We are a normal family: a mother, a father and three beloved daughters. Nevertheless, while I studied at school my father worked away in the capital of Ukraine we did not see each other for weeks or even months at a time.

Then I moved to Kyiv to study at the university. I lived a couple of metro stops away from, but we didn’t meet that often, maybe once every few months. We never quarreled, in fact we hardly ever spoke and we hardly knew each other's preferences.

 I know he likes fishing and reading newspapers. In childhood, we even did it together. He knows that I like to write and read books.

 Even so, I know that he is proud of me. When I think of him, for some reason, I remember the time I got angry with him because he and his friends asked me to play the violin in a café; I was embarrassed.

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 As I say, we are a normal family, but we hardly knew each other … until February 24, 2022.

 This is the second year in a row that our family, mom, dad, sisters, three grandchildren can’t be together to celebrate Dad’s birthday. Instead, he will celebrate with his other family – his brothers from the war.

 I remember, as if it had just happened, that when my mother called me to say that Dad had been called up, she thought I would be upset.  But no, I was definitely not upset, I had never felt so proud of him and my family as I did on that day.

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 Five minutes later I was on the phone with my father and had what was probably the longest conversation I’d had with him in my entire life. I asked him if he was afraid. Dad said he hadn't thought about it. I asked he had to go. Dad said it was necessary.

 For perhaps the first time in my life I told him that I loved him. He laughed. And promised that everything would be fine.

Daryna's s father

 One year later

 My Dad said: "I hadn't held a weapon in my hands for decades. But now I have a new one which is like nothing I’d ever seen or even heard about before ..."

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 Dad is now a machine gunner. He was very emotional.

 "I cried. I couldn't stop crying. We all did. People ran to hug us. They gave us things. I don't remember what. All I remember is their hands and eyes. Some even fell to their knees...".

 In 2022, my father "traveled" through Ukraine more than he ever had: to, Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv. They have been in Donbas now for more than six months. I love to hear the stories he tells about his "boys".

Daryna's s father with his volunteer comrades in arms.

 "It is clear that we will win. It is not clear when. We need weapons. A lot of weapons."

 If you listen to my dad, you would conclude that he is the biggest optimist on Earth. Sometimes, as I sit here in the capital, I read the news and I start to cry and I start to get angry. Seeing all the horrors that Russia has visited on my land for over a year, I simply cannot control myself. Then I call my Dad and, if he can talk, he calms me down. He always says that everything will be fine. And I believe him.

 "When there is artillery fire, just fall to the ground, you won't have time to run anywhere. Just lie down!”

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 Before my first deployment to a combat zone, my father gave me a briefing. He even explained what weapons Russia will fire at us in certain places. And in fact, everything came true.

"- We need to capture them...

- Do they take prisoners

 - They try to kill as many of us as possible as possible. But if they take a prisoner, they treat them badly!

- Daryna, we need to capture them in order to exchange them for our soldiers. And how do we treat them? We are not animals. We are not them..."

 Some of our discussion end in arguments. If you criticize me for what I have said, please be aware I’m not asking for understanding. Those whose friends are killed every day, as mine are, will understand without words my feelings.

 "If you fall into the hands of the Russians, they can break you physically, but they will not break you morally, if you clearly know what you are HERE for."

 If possible, Dan and me talk every day, once for one and a half hours!!! He told me what kind of weapons Ukraine needs. He told me stories about what happened to him in different regions of Ukraine. But the most interesting thing he said was:

 "After the war. No matter how many years pass, these people will always be with me. Everyone I've met this year. And everyone who is no longer there... They are all in me always will be!".

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 Among Dad's friends, is a dogthey have called Bakhmut. We know little about where he came from before the war, but we ask our father to bring Bakhmut home to us after the victory.

 "It is important to endure this period. March will be very difficult, April and May too. But if we persevere, then it will be easier..."

 These are some of the latest messages from my father. We rarely speak directly now. He writes on Viber to our whole family. We rarely spoke before the war. Maybe that's why I never noticed how smart my father was. Now I admire him more and more every day. I don't trust anyone like I trust my dad. I love the messages he sends.

 "I’m here and I so want to hug you all, my dear family. That's how I want to travel. Why haven't I traveled before? I'm almost 55 and I've seen so little. So little...".

 Recently, my father's brigade was redeployed. We only know its approximate location, but we understand how dangerous it is. Because of this, the value of each message increases several times.

"God, how I want to see the victory."

 Vicious battles are taking place in Donbas. The best Ukrainian soldiers die every day, defending every centimeter of their country. The most difficult situation is around Bakhmut, but Russian attacks are also taking place in the area of Kreminna and Avdiyivka. These are the official reports but I hear the unofficial ones in my Dad's voice and mood.

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"Love you…"

 And we love you. Happy birthday, the best father on the planet! The war could have divided us, but it has united us all! We are all wait for victory together and know that it is getting closer with each new day!

Daryna Kolomiiets with her father Anatoliy.

 Thank you for everything. Thank you for the fact that we are alive!

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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