She wipes away her tears. She is sad. She wraps herself in the flag. She ties a yellow and blue ribbon. She believes that her son is now in the heavenly army. And she quenches the pain that does not go away, becomes a part of her soul, and makes her get up, stands on her feet, and does something in his name. For example, to plant a tree that he did not have time to plant because he went to war. The children of the next generations will run to this maple tree and thank him for his life and freedom. It is the mother who did not want to send her son to war but accepted his decision to defend the country from the enemy and protect his native land.
A woman holds a large bouquet of yellow flowers that her son’s comrade-in-arms gave her on Mother’s Day. This year, her son Ihor will not be able to congratulate his mother as he has joined the Heavenly Battalion of Defenders.
Maria works as a senior nurse at the 3rd City Clinic. Together with her daughter, she completed a small mission – she planted a sycamore tree in the Iron Water Park, which will always remind us of the Azov soldier’s courageous heart.
Ihor Mykhailyshyn’s mother is grieving for her son: «I am sad, but I am proud of my son for not hiding, for standing up to defend the country, for bravely facing the enemy. I know that the guys will avenge him.»
Ihor Mykhailyshyn was a participant in the Revolution of Dignity. In December 2014, he completed a course for young soldiers and joined the Azov regiment. He fought against the Russians during the Anti-Terrorist Operation, took part in the battles for Shyrokyne, and got injured but returned to the front. He died at the beginning of the full-scale invasion on 20 March in Mariupol, which was then under siege. He was 27 years old.
«Ihor grew up a calm, sweet, obedient boy, fond of animals, defending the weak, and playing sports. Honestly, I never thought he would become a soldier. My son graduated from school 65, the Lyceum of Computer Technologies, and studied part-time at the National Academy of Internal Affairs. He took part in the Shyrokyne operation and was injured. At the end of 2016, he returned home to Lviv and had a year left on his contract with the 80th Brigade. After that, he worked in Poland for a year and a half. But he couldn’t live in a foreign country, saying he needed to rebuild his own. In December 2021, he returned to Azov. The full-scale war caught him in Mariupol,» says Maria.
In Mariupol, an experienced fighter got shot by a sniper’s bullet. He fought for his life and needed surgery, but the city shells terribly. It was not possible to provide the necessary medical care. Medics put him into medically induced sleep. He returned to Lviv for good on 20 July, four months after his death. Tattoos on his neck and arms helped to identify Ihor.
«I am happy that we managed to take my son out during the body exchange, that the ‘orcs’ did not mock him, because many fighters from Lviv region still cannot be identified,» Maria continues.
The woman says that upbringing plays a decisive role and everything starts with the family. Language, love for the country, customs, and traditions matter.
«When the war started, Ihor reassured me a lot, saying everything would be fine. And I believed that nothing would happen to him. I dreamed about him only once, before Easter. I didn’t want to do anything to bake, and he told me: «What, you’re not even going to bake Easter cake?» And I got enormous energy, the Easter cake turned out so well... Ihor always gives me strength, even from the sky...» her voice sounds calm and even, and a sycamore-maple tree rustles its leaves nearby.
The woman wearing the red and black flag is on the shoulders of the national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people. She is here with her mother, Nadia, and her son Mykhailo’s fiancée Valeria. They plant a sycamore tree here. Three generations are in the image of these three women.
Mykhailo Mikheiev has been a soldier with the 80th Brigade since 2021. Only God knows what this guy went through. He was seriously wounded in Bucha, survived, was treated, underwent heavy rehabilitation, and... Returned to his comrades. He was killed last year on 26 June during the shelling of Bohorodichne village in the Kramatorsk district.
«Mykhailo was tall, kind, and loved basketball. Even after being wounded, lying on a bed in the hospital, he helped the guys find everything they needed... «And when he recovered, I decided to come back because I knew the boys needed help,» Anna pauses, for a moment, to swallow her tears, «There was terrible shelling... It is Kramatorsk district, the village of Bohorodichne. It is gone – no houses, not a single soul,» her mother says bitterly. Mykhailo died a month after he celebrated his 25th birthday at the front.
The man said he wanted to get married and have children. Valeriia immediately won him over. Now she rents an apartment near the Mars Field because it is closer to her fiancé’s grave.
She says Mykhailo dreamed of starting his business sewing clothes with patriotic embroidery. They had even created models. But they were not destined to do it together. However, Valeriia did not give up on her beloved’s dream: she called her mother, Anna, and suggested. They opened a company called «Kozak Montana» («Montana» was Mykhailo’s call sign).
Nadiia’s grandmother says that all the boys who went through the war became at least ten years older. When Mykhailo returned from the Joint Forces Operation, he was already different.
«He came back completely different – quiet, silent. I read about war and psychology because I knew what it was. I was preparing for a peaceful life. It was important for him to live,» says Anna’s mother.
Against all odds, the women radiate optimism and light – the light was born out of great love for their defender, who has now figuratively turned into a mighty tree.
Mariana, the mother of young defender Maksym Vasylyshyn, with her husband Roman and younger son Nazar, also unfurl the flag. Roman also serves in the Armed Forces. He took a day off work to plant a remembrance tree in his son’s honor with his family.
Mariana admits that she tried to dissuade her son from going to war, but it was impossible to convince him. Maksym was a restless first-year student at Lviv Polytechnic and Lviv University of Trade and Economics and studied at the Leadership Academy. He was only 18 years old.
He started earning money at 15: he was engaged in cryptocurrency, selling mobile phones and bicycles (during the quarantine, he managed to sell 300 bikes in a month), then started a construction business and already had a model of his future home. Maksym also studied at a military academy but did not want to continue his studies, said his parents. When the Russian invasion began, he volunteered for two days and immediately joined the defense.
«At first, he was near Kyiv in Azov. They raised 120,000 for a car in one night, and he got into this Pajero and drove away. He came under bombardment, but it didn’t stop him. When the ‘Azovs’ marched on Kharkiv, they didn’t take him with them – he was too young. Then he joined the Carpathian Sich battalion and spent a week at the headquarters to get accepted. When they recaptured Kyiv, he moved to the Kharkiv direction and died near Izyum on 18 June,» says his mother.
Mariana is not hiding tears when she recalls her son’s last words: «Tell your father that this is a war of artillery and drones.» Maksym asked me to repeat these words three times, and when Mariana wrote to congratulate his father on Father’s Day on 18 June, he did not read the message….
The mother works as an accountant and says that children and family always come first and that she and Roman invested in their sons. Maksym felt their support and love.
«The last time he was going to Lviv to take drone training, he said: «You will be proud of me later.» And that last look he gave me when he leaned back against the door and looked off into the distance... I was scared: «What, what is it, son? Don’t go if you feel....» He answered: «It’s just hard to switch. Everything will be fine, Mum.»
Mariana and her husband are trying to make their son’s dream come true. In Maksym’s notes, they read that he wanted to place QR codes with their biographies near the heroes’ graves. And so, on this alley, where eight maple trees now grow in memory of the eight heroes, there is an information stand with codes that allow you to find out who this or that defender was. Maksym’s parents and the Leadership Academy want to launch a scholarship program named after Maksym Vasylyshyn for young people with entrepreneurial ambitions.
«We still can’t believe it... It’s hard to accept that he’s gone,» says his mother, Mariana.
«The volunteer boys, like Maksym, were reliable. I talked him out of it, I don’t hide it, but he said: «I’m going to war not to die but to win.» He was trying to run for his life, hurrying to live. After his death, I understood why he was clinging to everything. I dream about Maksym, and he says: «Mum, I’m alive. I’m just doing my job»...
Tetiana and Halyna
Tetiana Sprynchane brought up her son in Chernivtsi, in a Romanian environment, as she is of Romanian descent. In the childhood, Oleksandr was kind, brave, studied well, and helped others. He assured me everything would be fine, was very positive, and encouraged others. Oleksandr often asked for advice. He did not wait for a call-up either, and in 2014 he went to defend Ukraine from the Russians as part of the 80th Brigade.
Oleksandr spoke Ukrainian well and found happiness in Lviv – his wife, Bohdana, and his second mother, Halyna.
Oleksandr’s mothers wear commemorative T-shirts with their son’s sign «Grizzly» and a paratrooper badge. Bohdan’s wife has his chevron embroidered on her shirt. She also has the same chevron from the Grizzlies embroidered on her arm, as Oleksandr planned to get a tattoo of his own
The defender met Bohdana on the Internet. In 2017, she was volunteering, was very angry when people forgot that there was a war in the country, and promised to marry a soldier. She used to run to him for short meetings at railway stations when he was away at war.
Oleksandr finished his military career in 2018 and wanted to start a family. But every time the situation escalated, he packed his things and went to help his comrades.
Bohdana’s mother, Halyna, accepted Oleksandr as her son – with love, for real.
«When I received a message from the school on the morning of 24 February that a full-scale war had started and there would be no classes, I was afraid to go into their room. Before that, I saw Sasha packing his things, and I was so annoyed: why does he need those boots? Then Sasha stood on his feet, grabbed his backpack, and I realized that we couldn’t hold him back. He was responsible. He also had a beautiful smile. His sunny smile is now missing in our apartment. The last thing he said to me: «Mum, everything will be fine,» Halyna recalls.
Oleksandr died on 6 July near Verkhnokamianske in the Donetsk region. Bohdan’s wife says impossible to dissuade a paratrooper from participating in the war. His main goal is freedom and victory.
«When I was helping him pack, I said: «I must be a bad wife if I’m not trying to keep you from leaving,» to which he replied: «Kitty, you are the best wife, but there is a more important thing in the world – the will.» I supported him, no matter how much it hurt, so that he would know that I was his haven, that I believed in his return,» says Bohdana. «The war united us. It also separated us.»
«I asked Mykola a hundred times to get married. He had a girlfriend. He had been dating for five years but said he wanted to achieve something first to give his children the best. He dreamed of his son Artem. And now I see every pram with a boy in it. I imagine it could be my grandson. It hurts me a lot. Mykola was kind and supportive of me. And I don’t know how to get over it...» Larysa’s mother can’t hold back her tears.
According to his mother, who works as a primary school teacher, Mykola Zabavchuk was active. He was involved in gymnastics, aikido, and kickboxing and competed in competitions. He was a fighter for truth and justice, hence his nickname, «White.»
«His whole being was fighting. He studied at the Lviv Polytechnic and worked at the Lviv Regional Shooting Range at the SKA. He liked this work. He organized some things there, put things in order, and revived the Lviv Rifle Brotherhood, it started to operate, and now the flag of this brotherhood flies on his grave,» explains Larysa.
The mother says her son had a tattoo in the shape of a spider web and a wolf tattoo on his chest.
«Mykola did not allow us to drive out or throw away spiders at home. He explained that the web means family, unity, and community. And the wolf depicted on his chest is the leader of the pack... That’s how my son was. He could give everything to his family and friends,» Larysa continues, showing a brooch on her dress – a spider web. She cherishes the memory of her son…
When the full-scale war started, Mykola came the next day and said: «Mum, we won’t let anyone in here. I will protect you!» And he joined the terrorist defense. He knew how to shoot and got his license. And then he said he was going to the east.
«Mum, don’t worry, they won’t kill me. I’m going to tear them apart with my teeth...» My son did not know that this was not an open war. It was a war of artillery. He died by an «Iskander.» When I found out about my son’s death, I cried and screamed all day, and suddenly I heard his voice: «Mum, why are you crying?» I can feel his presence very much,» says his mother, Larysa.
Mykola died during an artillery shelling near Kramatorsk on 21 July.
Last year, the mother planted 12 white lilies on her son’s grave. She tries to bring white flowers in memory of her «White.» When they faded, Larysa cut them off and planted purple pansies, as this was her son’s favorite color, but not a single lily appeared. The mother began to worry, saying that at least one would sprout. And when she came to the grave one day, she saw that one flower had bloomed. Her son spoke to her mother: «Everything will be fine.»
Translated by Yulian Lahun
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