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Maksym, lieutenant of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

We are all worried today about the threat of large-scale military hostilities and another occupation by Russia. None of all the expert opinions can predict what comes next. In "Humans of Kyiv," we wanted to hear the opinion of a military member who was our hero five years ago. Maksym returned from the war in 2015 and is now ready to fight again if necessary. We publish both parts of our conversation.

December 2016

"It's called post-traumatic stress disorder after some accident, violence, war. Everyone experiences it differently: someone gets depressed, some start drinking, doing drugs, some others shoot themselves. I was lucky - I have a more or less stable psyche, so my adaptation after my active duty during the anti-terrorist operation went without critical consequences. My sister helped a lot. She used to pull me out of this state constantly. The first six months were difficult, but I knew it would happen, and therefore when I returned home, I tried to control the process. I felt a strong yearning to go back to the front.

At war, life is more straightforward: there are people you trust and those you don't. Friendship there has a different background. The war is your life, but it seems not to be the case when you return here. No one cares. Of course, you should not invert your feelings and be sad. Some of my boys are fighting for us to continue to rejoice and live here. But to renounce what is happening there?.. Like, what a war, nothing is going on…

I grew up in a military family in Bolhrad, my father was a military journalist, and my mother, a teacher by education, also was in the military. My childhood friends were all children of soldiers who, like me, dreamed of being paratroopers from an early age.

I was never afraid to lose my life. I was just scared to lose it somehow stupidly. Therefore, there was no question: to go to war or not. There is a war in my country, so I have to defend it.

I did not receive any summoning notice. I went to the military registration and enlistment office on my initiative. On August 2, 2014, I was mobilized - this was the third wave of mobilization. Before the war, I had no idea how artillery worked. I saw a mortar only as a child in a museum, and now, by coincidence, I started working with a mortar. My battery spent a total of four months near the Donetsk airport, in the heart of the action.

I was offered to continue my duty in various ranks, but a year later, on September 16, I returned home. Why did I come back? When real shit happens, the only thing that can be important is your family, and you realize that it would be okay, but you do not have any children, and that's sad. I was not disappointed in the military. I just realized that I had fulfilled my duty, and it was time to return, continue my life, protect my parents from the complicated feelings they experienced while I was fighting, build my own family.

There is no single meaning in life. There are many of them. We need to live and discover new ones every time.

I am currently working in the press service of the Ministry of Infrastructure. I can say that I am a happy person. I have a girlfriend I proposed to, and we plan to get married in the spring.

If I have a son who ever wants to serve in the military, I will not refuse. I'll explain to him what to expect. But everyone must do what they see fit. By preventing a person from doing what he wants, you can quickly lose him. You will lose this person with a higher likelihood than even at war.”

January 2022

"I came back from the war in 2015 with a clear understanding that I wanted to start a family. My meaning of life is now in my daughter. She is the most important for me now. She is growing up, turned three years old, and I hope she will be free to choose who to be and where to live next in the future. But now I am ready to go to war because I do not want her to live in a post-soviet reality, in “sovok.” Many things do not suit me in our current reality. However, you can’t compare these internal problems to the possibility of another occupation under no circumstances. And just like I didn't want before, I still don't want to leave. Although there is a feeling of complete exasperation, still, I don't want to live anywhere else. Another issue is to travel, to see the world.

I don't have a sense of home as a specific location right now. As a child, everything was simple - a house with parents, then there was our dormitory, rented apartments, a sleeping bag in the war), unattainable, and now almost realized dream of my apartment, which in the process of attaining it ceased to be interesting. That's why for me, there are only two locations: Kyiv, where you return and feel that it is your home, and Bolhrad, where you immediately feel like a child at home, with your parents and relatives.

During childhood, I came to Kyiv with my parents to visit my grandparents at least once a year. We have always had an active program planned: theatres, museums, simple walks, attractions… And once my parents told me (probably I thought that this is the lifestyle of the whole city) that during our visit we grab everything in one gulp because we came for a week. Still, the people of Kyiv don't live like that permanently - they also just have to go to work in the morning and come home in the evening… I've never forgotten the children's indignation at such a devaluation of the opportunities around you… So now, as I realize that I'm stuck in a daily routine, I try to invent new activities.

And no matter how much I complain about the local climate from year to year, I really love Kyiv in the heat, in the rain, and the cold. I love walking around the city - sometimes even just to walk an extra couple of metro stations on foot to exhale.

There are enough interesting locations in Kyiv for every weather. And, more importantly, it is full of great memories and good friends.

My life has always been divided into periods: either there is no money, but there is a lot of time, or there is a lot of work, but there is no time for anything. After the war, I had a busy period of travel and studying political and state processes in the team of Minister of Infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan. After that, I worked in the group that helped Naftogaz in the gas war and prevented the launch of Nord Stream 2. Now I also deal with exciting projects and processes in the sphere of energetics.

If active hostilities resume, I will, of course, return to the war. I’m absolutely ready to do it at any moment. I will need to deal with my work, some things at home, and then go. It is normal to be afraid, as well as to worry about relatives. But it is impossible not to leave. How else? Who should you do it? There is always something to lose. It is essential not only to be afraid of losing but also to be ready to protect what is yours. Unfortunately, the possibility of war activation is not a one-time situation but the reality we live in.

The war continues and will undoubtedly continue for a very long time. We must accept it as a constant fact, and we should firmly stop anyone trying to increase the pressure on us. Unfortunately, an inadequate neighbor understands only strength.

As for the threat of large-scale hostilities, which we are talking about today, there are two points of view. The first is to analyze political statements, monitor the tactical movements of the enemy troops, and calculate the strategic goals and benefits (or, more realistically, losses) of the Russians from the expansion of the war. And then these threats look absurd.

The second, which I adhere to, is, despite common sense, not to forget that we are dealing with an inadequate enemy who has never considered the life and well-being of even his citizens in his history. Therefore, any inappropriate scenario is possible.

Based on this, I have now talked with my family about the worst-case scenario and prepared a food supply for a couple of days. I didn't pack my things in my backpack, but they are always ready in general. Recently I also bought a bulletproof vest - I do not like our "Corsairs")

Now each of us needs to choose our role.

If you do not want/are not ready / can not take part in the military action - plan where and how you will go if the front approaches your place of residence. Prepare a supply of food, water, and a first aid kit. Know where your documents and money are. Refuel the car. When hostilities approach - move out, taking the minimum required set of things and not wasting any time.

Do not stay in the combat zone. No one can protect you or guarantee you security. In addition, a large city without communications, without mobile connection, water, and sewage, even without shelling, is uninhabitable and could rapidly become a zone of man-made disaster.

If you choose the option to fight, think in advance about the order of your actions. Decide which unit or military enlistment office you are going to. Also, prepare a supply of provisions. And plan the order of actions and communication with relatives."

Maksym, lieutenant of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the operational reserve of the 1st turn, working in communications

The material was created by:



Olexandra Vlasnyuk, Khrystyna Kulakovska

Olena Logvynenko


Photographer and Interviewer:

Sofia Kotovich

Khrystyna Kulakovska


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