Serhiy is lying in a hospital ward in Dnipro with his left eye covered and waiting for the drip to run out. The right side of the face is completely bandaged. There is almost no nose, the soft tissues of the face are badly damaged, and the jaw is fractured. And the doctors say that he will never see in his right eye again. But the man does not believe in that and hopes that if the eye still remains where it should be, then the vision will eventually be restored.
In a few minutes, a nurse comes in, finishes the procedure, and Serhiy begins to tell about himself. Originally from Ivankiv, in Kyiv oblast. In 2009−2010, he served his military service, returned home, and worked. During that time, he managed to get married, had a daughter, and later divorced his wife. The daughter is now 7 years old, and she knows that her dad is not at home because he is protecting her future.
On February 24, together with his brother Serhiy went to the military registration and enlistment office, and already in the evening, he was in the unit in Bila Tserkva. He began his service in the third battalion of the 72nd brigade under the command of the legendary combatant Andriy Verkhohlyad, who died on June 22, 2022, in Donetsk oblast.
«I remember how in March we went to Nizhyn to catch up with the fascist column. But we did not catch up — our brothers were ahead of us. They came back because they had to start a counteroffensive in Irpin and Bucha. And again they were ahead of us: the guys cleared everything. For a month and a half, we were in Borodyanka, and then we were sent to the Goncharovsky training ground to study,» Serhiy recalls.
Then the unit was transferred to Donetsk oblast.
«On the night of June 19−20, we were on duty: planting, trench, and silence. At five in the morning, I took off my clothes and decided to sleep, because during the previous days neither the body armor nor the helmet had been taken off, and I hardly slept.»
But the battle, which began and lasted more than one hour, confused all plans. 100−120 Russians attacked Ukrainian defenders. They repelled it. Then there were several hundred infantries, enemy artillery, and tanks.
«I was hit by a VOG from a grenade launcher. The finger on the hand was immediately torn off and the machine gun was gone. Comrades who were standing nearby said that its receiver flew off and cut the right side of my face. I asked them to shoot me because I could not bear the pain. But the boys saved me.»
At his first meeting with volunteers in the intensive care unit, Serhiy asked: «Am I not so scary? Won't you look away?»
But the disfigured face, which was then covered with bruises and bloody bandages, is not scary. It hurts in another way — because this is how Ukrainian freedom looks like now.
Serhiy still has more than a dozen surgeries ahead for facial reconstruction, restoration of breathing functions, and in a few years — plastic surgery. However, even today he understands that he will never be the same as he was before February 24. And it's not about scars at all.
«Remember the price of our struggle. And help those who continue it on the front lines,» emphasizes the «Come Back Alive» foundation, which told Serhiy's story.