“Victory in the war is when every child will be able to walk freely on demined Ukrainian land,” — veteran Oleksandr Fasolya

… Rockets flew from the Black Sea. The 31-year-old man was fast asleep. It was 02/24/2022. He lived 10 minutes away by bus from Odesa. Woke up. He wore prostheses – both of his legs were amputated. I put the kettle on, made myself some coffee and went outside. Rockets flew from the Black Sea. A full-scale war began. And he knew exactly what he would do next.

This 31-year-old man is Oleksandr Fasolya, a veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war, sergeant. A sapper who diligently performed his work in the area of the anti-terrorist operation. He mined and demined. He left “surprises” for the Russian invaders just a few meters from their positions.

In 2018, Oleksandr blew himself up on an enemy anti-personnel mine while performing a combat mission near Maryinka. He lost two limbs. But with a full-scale invasion, the Russians found a way to be useful. His story follows.

We met on a windy March day in the territory of one of the capital’s medical facilities. The other day, another fragment was removed his body, which have remainded there ever since his severe injury in 2018.
Oleksandr is not against drinking coffee outside, in a small park on the territory of the hospital.

The unobtrusive pleasant smell of men’s perfume is periodically interrupted by tobacco smoke. But before lighting a cigarette, the veteran asks in a gentlemen manner: “Do you mind?”. He has blue and yellow bracelets on his hands.

We talk to this stubborn man about his path to the army, about war, about landmines and mined areas, and of course about victory.

“I went to the Military Commissariat when apples were being harvested” 

In Alexander’s life, the civilian and the military aspects of his live were intertwined. At the age of 18, after finishing school, he went to serve in a military unit in Kamianets-Podilskyi. They specialized in training sappers there. Passed the course of a young fighter, took an oath. Then there is the 28th separate mechanized brigade named after the Knights of the Winter Campaign. The streak lasted from 2010 to 2011.

Then a bit of civilian life.

“Oh, I worked probably everywhere – I provided the Internet, and worked as a security guard, and as a sales consultant, and as a cook’s assistant, and at the factory I made all kinds of fruit juices,” he recalls with a smile.

He joined the Military Commissariat in 2014 as a volunteer from the Fasoly plant. He does not remember, he says, what month it was, but he remembers the time very well – the apple harvest was already over. Approximately, probably, August-September 2014.

“Yes, I went to the Military Commissariat on my own. Why? For the sake of the future. For the country. For its small children”.

At first, Oleksandr performed a combat mission in the ranks of the State Border Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region. They stood on the Crimean isthmus (Chaplinka, Kalanchak).
In 2015, demobilization and… return to the army.

“A sapper makes a mistake only once – when he chooses a profession”

“I collected the documents again and went to the military commissariat. I signed the contract. Already with my 28th brigade. It was 2016. “I spent two months in the training center, then in a unit – and immediately went to the Luhansk region,” he recalls.

The first rotation lasted 11.5 months. In total, the sapper Fasola has three rotations behind his back. Oleksandr was the squad commander. He worked in a multi-task manner — both mining and demining.

“But, after all, we leave “gifts” for the Russians. Is it effective? Of course effective,” he smiles.

– They say that a sapper makes a mistake only once…, – I begin to form the next question.
“No, why not,” the sapper Fasol interrupted me. – How can he be wrong just once? Once – only when he can choose a profession (laughs – ed.). In my case, you can be wrong three times. Because I am a kind of person that would go there again.

But still I ask – was there someone’s mistake then, in 2018, near Maryinka?

“There was no mistake on our part. Nor there was from me. All this happened on our side, controlled by Ukraine. These bastards knew that we should go there and walk through. Before this combat task, at the same place where I blew up, the day before, our whole group went around. From a combatant to my subordinate. The Russians invaded our territory at night. They were two landmines. Plus one homemade. This territory had our platoon strongholds. They were constantly encroaching on our territory. The place where I blew up was a kind of “dead zone”, where you can enter, make your way and “close up”. When we came in, no one even saw how it happened,” he recalls.

At 13:25 there was an explosion. The soldier was seriously injured.

It was Alexander Fasoli’s third rotation. His contract was about to end and he planned to sign a new one.
Treatment and intensive rehabilitation continued until 2019. The fragments were still in his body. After being wounded in 2018, they got one, for example, as late as March 2023. And two more continue to flow through his body.
I ask if there was a depressive state after the wounding, if so – how did he recover.

“To be honest? I didn’t have that. What is the main thing? Everything is here (touches temple with index finger — ed.). The main thing is not to lose heart. Psychologists came and at most drank tea and coffee with me, they did not make any special efforts towards me. I worked with myself. I did not allow psychological weakness. This is important,” he emphasizes.

“When I put on my uniform again, I felt better”

With the full-scale invasion of the Russians, this stubborn man did not stand aside.

I remember that morning very well, because I live near the sea – and it was flying from the sea. I live 10 minutes away by bus from Odesa. That morning I behaved like a normal person: I got up, turned on the kettle, made some coffee, went outside to smoke. It’s buzzing. Then it stopped banging. The next day, a friend came from work and said: “It’s boring, you have to do something.” I told him: “Well, now we’ll think of something.”

In the first days, Oleksandr and his friend started helping volunteers. Necessary things were transported to checkpoints.

Then he joined the Territorial Defense. He stood at the roadblock actually until the end of 2022. His main purpose was to check cars. Many refugees from Mykolaiv and Kherson, Irpen, Luhansk region, Bakhmut, and Mariupol traveled that way.

We ask about the main emotion-impression from the service at the checkpoint.

“To be honest? My heart felt better when I put on my uniform. I missed it..” he says with fire in his eyes.

Alexander did not receive any money for all this. Everything is voluntary. He only had a certificate with the seal of the village council. 

“They stood for their people,” he says succinctly.

– In your opinion, is our state ready to become a full-fledged veteran country in the center of Europe? And after the victory, and already now. With the availability of infrastructure, with inclusiveness, etc., the Uklon service, for example, launches an “Inclusive” class taxi. Little by little, businesses and entrepreneurs are beginning to harness themselves and understand that we live, after all, in a country of veterans, and, in particular, there will be a lot of veterans with amputations…

– It is good that there is such inclusion. Look, even here, on the territory of this hospital, there are many people who move around in wheelchairs. I also have thoughts and plans — opening a rehabilitation center. So far, everything is just and idea. I don’t want to say too much in advance.
As for accessibility and inclusiveness, I don’t go into it much, because I try not to move around in a wheelchair. I don’t need it. I had several volunteer carts – I distributed them all. The more you ride the cart, the more you get used to it. I prefer to walk. Even with prostheses, but I walk more. It`s more fun.

– What were the feelings when you first wore prostheses after the injury?

– But what a feeling… They took it and did it: got up and left. At first it was difficult. It’s hard to get used to. But everything is in our hands.

– What is your favorite joke about amputations?

– In the sea, the water is always warm and the heels never get cold (he smiles – ed.). .

– Does sex life continue after amputations?

– My son is already one year old. Is this sufficient argument? (he smiles – ed.)

– What do you dream about?

– What I dream about will definitely not come true. They won’t grow back (nods at the limbs — ed.). But… I really want everyone to live quietly and peacefully. So that the chaos of the war ends. And the most important thing is that everyone will be healthy. And to end the war

– What would be a victory in the Russian-Ukrainian war for you?

– It seems that it is still too early to voice this issue. How to find an answer to it. As a sapper, I can say this: to freely travel through the lands, for example, Kherson region, we need to work on this land at least another ten years. There are so many ”bad seeds”! Donetsk region, Luhansk region, Mykolaiv region, Kherson region – they are full of them too.

Therefore, victory for me will be the day when every little child can walk where It wants. On demined Ukrainian land. And It will not be forbidden to go elsewhere, because part of the land is mined. Then there will be victory – when the territory of Ukraine will be completely demined.

… year 2022. Checkpoint in Odesa. The flow of cars every day is intense. But people do not go to the sea on vacation. The region became a refuge for many Ukrainians whose homes were taken away by the occupiers. People come here from Mariupol, Kyiv region, Mykolaiv region, Kherson region. Security measures in the region are strengthened. A man is standing at one of these checkpoints. Lean. The face is modest. Periodically smokes a cigarette. In military uniform. He checks the documents. He is looking for unwanted “guests” of his native region. He cares about the safety of his settlement, he cares about the peace of people. Drivers show their documents, show the contents of their trunks. Passengers are annoyed why the check is so thorough and meticulous. Children are fussy. … And they all have no idea how stubborn the man in front of them is.

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