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Andrii is a professor with more than 20 years of experience, the author of more than 30 scientific and educational works. On the second day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Andrii Romaniuk joined the military. Now, he defends Ukraine from the Russian invaders.
When and why did you decide to go to war?
In 2014... I made the decision then, but it just so happened that I’m here only now. On the evening of February 23, I realized that there would be a war tomorrow, and on the 25th I spent the night in the military unit. Since then, I have not spent a night at home.
Why did I go to war? This question is more complicated. I probably couldn’t do otherwise. I have to answer this question quite often. According to the law, professors are mobilized in the last wave. I could stay at home and not everyone understands why I am here now. My comrades in the unit ask me about it, and I sometimes ask myself this question.
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I could not do otherwise. It sounds very simple, but it is sincere and without unnecessary pathos. This answer contains hours of thought. To be honest, it is difficult to make such a choice. Now I continue to think about it and face the need to make further similar decisions because this is not the last choice that I need to make in military service.
What was the most difficult for you in the first weeks of service?
To hear obscene cursing. I don’t think that cursing contributes to anything good and the tension of the first weeks of the war does not justify this dirt. I would advise you to think about whether each of your swear word is an invitation of the Moscow occupier to our land.
What incident made you feel that you were at real war?
Yes, I’m at war, but do I feel it? This is not a very good question, similar to, for example, the question of whether it’s possible to understand war... I hear explosions every day, I woke up from the shaking of the walls during the explosion. I saw shells exploding and pits from them, I carried a person, wounded from shelling. But rather, the eyes of ATO veterans tell me where I am now.
What are you doing at the front now?
I can’t talk in detail about what I’m doing now. So I will say very generally. I serve in the territorial defense unit. territorial defense is now quite actively discussed in mass media and social networks. Now is not the time to add anything to this, except after the war I will share my observations and impressions.
Now, our unit is participating in the battle for Donbas. I am performing command tasks. It’s not so easy, life and professional experience suggests that something can be done differently, but you need to follow the instructions of others.
The team of the Faculty of Applied Sciences handed over a car to your brigade recently. How does the support of volunteers help now in the fight against Russia?
Volunteers help us carry out our work. Probably, you will not find a single soldier in our unit, and indeed in our entire army, who does not have ammunition or something else provided by volunteers.
Our unit received significant help from the Ukrainian Catholic University. Volunteers provided funds for the purchase of cars, a minibus and other technical devices.
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You have to see how the fighters are waiting for the volunteers to arrive. They remind children who are waiting for gifts from St. Nicholas. The help of volunteers gives a feeling of love, which His Beatitude Liubomyr Huzar [the former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who died in 2017] spoke about. Therefore, I want to thank the volunteers for their work and wish them strength and energy to continue it.
If someone thinks that they are already doing enough for the army, then they are very mistaken, the army needs more solutions that our volunteers can do. For example, not just providing food, detergents, technical or military equipment, but also trying to integrate all this into daily or supplementary rations, decisions about sanitary conditions, etc. Not to provide individual devices, but to offer systems that could be built from this equipment. The «Come Back Alive» fund works according to a similar model.
With what needs did you go to volunteers and how do volunteers take care of your unit?
Each unit works closely with volunteers. In addition, one of the volunteers is constantly engaged in the transportation of aid and all other parcels for the fighters of our unit. At first, I expected that the division would be more clearly organized in identifying needs and, accordingly, finding ways to satisfy them. When I did not see this, I asked for help in certain circumstances according to my experience and intuition. I asked to provide the unit with some technical means and elements of ammunition, for example, tablets with maps, binoculars, thermal imagers, night lights, belt-shoulder systems.
Tell us something interesting about your comrades?
In the army, I was surprised by the diversity of people that surrounded me. The palette of these characters and personalities inspires and supports me a lot.
Each fighter has a nom de guerre. As we once read about the Cossacks, so now we have pseudos that tell, for example, about skills: «Barber» is an excellent hairdresser; about features of appearance – «Cat», «Small».
Probably, each of my comrades deserves a separate story, and some are ready-made characters of a whole story or novel.
It is interesting and surprising that most of us are good cooks. Barbecue in two hours is simple for us. Last week I had great borscht for breakfast. One fighter woke up early and cooked. Porridge or pasta from a cauldron has a special taste.
In the first weeks, one of the fighters went to bed with a high temperature and diagnosis of Covid-19. Many still remember their feelings with this disease. I was amazed when I saw him in action two days later. It would seem like a small moment, but it adds faith in the strength of our people and our readiness to fight. It’s interesting to watch your peers. Age and experience do set us apart with our comrades a bit. Recently I read in one post: «Beware of an older person in a profession where men usually die young.»
How do your younger comrades treat you?
Nice, a little respectful, a little mocked, sometimes joked. We were called to do something, and the 33-year-old joked about my age: «Bohdanovych, don’t go, because you may fall apart.» In an hour or two, I’d joke back – «Hey, do you have glue, the kind that grips quickly and firmly.» In response: «I don’t have one, but what do you need to glue?». I responded: «I need to be glued because I’m completely falling apart (laughs).
How do you use your professional experience in the military?
Unfortunately, I do not use my professional experience now. It is clear that military commissars carry out mobilization in accordance with military specialities. But, if you acquire the speciality 35 years ago, then you can hope that on the basis of your main profession, it’s possible to train a specialist in a corresponding or related military speciality faster than to start retraining according to the one specified in the military ticket. It’s a pity, but neither the first nor the second was done. And here, it’s appropriate to mention the rational use and conservation of resources again.
You can address our youth, students, from the front line. In your opinion, why is it important to study and why is education timely?
Students and pupils now have the opportunity to study despite the difficult circumstances caused by the war. Some may find excuses in these circumstances and carelessly use this opportunity. When laziness or unwillingness to study takes hold, remember your peers, parents, relatives who are now on the front line. For what reason they are on the front now? They give you the opportunity to study. Print their frontline photos, read their battle stories, and get to work! You have to rebuild and build a new country. Your qualification will allow our country to develop the areas in which you specialize.
If we allow the gaps in education and training of qualified specialists, then the time of Ukraine’s revival will have to be postponed. Learning is interesting, necessary and promising.
P.S. In 2020, Andrii Romaniuk received a teaching scholarship from UCU for scientific and pedagogical work – a scholarship from Taras Kytsmey, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the IT company «SoftServe».
Text: Andrii Hrynykha, Veronika Savruk
Photo: from the personal archive of Andrii Romaniuk
Translated by Kateryna Bortniak
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