enemy and informed Ukrainian forces about the forthcoming offensive. As a result of his actions, the military headquarters were informed in time, while the enemy attempt of a large-scale attack was prevented. The militants were defeated, while their vehicles and arms were seized.

  • Medal for Irreproachable Service 3rd Class
Lieutenant Colonel Hryhoriy Sytnyk

Lieutenant Colonel Hryhoriy Sytnyk

Hryhoriy Sytnyk is a Mi-24 helicopter pilot who fulfilled one of the most difficult missions in the combat zone in eastern Ukraine. His helicopter repeatedly took heavy fire and carried out emergency landings. Overall, Sytnyk completed more than 160 flights providing essential fire support to the Ukrainian troops during the search and destroy missions of the Russia-backed militants’ checkpoints.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Private First Class Vitaliy Vertsynskyy

Private First Class Vitaliy Vertsynskyy

Vitaliy Vertsynskyy (nom de guerre Saddam) is a Marine hailing from the city of Sevastopol, Crimea. He served as a peacekeeper in Iraq and now defends Ukrainian independence.

Saddam believes in the youth of Ukraine: “We should work with the younger generations. The war is difficult and painful but we must overcome a post-conflict gap.” Today, he helps people from eastern Ukraine to reintegrate in society and build a prosperous and peaceful country.

Private Oleksiy Sokolovskiy

Private Oleksiy Sokolovskiy

On January 17, 2015, Oleksiy Sokolovskiy and his comrades-in-arms on five infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) engaged in combat with Russia-backed militants on the way to a monastery near to the main terminal of the Donetsk airport. Under cover of smoke, private Sokolovskiy jumped off the vehicle and ran to help other soldiers. When he saw that the driver suffered concussion, he moved him to the safe place and helped the crew start the engine. All of this took place under heavy enemy fire. Moreover, he and another fellow soldier eliminated the enemy’s firing position with a few well-aimed bursts of machine-gun.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
Lieutenant Colonel Serhiy Sobko

Lieutenant Colonel Serhiy Sobko

On July 27, 2014 Serhiy Sobko led a tactical group that acted in concert with other units during the assault of the Savur-Mohyla hill. This strategic foothold was swiftly taken with minimal casualties thanks to Sobko’s professional actions. Ukrainian Armed Forces scored their first major victory over the enemy. In July-September 2014, his unit fought in the Luhansk region and demonstrated exceptional bravery, professionalism and exemplary service.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
Colonel Vasyl Zubanych

Colonel Vasyl Zubanych

Vasyl Zubanych personally performed missions on mobile checkpoints on the frontline and accompanied military supply convoys for the Ukrainian troops. Although Zubanych was repeatedly attacked and came under heavy shelling by Russia-backed militants, his courageous leadership was instrumental to the successful accomplishment of a number of missions.

Zubanych launched offensive on the Luhansk airport to cover the retreat of Ukrainian servicemen from the encirclement. Having suffered shrapnel and gunshot wounds during the battle, he showed great heroism and courage by refusing to be evacuated to the hospital and continued to lead the mission. Ultimately, this raised the morale of troops, paving a way to victory in the battle.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
Anna Hvozdyar

Anna Hvozdyar

Anna Hvozdyar is a reputable volunteer who helped wounded soldiers for two years. As an experienced psychologist, she healed wounded and tortured Ukrainian soldiers and helped reintegrate them into peaceful life.

“Volunteerism is the call of the heart, a want to help those who defend our land on the frontline. It will be fundamental for Ukraine in the next years. For me, volunteering was an act of personal growth. It is our way to thank our defenders,” says Anna.

  • Order of Princess Olga 3rd Class
Colonel Oleh Ostapets

Colonel Oleh Ostapets

Colonel Ostapets organized three successful rotations of Ukrainian soldiers who defended the Donetsk airport. He was personally present in the airport area demonstrating exceptional command skills, determination and balanced decision-making.

On February 1, 2015 while being in charge of evacuation of civilians, he came under shelling from the enemy multiple rocket launchers in Debaltseve and was heavily wounded in the left forearm. Despite the injury he continued to serve on the frontline, fighting for Ukraine’s independence.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Captain Volodymyr Hrynyuk

Captain Volodymyr Hrynyuk

On February 10–11, 2015 Volodymyr Hrynyuk’s courage and decisive actions were crucial to returning several districts of Lohvynove village under government control. The village became an important foothold where Ukrainian troops fought against Russian regulars in the battle of Debaltseve. He was injured during the mission but continued performing his military duty, demonstrating unshakable allegiance to the military oath and his subordinates.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
Major Serhiy Ilchenko

Major Serhiy Ilchenko

Serhiy Ilchenko (nom de guerre Linyvets [Sloth]) miraculously survived the mine explosion on the fourth day after he departed to the frontline. One month later, he suffered another injury, fighting off advance of Russia-backed militants. “I was laying there and could not move my hand. I commanded the boys to get up and move to a safer place.”

He spent seven long months in rehabilitation. Today, Serhiy wants to teach the rules of war to young recruits. His life’s motto is easy: “If we do not develop our country, we will downgrade it. We must work hard to build a country worthy of our defenders.”

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Oleksandr Kikin

Oleksandr Kikin

Oleksandr Kikin started off as a protester during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–2014 and volunteer who helped Ukrainian troops after the Russian invasion of the country’s east. He personally carried food and ammunition to the military units.

One day, when soldiers brought him to a position in the city of Sloviansk, Donetsk region, he decided to join the military. Shortly after his deployment to the frontline, his unit came under mortar fire by Russia-backed militants. Three soldiers were killed and two others, including Oleksandr Kikin, got wounded. Despite severe injuries and leg amputation, Kikin survived.

Today, he is helping soldiers as a volunteer and takes care of people with disabilities as coordinator of veteran societies where mutual camaraderie helps soldiers to overcome their problems and carry on living.

Private Yevhen Halushka

Private Yevhen Halushka

On January 23, 2015 Private Halushka bravely fought against the enemy forces of Russian regulars and proxy militants. He personally destroyed one militant tank. On February 16, a Ukrainian assault team broke through the encirclement of the militants and seized control over an important route for an organized retreat of the Ukrainian military. Owing to Private Halushka’s quick thinking, efficient actions and personal example, several firing positions of Russia-backed militants were destroyed and the Ukrainian Army came to dominate the area.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
Major Ihor Herasymenko

Major Ihor Herasymenko

On May 26, 2014 Major Herasymenko led a military unit that eliminated Russia-backed militants, took over and defended a strategic height: the Karachun mountain (167.6 m), which enabled Ukrainian Armed Forces to hold Russian proxy forces based near Sloviansk in check.

On July 27, 2014 Ihor Herasymenko’s unit destroyed several militants’ positions after a heavy fire exchange. As a result of these efforts, Ukrainian forces restored control over the area close to Stepanivka and Petrovske villages in Donetsk region. The new position also played a key role in countering the plans for further offensive by the militants.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
Yulia Honcharova

Yulia Honcharova

Yulia Honcharova is a volunteer who delivered medical drugs and provided assistance to the Ukrainian Army first from the United States and later moved to Ukraine. Although she does not have a medical degree, she quickly learned about most urgent needs of the soldiers on the frontline. Her contribution to organizing proper medical supply for the soldiers was crucial in the early stages of war and continues to supplement the state-led efforts.

  • Order of Princess Olga 3rd Class
Staff Sergenat Serhiy Kozak

Staff Sergenat Serhiy Kozak

Late in the evening of June 22, 2014, Ukrainian troops were ambushed on their way back from Sloviansk. The clash with Russia-backed militants occurred near Dolyna, Donetsk region. Serhiy Kozak was moving in the armored personnel carrier (APC), leading the convoy. The ambush was set up to push the APC from the slope. The militant shell launched from approximately 30 meters passed through the vehicle. Ukrainian servicemen retaliated. Despite the heavy injury — his left leg was torn off and hanged on a piece of skin — Kozak continued to fight. It was a true feat of bravery and his acute sense of duty.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Roman Sinitsyn

Roman Sinitsyn

Roman Sinitsyn is a famous volunteer and reformer who helps Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. Roman’s team succeeded in purchasing and delivering several tons of uniforms, 400 helmets, bulletproof vests, 50 thermal imagers, 70 night sights and complex military gear for the Special Forces Regiment.

The volunteers support Ukrainian producers, as their purchases provide much needed orders and new jobs for Ukrainian workers. Today, Roman Sinitsyn is involved in Ukraine’s police reform as one of the examination commission members who vet candidates for a reformed police force free of corruption and nepotism.

Father Andriy (Zelinskyy)

Father Andriy (Zelinskyy)

Father Andriy worked as a military chaplain for ten years. He became first to visit the military headquarters on the frontline. Having over a decade-long experience, nothing prepared him for a ruthless nature of real war. He travelled across the major areas of the conflict, preaching one thing: only love can give strength to win.

Soldiers who need spiritual help and who might be confused in their values can always turn to the chaplain and talk honestly about their thoughts.

“You can return to Kyiv, but you cannot return from the front. When I leave the war zone, I always visit military hospitals. Even leaving the warzone, I force myself not to leave the front as long as the country continues to fight.”

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Corporal Olena Mosіychuk

Corporal Olena Mosіychuk

Olena Mosіychuk was an entrepreneur from Dnipro city prior to joining the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–2014 in Kyiv. The Russian invasion of Ukraine changed her life once and for all. She became then a volunteer and enrolled at the volunteer battalion, fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Olena reached the turning point when she was delivering supplies to her unit and witnessed two men running into a minefield. One man was killed immediately and a second one was injured. “I always have a medical kit with me, so I helped them. This incident pushed me to join the fighters.”

When talking about dangers on the battlefield, she often recalls her son. “I always try to be very careful, especially with my son Danny. He’s my chief guardian. When there is a real threat to my life, I think about my son, his words, laughter and smiles.”

  • Medal For Military Service to Ukraine
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Father Taras (Kotsyuba)

Father Taras (Kotsyuba)

Archpriest Taras Kotsyuba of the Greek-Catholic Church spent over 300 days on the frontline with Ukrainian soldiers, providing spiritual help and advice in the most difficult times. During the peak of the battle of Debaltseve in February 2015, one commander told him: “Father, today I beg you — do not leave, stay with us.” Later, the soldiers confessed his very presence gave them confidence that their souls would not be lost.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”

LOOK

Private Andriy Kravchenko

Private Andriy Kravchenko

Andriy Kravchenko demonstrated the crucial role of a rank-and-file soldier on the battlefield. In February 2015, the young artilleryman assumed personal leadership of the key Ukrainian stronghold during the decisive moments of the battle of Debaltseve.

The struggle for a position lasted for more than 14 hours. Private Kravchenko was wounded, yet he continued to give military orders that saved over 1,000 Ukrainian troops from encirclement. His actions secured a safe passage of Ukrainian units to new defense positions, while the military leadership recognized his bravery and courageous actions and appealed to award Kravchenko with the highest state award — the Gold Star of the Hero of Ukraine.

  • Medal For Military Service to Ukraine
Snizhana Potapchuk

Snizhana Potapchuk

Snizhana Potapchuk is a filmmaker who produced 14 films about the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In the spring of 2014, she traveled to the combat zone, including sites of major conflicts, to document the true nature of war.

Snizhana does not carry a weapon and has only her filming equipment, but continues to go to the frontline nonetheless. “The war is ugly and unromantic. But I am not afraid. I understand that I should do the job and film all sides of this war and show them to the people.”

  • Order of Merit 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Private Anatoliy Adamovsky

Private Anatoliy Adamovsky

Anatoliy Adamovsky comes from eastern Ukraine. He volunteered to protect the homeland from the Russian aggression. Prior to the conflict, he joined the pro-European Revolution of Dignity in 2013–2014 and rallied people to take to the streets in Donetsk, which is now occupied by the Russian Army and its proxy forces.

“Last year, we proved that we are free people. We are independent people and Putin did not expect such fierce resistance to his invasion. We have shown that we are able to fight back. I do not give up and every Ukrainian will never do.”

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Major Bohdan Khalimon

Major Bohdan Khalimon

Bohdan Khalimon confirmed yet again the battle-hardened character of Ukraine’s Airborne Forces in tackling the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. Throughout summer 2014, he led several successful military operations, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Thus he eliminated the stronghold of Russia-backed militants on June 3, 2014.

Actions of brave soldiers akin to Major Khalimon were at the crux of ruining the Russian blitz and saving dozens of towns and villages from occupation, ensuring their well-being as part of an independent Ukraine.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 2nd Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”

CLOSELY

Lieutenant Colonel Maksym Myrhorodskyy

Lieutenant Colonel Maksym Myrhorodskyy

Maksym Myrhorodskyy (nom de guerre Mike) of the 79th Airborne Brigade spearheaded defense of the Donetsk airport in late November 2014. He proved himself as a competent leader who managed to hide actions of his unit from the Russian forces that tried to conquer the site. One of the soldiers said, “When Mike leads us, I do not hesitate; I do not worry because I know that he has it all planned. Back then, defense of the airport was fully managed by our commander Mike.”

Myrhorodskyy says that being a soldier is only one of many ways to serve the country: “We are fighting for the sake of our children, wives, parents, and for the people. You do not have to be a soldier. You can be a teacher or a driver. If everyone do their job, our country will find peace.”

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 1st Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 2nd Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Private Maxym Hryshchuk

Private Maxym Hryshchuk

Maxym is a Ukrainian prosecutor who enlisted the Army’s 81th Airmobile Brigade, fighting against the Russian Army and their proxies in different sites of the conflict, including the Donetsk airport.

After serving for a year, Maxym Gryshchuk left the military service and took on another battle: tackling endemic corruption that plagued Ukraine for over two decades. He became the first Deputy Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. “If Ukraine had no corruption, lots of hard-working Ukrainians would be able to return to normal way of life. They would be reunited with their families. I could return to my mother — that is why the fight against corruption is crucial. I think of a war against corruption in the same way as the war on the battlefield. We cannot lose this fight either.”

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”

AT THEIR

Master Sergeant Anatoliy Skrytskyi

Master Sergeant Anatoliy Skrytskyi

Anatoliy Skrytskyi commanded a tank assault platoon and demonstrated exceptional courage and selflessness during numerous military missions. On January 22, 2015 he fought against Russia-backed militants in the vicinity of Donetsk airport. He succeeded in breaking the encirclement of pro-Russian fighters, securing a safe route for retreat of the Ukrainian troops. When the tank’s gun broke down, the crew managed to organize a swift repair without leaving the tank and continued their struggle. Sergeant Major Skrytskyi was wounded in action, yet continued to serve the homeland.

Today, Master Sergeant Anatoliy Skrytskyi trains the National Guard’s elite rapid-response brigade designed for sophisticated military operations and tackling challenging threats at the frontline and across the country.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Major Semen Koliynyk

Major Semen Koliynyk

Semen Koliynyk (nom de guerre Bravo) and his unit were first to see Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. “Russian troops fired at us from their soil. We could not retreat as we would open a way for Russian proxies to block our comrades-in-arms in Savur-Mohyla, Donetsk region. So we fought to the death.” Major Koliynyk saved 75 wounded soldiers trapped in enemy encirclement in this battle.

He does not regret what he did during the war, yet he cannot forget the death of so many young soldiers. “War radically changed my life. Now I would like to teach young people how to be professional soldiers to save the lives of Ukrainians. If I can save one more life, my existence in this world will be complete,” Koliynyk said.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”

FACES

Lieutenant of the Medical Corps Oleksandr Zelenyuk

Lieutenant of the Medical Corps Oleksandr Zelenyuk

Oleksandr Zelenyuk served for a year as a military surgeon of the 25th Airborne Brigade in the biggest sites of conflict in eastern Ukraine, including in the cities of Sloviansk, Debaltseve and Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, helping to save lives of more than 400 soldiers and civilians.

Zelenyuk commented on treating people on war: “Being a surgeon in civil life, you get a sterile room, necessary medicine and proper lights. But when you operate in a car with barely enough water to boil and then spend several hours in the trenches — it’s a different reality.”

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Captain Vladyslav Voloshyn

Captain Vladyslav Voloshyn

On July 16, 2014 Vladyslav Voloshyn (nom de guerre Grach [Rook]) was on the mission when his Su-25 jet was attacked by Russia-backed militants from MANPADs. As the missile hit the plane, it damaged the wing, landing gear extension and a retraction system. The pilot’s resolute actions allowed to leave the dangerous area and get back to the military base for a successful emergency landing.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
Sergeant Vadym Dovhoruk

Sergeant Vadym Dovhoruk

Vadym Dovhoruk was is 23-year-old serviceman of the Special Forces Regiment who returned from war with no hands and feet. In September 2014, his unit defended one of the iconic fortresses of Ukraine-Russia conflict: the Donetsk airport. Later, he fought in another battle for Debaltseve in which Ukrainian soldiers stopped a Russian attempt of a blitz and forced the Kremlin to negotiate truce that turned into a low-level conflict. But Dovhoruk suffered heavy wounds and lost limbs in this violent struggle for Ukraine’s independence.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian officer is not depressed. “I was lucky to serve with the wonderful guys who are just like me. For me, the phrase ‘there is not bigger glory to defend the motherland’ has real meaning,” he said. Now he is a living example for many injured and disabled veterans, helping them to recover both physically and mentally.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Defender of the Motherland Medal
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Captain Yuriy Horokhovets

Captain Yuriy Horokhovets

Yuriy Horokhovets chose one of the most dangerous professions — member of the reconnaissance unit of elite 25th Airborne Brigade. On July 30, 2014, he defended Ukraine’s independence from Russian troops and their proxy forces in the city of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region.

This period remains one of the most tragic pages of Ukraine-Russia conflict. On the next day after the battle, Ukrainian paratroopers were ambushed. Russia-backed militants opened fire from tanks and artillery. That day Horokhovets lost many of his fellow soldiers, however, he never ceased to fight against the aggressor who launched an undeclared war in a bid to carve up the map of Europe for the first time since World War II.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Yuriy Bondar

Yuriy Bondar

Yuriy Bondar (nom de guerre Shaman) worked as ambulance driver in most dangerous sites of the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, including the major battles for the Donetsk airport and Debaltseve.

His main priority is to be where medical help is needed. Rumour has it that Shaman once drove into territory, controlled by Russian regulars and their proxy militants, got out of his car as if nothing happened, asked them for a cigarette and left the place before anyone realized they talked to a daring Ukrainian paramedic. Bondar has been keeping a logbook that contains records of 500 people — soldiers and civilians — that he transported from the battlefield to safety.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Oleksiy Sikharulidze

Oleksiy Sikharulidze

Friends call Oleksiy Sikharulidze Teplyk, which means thermal imaging camera that he buys in batches and delivers to Ukrainian soldiers. Oleksiy actively uses Facebook to help his cause. Thanks to his broad connections with servicemen on the forefront, he attracts public attention to combat units to improve military logistics and supplies, as their combat-readiness has safeguarded Ukraine’s independence from the Russian military aggression for over two years.

Major Andriy Hrechanov

Major Andriy Hrechanov

Andriy Hrechanov (nom-de-guerre Rakhman) is a famous 40-year-old intelligence officer often regarded as the foremost warrior of the 242-day-long defense of the Donetsk airport. Hrechanov was wounded in the eye when leading the exit operation out of the collapsing terminal.

Despite his injuries, Andriy Hrechanov returned to the conflict zone where he was captured by Russia-backed militants on July 2015. Ukrainian officer spend four months in captivity but remained unbroken. After series of arduous political negotiations, he was released in a prisoner swap.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Colonel Andriy Kovalchuk

Colonel Andriy Kovalchuk

Andriy Kovalchuk is one of the heroes of the battle for Luhansk airport, which is often overlooked in the history of Ukraine-Russia conflict because of other major battles, such as the siege of the Donetsk airport or the battle of Debaltseve. Nevertheless, Kovalchuk’s courage and firm leadership put an end to enemy encirclement of the Luhansk airport, inflicting heavy losses to the Russian military and their proxies.

Kovalchuk contributed to the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty by returning control of Ukrainian towns and villages back to the government effectively putting an end to the Russian blitz.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 2nd Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Major General Ihor Hordiychuk

Major General Ihor Hordiychuk

In August 2014, Ihor Hordiychuk (nom de guerre Sumrak [Twilight]) was in charge of the Special Operations unit that defended a strategic height of Savur-Mohyla, Donetsk region, for 12 days against overwhelming forces of Russian troops and the militants.

When he ordered soldiers to retreat to get reinforcements, Ukrainian soldiers came under Russian artillery fire. Hordiychuk was injured in the head, lost consciousness and was captured by the Russian proxy forces. The militants left him in the open field to die, yet he survived and made it to safety.

On August 24, 2016 President of Ukraine promoted Ihor Hordiychuk to the rank of Major General. As the Chief of Ukraine’s Ivan Bohun Military Lyceum, he now serves as a living example of courage and self-sacrifice to the young generation of Ukrainian warriors.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 2nd Class
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Volodymyr Holodniuk

Volodymyr Holodniuk

Volodymyr Holodniuk is a father of the Hero of Ukraine Ustym Holodniuk, a volunteer and activist of the Revolution of Dignity of 2013–2014. He supported his son and took part in the protest too. On February 19–20, Volodymyr was going to take his son back home, when Ustym fell victim to the sniper fire ordered by then pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Volodymyr Holodniuk was not succumbed to despair. On the contrary, when Russian aggression has started in eastern Ukraine, he founded an organization to help the Ukrainian military. Throughout the war, his organization provided assistance to 470 soldiers on the frontline.

“I do this in the memory of my son,” Volodymyr says.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Staff Sergenat Vitaliy Yurchuk

Staff Sergenat Vitaliy Yurchuk

Vitaliy Yurchuk got the nickname Staryi, which means an old man in Ukrainian, from other Ukrainian soldiers. Having served in the peacekeeping missions in Sierra-Leone, Iraq and Kosovo, he shares his experience with younger soldiers. Yurchuk defended the Donetsk airport and during one of the missions, he destroyed a sniper site used by Russia-backed militants to target Ukrainians troops. Since January 5, 2016 he came back to peaceful life to work as a firearms instructor.

  • Defender of the Motherland Medal
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Police Sergeant Ivan Bubenchyk

Police Sergeant Ivan Bubenchyk

Bubenchyk was part of the volunteer movement that filled newly formed battalions to tackle the Russian military aggression in 2014. On August 30, 2015 he was wounded during a skirmish with Russia-backed militants near the town of Pisky, Donetsk region. Despite severe wounds, he resumed military service and proved himself a courageous warrior.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Sergeant Albert Chereshko

Sergeant Albert Chereshko

Albert Chereshko fought in some of the most dangerous operations of Ukraine-Russia conflict, such as the liberation of Sloviansk and the battle of Debaltseve.

Having witnessed the obstacles, which an ordinary soldier faces during the service, Chereshko decided to help fellow soldiers to reintegrate back into the society. Now he leads a regional service for war veterans in Ukraine’s northern region of Chernihiv, providing health treatment and psychological rehabilitation.

Father Ihor (Fedoryshyn)

Father Ihor (Fedoryshyn)

Father Ihor worked as a military chaplain during the Afghan War and peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, and now helps Ukrainian soldiers to find spiritual solace. The chaplain also works as a volunteer and organizes fundraising events to get more assistance to the Ukrainian military.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Halyna Almazova

Halyna Almazova

A former top manager, racer and an alpinist refused to enjoy her successful and secure life and decided to help the Ukrainian military. Halyna Almazova got behind the wheel of an ambulance car Veterok [Wind], driving to the epicentre of every major battle, including the 242-day-long siege of the Donetsk airport and the battle of Debaltseve.

Halyna facilitated medical evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers in the midst of severe mortar shelling by Russia-backed militants in October 2014. Her team assisted military doctors on the frontline; administered emergency first aid to the wounded; evacuated the killed and wounded; constructed field hospitals and supplied medical drugs to those in need of urgent treatment.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Private Roman Babych

Private Roman Babych

As a head of medical service of Ukraine’s 93rd Motorized Brigade, Roman Babych saved lives of 1,500 service members who suffered battle wounds between October 2014 and September 2015. Later Roman gained additional training at the National Defence College (Tartu, Estonia) and now provides First Aid trainings for civilians.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
First Lieutenant Valeriy Lohinov

First Lieutenant Valeriy Lohinov

Valeriy Lohinov was the director of a regional petrol station network but joined the Airborne Forces with the outbreak of Ukraine-Russia conflict. His unit together with the Ukrainian law enforcement defended the strategically important Pisky village close to the Donetsk airport, which Ukrainian military defended in a life-and-death struggle for 242 days.

Once Lohinov’s soldiers were ambushed by the Russia-backed militants; their infantry fighting vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. The crew broke through the enemy lines and hid in the rear. Valeriy engaged in combat with the enemy forces and rescued his fellow soldiers bringing them back to their position safe and sound.

Police Captain Serhiy Shapoval

Police Captain Serhiy Shapoval

Serhiy quit his job as a policeman after witnessing brutality unleashed by the then pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych against the Ukrainian people. He joined the protesters as a volunteer medic.

On January 2014, he was wounded for the first time from the bullet of the riot police. His bulletproof vest saved his life. Yet on February 18, 2014 he was shot by the snipers who were ordered to kill civilians. Serhiy Shapoval remained the police finest until his last breath, defending the rights and dignity of the people who refused to bow down to authoritarianism and who fought for their future.

  • Order of Danylo Halytsky
Navy Captain Tymur Barotov

Navy Captain Tymur Barotov

Tymur Barotov saw the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea long before the first Kremlin’s “little green men” were deployed to the peninsula. As a deputy head of the Officers Union’s Sevastopol branch, he presented a report about the threat of Russian annexation of Crimea during the session of the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in 2012.

Once Russia invaded Ukraine, he joined one of the volunteer battalions to defend the independence of the country. In August 2014, his unit has been standing up against the overwhelming forces of Russian regulars and militants for 16 days without any reinforcements. Ukrainian troops held the position against all odds. Tymur Baratov survived proving, once again, the tenacity and unbroken character of Ukrainian sailors.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Lieutenant Colonel Vyacheslav Izotov

Lieutenant Colonel Vyacheslav Izotov

Vyacheslav Izotov serves in the elite Special Operations Forces regiment that forced Russian regulars and proxies out of the Donetsk airport in May 2014. This was the beginning of the 242-day-long siege, leaving the whole airport in ruins; yet Ukrainian troops did not leave this symbol of military tenacity and courage until the very end. Numerous observers later commented: “The soldiers overcame every hardship, but the concrete has failed them.”

Izotov was also in the epicentre of the battle of Ilovaisk when the Kremlin deployed its regular troops to prevent Ukrainians from restoring the territorial integrity of their state. Despite heavy losses in the unit, Izotov survived and rescued one of his fellow soldiers. His courageous service is yet another confirmation of Ukraine’s national anthem, “Ukraine has not yet perished.” With people like Vyacheslav Izotov, Ukraine will never perish, but is destined to develop into a strong democratic nation.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Lieutenant Pavlo Chayka

Lieutenant Pavlo Chayka

Pavlo Chayka is a professional Ukrainian military officer of the 79th Airborne Brigade who fought in two major battles of Ukraine-Russia conflict: the battle of Donetsk airport and the battle of Debaltseve. During the latter confrontation, Russian regulars and proxy militants fired from tanks at point blank range. However, Ukrainian soldiers retreated only after inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and securing new defense barriers.

Chayka believes that God’s help was the key to his survival. He did not lose hope and continues to defend Ukrainian independence, representing the new generation of courageous and battle-hardened Ukrainian officers.

  • Order For Courage 1st Class
  • Order For Courage 2nd Class
  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Iryna Bahlay

Iryna Bahlay

Iryna Bahlay is a reputable journalist who covered the military conflict in eastern Ukraine for almost two years and travelled across the most dangerous sites on the frontline. When she received a state award for her reports, he said that she alone could not take credit for it. “It is an award for the whole our team. Our work would not be possible without our camera people, drivers and producers. It is an honor to be a part of this team and stand alongside the Ukrainian warriors.”

  • Order of Merit 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Sergenat Vadym Svyrydenko

Sergenat Vadym Svyrydenko

Vadym Svyrydenko is a paramedic of the 128th Guards Mountain Brigade who miraculously survived in the battle of Debaltseve in February 2015. The Russian military and their proxies ambushed the Ukrainian unit that was evacuating wounded soldiers, including Svyrydenko. He had to spend three days in the cold and had to eat snow. Due to the terrible frostbite, Vadym lost the upper and lower limbs. But he did not lose the faith in life and learned to walk again with prostheses, especially when he has a larger-than-life reason: Vadym’s wife is expecting the first child.

  • Order For Courage 3rd Class
  • Defender of the Motherland Medal
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Kseniya Bykova

Kseniya Bykova

Kseniya was a businesswoman and active supporter of the Revolution of Dignity. When Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, she completely dedicated herself to volunteering, helping Ukrainian soldiers. She tried to keep her activities secret from her parents, pretending she was doing business trips to eastern Ukraine twice a week.

  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Klymchuk

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Klymchuk

Since 2014, Leonid Klymchuk was at the helm of creating the surveillance system in the eastern part of Donetsk region and western part of Luhansk region He pioneered the creation of mobile auxiliary reconnaissance groups that actively used drones. This enabled the Ukrainian troops to acquire the detailed knowledge of the situation on the ground. On September 18, 2014, Lt. Col. Klymchuk inflicted heavy losses on a Russia-backed subversive group, destroying its weapons and personnel near the town of Vuhlehirsk, Donetsk region.

  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Lieutenant of the Medical Corps Viktoriya Bandaletova

Lieutenant of the Medical Corps Viktoriya Bandaletova

Victoria Bandaletova was one brave volunteer who took care of the injured protesters during the 2013–2014 Revolution of Dignity. When Russia deployed its proxy forces to eastern Ukraine, Viktoriya was determined to help Ukrainian soldiers as a medic. She had to retrain from being a paediatrician to becoming a doctor who could provide first aid and treat combat wounds.

In 2014, there were many paediatricians, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and even pathologists among medical volunteers. Apart from working in the conflict zone, Viktoriya treated both flu and burns as well as provided other basic medical assistance to the soldiers.

  • Order of Princess Olga 3rd Class
Major Andriy Broshko

Major Andriy Broshko

Andriy Broshko was the Head of the Border Guard unit in the Luhansk region on the Ukraine-Russia border. When the whole world kept denying Russia’s direct military involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian soldiers attacked Ukrainian troops while attempting to cross the border with trucks, carrying weapons and ammunition, on May 28, 2014.

Ukrainian service members retaliated and forced the Russians to flee. Although Major Broshko was wounded in action, he decided to continue defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and remain in the ranks of the Border Guard.

  • Medal for Irreproachable Service 3rd Class
  • Non-state award “People’s Hero of Ukraine”
Major General Mykhailo Zabrodskyy

Major General Mykhailo Zabrodskyy

Mykhailo Zabrodskyy was the first to achieve the rank of general, having fought the battles in Ukraine-Russia conflict. As commander of the 95th Airborne Brigade, he lead a raid through enemy’s rear all the way from northern Donetsk region to the Azov Sea coast and along Ukraine-Russia border. Western experts called the feat of Ukrainian soldiers the longest raid in modern military history. The daring military operation was a critical element of upsetting the Russian blitz offensive. Ukrainian soldiers put an end to the dreams of Vladimir Putin to carve Ukraine in half and forced the Kremlin to join political negotiations that resulted in ceasefire on the frontline.

  • Hero of Ukraine — Gold Star
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky 3rd Class
Photographer: Roman Nikolayev