“He was a Patriot” – widow of Azov fighter killed in Mariupol
Taras Lavriv, an army volunteer and fighter in the Azov Regiment, would have turned 33 on July 6. But the husband and father of two, who worked as a graphic artist and martial arts instructor in peace time, was killed defending Mariupol. His widow Yulia told the Kyiv Post in an interview that her husband dreamed of defending Ukraine, of visiting Ukraine’s eastern lands.
[Klitina] What did your husband do before joining the army?
[Lavriv] Taras was an Aikido instructor and combat Hopak [Ukrainian martial arts] coach. He was very active.
[Klitina] What about his parents? Did they support his choice to go fight and defend Ukraine?
[Lavriv] We’re from western Ukraine, where embroidered shirts, Cossacks … Taras was brought up as a patriot. His father was a patriot of Ukraine. Taras was fascinated by the Cossacks from an early age. He wanted to get to the Sich [former Cossack capital in modern-day Zaporizhzhia Region]. It was his dream to defend the lands of Ukraine.
[Klitina] How did you find out about your husband’s death?
[Lavriv] I received a call from a support group connected to the Azov Regiment on April 16 and was told that my husband had been killed. Then it turned out that Taras had died on April 10.
[Klitina] And under what circumstances?
[Lavriv] We won’t know until the body is delivered.
[Klitina] So you haven’t received his body yet? There was a recent exchange of war dead between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Isn’t your husband’s body among these?
[Lavriv] I don’t know yet. I know that the body is there, but a lot of identification work remains to be done, and I am still waiting…
[Klitina] Yes, of course, especially since there are many bodies there and not just from the Azov Regiment, but those of other units and civilians.
[Lavriv] There are a lot of Armed Forces of Ukraine fighters as well as civilians. They need to find out who is who.
[Klitina] Is the state helping you?
[Lavriv] They said they would, but a lot of documents need to be collected in order to receive it. And these documents cannot be obtained because we still don’t have the body. Azov regiment is helping, but I do not want to take funds from them because other families living under occupation need them more, and the soldiers themselves need help, too.
[Klitina] Exactly when did you find out about your husband’s death? Tell me about that day.
[Lavriv] I don’t remember that day. It’s as if time has stopped. That was two months ago. I knew that Taras would be at the front and would see action. I had already been finding the waiting unbearable. I was already feeling a terrible longing, a fear.
[Klitina] Did you have any foreboding, a premonition that something would happen?
[Lavriv] At first, when I was in contact with him, I felt ok. But when his unit was ordered into position, I would get nervous, sometimes for four or five days. He would say: I won’t be in touch for a few days.
And I had to wait, not knowing how things would turn out. But he would get in touch, and everything would be fine until he would again be unreachable for several days.
The last time I waited, but he didn’t get back with me. It was terrifying.
[Klitina] How long did you wait?
[Lavriv] A week, it was a long time. There was no news for seven days and then the call from the Azov Regiment.
[Klitina] Tell me more about Taras. What kind of a man was he? What was life like in your town?
[Lavriv] Taras was a big promoter of everything Ukrainian. He was engaged in “the de-communization” of our town. He was a sculptor. I want to make a sculpture of him in the image of Cossack Mamai [a Ukrainian folk hero].
[Klitina] What kinds of sculptures did he create? Did he prefer patriotic themes?
[Lavriv] Yes, Taras made a sculpture of Andriy Sheptytsky [Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church].
[Klitina] Did he create the sculpture by himself? How big is it?
[Lavriv] Seventy centimeters.
[Klitina] I know that there is a whole team working on such projects.
[Lavriv] It was entirely created by Taras, but he received some help.
[Klitina] And how are your children? Have you told them about their father?
[Lavriv] Yes. It was very difficult.
[Klitina] And how old are they?
[Lavriv] Two girls – seven and eight years old. Taras spent a lot of time with them. He was active in their upbringing. It’s been very difficult without him.
[Klitina] Do you have any friends from your town still serving in the east?
[Lavriv] Yes, we have lost many friends.
[Klitina] Do you know anything at all about the circumstances of your husband’s death?
[Lavriv] There is very little information. I only know that he was trying to get to the Azov Steel Plant. But they didn’t make it.
[Klitina] How often did you contact your husband when he was serving in the army?
[Lavriv] When he was in Kyiv, we had good comms. I did not know that he was going to Mariupol. I was shocked when Azov reported that Taras had died in battle in Mariupol. I did not even know that he was there.
He decided to go and didn’t tell me anything because he knew I would ask him to refuse to go.
[Klitina] Was he a volunteer? How long did he serve in the army?
[Lavriv] Three months. On the very first day of the war, Taras decided that he was going to the front. He just packed up and left.
[Klitina] Did your husband have many friends, any support?
[Lavriv] Yes, and they helped a lot. And they are helping me now. They just drop by the house without warning. I am very touched.
[Klitina] How did you meet your husband? Was it love at first sight?
[Lavriv] We immediately got on, we studied together in college and had a lot in common.
[Klitina] Were you at school together, too?
[Lavriv] We met when we applied to college.
[Klitina] Did you get married right away or was there a long courtship?
[Lavriv] Right away. We got married very quickly. We were very close. Our relationship was very strong. “I love you” meant something to us. Words cannot describe how we felt about each other.