A year ago I watched a young man take an oath to protect Ukraine, and head out to the front in the ranks of the Battalion Donbas. Last week I watched the same young man, who survived the battle of Ilovais’k and being taken prisoner. He was taking an oath to his sweetheart, in a wedding ceremony in Odessa.
What struck me most were his eyes. They were as bright and strong as the day I met him, on June the 23rd 2014, before he went into war. Along with 479 other volunteers, Sashko was taking his military oath at the Interior Ministry base just outside of Nova Petrivka near Kyiv. We spoke only briefly. He told me that he was from the Odessa oblast, that he’d turned 21 that day, had 3 weeks of training, and was going to defend his country. His mother asked me not to post the photos I took anywhere. So I just e-mailed them to his brother, who was there sending him off.
And we stayed in touch. Over the course of the year I heard about what Sashko went through, from his brother. A lot of it made me cry. And then came the wedding invitation and I couldn’t stop smiling.
After the ceremony his mother told me that when Sashko returned from his first tour of duty, his eyes were dark. But then she noticed that he developed a new determination for life.
In the fall Sashko hopes to resume his law studies at the university. After graduating he wants to be a prosecutor. I can’t wait to see that.