Archive for September, 2018

MY STUDENT

September 27, 2018

1It has been a special day today. My wife and I were welcoming my former student whom I haven’t seen for 35 years. Only a few days ago Hryhoriy sent me a friend request on Facebook, and I immediately confirmed it.

Hryhoriy arrived in our city for one day to visit the local military call-up office. He had been in the war in the east of Ukraine since he volunteered there in 2014 when the war broke out. Being 60, which is the mandatory retirement age for officers of his rank (Hryhoriy is a lieutenant colonel), he is resigning now.

He was a paratrooper and stayed in the hotspots of Donbas. The Ukrainian army, he says, was saved in the spring of 2014 only thanks to the effort of the civilians who contributed all they could to get the soldiers dressed, fed and armed. Somewhat later, assistance was given by western countries – the uniform, food rations and medication. At the moment, front line hospitals have the latest medical equipment, a good part of which has also been imported from abroad. “I don’t think Putin will issue an order to further invade Ukraine,” Hryhoriy says. “The Ukrainian army is much stronger than it was in the beginning, and the Russians will suffer heavy losses if they decide to advance. Our armaments are not bad either. On the other hand, it’s only Putin who can get the war stopped. One word from him would be enough to have it done. But he will hardly do it.”

Hryhoriy talked about Ilovaysk where the Ukrainian troops had been entrapped by the Russians in August 2014. “At that time, I didn’t believe the Russian assurances that they were letting our detachments go through the green corridor and I took my guys through another route. That’s why I didn’t lose a single soldier, says Hryhoriy (a well-known fact is that the Russians broke their pledge bombarding the “corridor” and hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed).

Hryhoriy walks with a slight limp. He was wounded in one of the skirmishes with the enemy and had to stay a few weeks in hospital in the city of Dnipropetrovsk. Then he returned to his military unit. “The doctor said I would have to learn how to live with my left leg,” smiles Hryhoriy.

After retiring from the army, Hryhoriy cannot see himself just sitting with a fishing rod at the lake. “My school said they want me back. I will continue teaching kids English. And not only English, he added. I’ll be explaining to them what it means to love Ukraine.” There was kindness in his eyes and his voice was soft.

5I saw Hryhoriy off to the bus station. His farewell greeting was “Glory to Ukraine!” – the words by which the Ukrainians recognize one another.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: