“We suffered heavy shelling and dug trenches… There’s nowhere to hide. You know, I couldn't even imagine that I could dig so quickly. But, when people want to live...”
Pavlo said these words to my mother a few days before his death. She will never forget them. None of us will ever forget them. He was a very close friend of my family and one of the kindest people I've ever met. His heart stopped in the Avdiivka direction on the frontline on Oct. 14, 2022 – exactly one year ago. Pavlo was 46 years old.
Kindest of humans
If you ever visit my village in the Vinnytsia region and ask after Pavlo Maseliuk, you’ll be told that he is a Hero. As a child, I remember him coming to visit our family. Whenever he came to us, he always helped to repair something. I recently asked his wife, Alla, how she would describe Pavlo, and said that he loved life very much – perhaps almost as much as his pigeons. He could spend hours between work sitting next to the birds that the family raised at home.
In the spring of 2022, Pavlo’s two adult nephews, Artur and Dmytro, returned to Ukraine from abroad. The boys could not stand by while Russia was destroying their country. Artur was assigned to protect the border of Ukraine with Belarus, and Dmytro was made a sniper.
“Pavlo loved his nephews very much. He adored them like his own children and they went everywhere together. And when the boys took up weapons, my husband also decided that he would go to fight,” Alla recalls.
On July 11 that year, he took the oath and became the operator of the second division of the anti-tank missile platoon. Alla told me that Pavlo hid everything that happened to him at the front to spare the family any worry. In fact, when something happened, he tended to make light of it. For example, when he couldn't talk to Alla, he said not to worry because they say he has “another wife” – that's what he jokingly called his machine gun.
“He came home for a small vacation at the end of September”, Alla told me. “We then discovered that he had serious problems with his spine. And I said, ‘Pash, maybe don't go?’ And he said that he couldn’t leave his brothers from the war.”
Despite the communication difficulties, Pavlo always called his nephews. Even along different parts of the front, they tried to stay close.
On Oct. 10, he was unable to contact Dmytro. He was not immediately told that his nephew had tragically died. Twenty-five-year-old Dmytro was killed while performing a combat mission. And on Oct. 14, on the day when the whole community was kneeling on both sides of the road, meeting the car with the hero's coffin near Avdiivka, Pavlo's heart also stopped.
There is a saying: “A projectile does not fall twice in the same crater.” But Vladimir Putin's regime took away a mother's son and nephew at once. Pavlo is survived by his wife and child.
It's now been a year since uncle and nephew have been lying next to one another under the raw earth. I did not know Dmytro personally, but I am grateful to him for protecting my life. I knew Pavlo well. And he was one of the brightest. most hardworking and friendliest people I have ever met.
As Ukraine honors Defender’s Day on Oct. 14, his family will gather this weekend at a large table to honor the memory of their relatives. I will light a candle in my apartment. And the whole country will whisper again before going to sleep: eternal glory and memory to everyone who died for freedom and independence – for the values of a seemingly humane world.
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