“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.

“Amputation is like graduating from school: a new phase of life is just beginning,” veteran Serhii Khrapko

… It was hot July 2022. A man was walking along the Danube river bank in Vienna. Traces of sweat were visible on his T-shirt. The face was also open. He characteristically swayed his whole body: instead of his left leg he has a prosthesis, his left arm is also amputated. The man walks recklessly and stubbornly.

This is Serhii Khrapko, a veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war. In 2015, he lost a leg and an arm during shelling on the Svitlodarsk arc.

He organized himself a marathon and covers the distance in order to raise funds and buy a diesel SUV for his brothers.

“I hope I don’t rub my last legs to my back,” he quipped, calling on everyone to donate. In the end, the required amount was collected, the car was purchased and transferred to the unit’s task area.

Sports, skydiving, scuba diving: “Adrenaline kicks in just fine”

We talk in his car in Pechersk district of the capital. The man is pleasantly surprised that the parking space for people with disabilities was not occupied – during the day, on a weekday, in the city center.

By the way, Serhii got behind the car just after the injury – he had not driven before, although he had a license.

“I got behind the wheel for the first time in 2018. It was a little unusual, because I was studying mechanics, but sat down behind a machine gun,” he says with barely noticeable pride.

Therefore, we involuntarily start a conversation about how the state and local communities take care of veterans who have lost their limbs. Our interlocutor is slightly annoyed and radiates healthy skepticism: there have been few noticeable changes in nine years of war and the return of wounded soldiers from the front.

“It’s still the same pain in the neck with MSEK and VLK. A lot is planned, but without result. Some projects get frozen and sputtered along the way, then shut down funding etc. And there are many people that are wounded. If earlier a wounded person with an amputation was something unusual and caused many “wows”, now you can walk into any hospital ward and there are like five such people, roughly speaking. For example, I haven’t been able to get to my prosthetist for the second month, and I understand that, he doesn’t have much time now,” says the interlocutor with passion.

After treatment and rehabilitation, Serhii is an integral member of the Ukrainian veteran community and sports competitions. He was a participant in the largest military competition in Ukraine, the Invictus Games. Even now, he does not shy away from participating in sports events.

“Sports, first of all, is communication, meetings with brothers and sisters, other people. But now I still go to the gym, because I need to keep myself in shape. The prosthesis is fixed on the stomach, I go to the prosthetist quite often, and if I will “grow fat” – then I will go to him even more often. That’s why you need to keep yourself in shape,” Serhiy explains.

He has done two parachute jumps (in tandem with an instructor) and does scuba diving.

“That’s cool. For the first time, I jumped from a height of 4.5 km. It took my breath away when we jumped out of the plane. A minute of free fall. It’s an incredible feeling. It goes off the scale, the adrenaline kicks in just fine. When I went scuba diving in Egypt, there were other sensations, but a little steep. The instructor was controlling, but it’s interesting,” the veteran says playfully.

“Children don’t remember me with two arms and legs”

Right after the parachute jump, in one of the interviews, Khrapko said that “our land is very beautiful from a height. It’s worth going to war and losing your legs.”

“When did I fall in love with this country?… But it was a long time ago. I remember that everything started in 1991: flags were worn on T-shirts, patriotic badges were made from pennies. This “national flavor” came over time to Russian-speaking Kyiv. And while studying history, I learned more about the UPA – and it was interesting, something new. I immersed myself in the topic, it became an impetus. I was not very patriotic, but… our land is really beautiful (laughs). And the understanding that this is our country! And in 2014, after the first shelling from the territory of the Russian Federation, I realized that this is no longer an anti-terrorist operation and that it will not end tomorrow or the day after tomorrow…”.

When Serhiy was wounded, the eldest son was seven years old, and the daughter was one year old. We ask how communication with children was during that period of life.

Children do not remember with two arms and legs

“To a greater extent, they have not seen me in a different form, and they do not remember me with (two — ed.) arms and legs. They did not focus on this, they treated it without unnecessary questions.

The main thing is that he is alive and healthy. Quite simply, everything happened. Even in the intensive care unit, I realized that I would continue to live without an arm and a leg. And what’s next?… Let’s continue. This is how you finish school — and a new stage of life begins. It looks something like this: yes, as it was – it will no longer be, but it will be a little different. But something will definitely be. I had no psychological problems, I just accepted it as a new phase of life. But, thank God, all my family treated it the same way – life goes on. It’s all right, but a little bit wrong,” says the veteran.

He got used to cooking himself – he jokingly says that he “provides a full range of services”.

“Once he got up and did it – that’s all. And I still do it. And I don’t just chop onions or cabbage – I also cook it completely, it’s a full range of services: from the store to the stomach (laughs). I have a full hand and I don’t see a problem with it. I know a veteran without both hands – and he also does all this, but with two prostheses. Everything I did before the injury, I do now, but all this is done a little slower,” he explains.

Evacuation to Austria and return: “The children said they did not want to learn German”

The veteran states: he had a little “hint” that there would be a big war with the russia.

“Everything was going to that. The last three or four months before the invasion, all these “decrees” and “decisions” by Putin and the impostor terrorist Pushilin… It was clear that all this would end in a big mess. I was sure that they would attack from Donbas to make their way to Crimea. But I could not even imagine that it would be Sumy, Kyiv, Chernihiv. It didn’t cross my mind,” he says.

In March 2022, Serhiy evacuated his children to Austria. He left himself. At the same time, he was looking for thermal imagers and equipment there, abroad, and transferred them to Ukraine for the needs of the Armed Forces, which were fighting fierce battles on several front lines. Ukrainians abroad helped.

“Most Austrians do not like Russians. They support Ukraine. The local community helped us a lot. Many Ukrainians still remain there, some of them have nowhere to return to – their cities, such as Mariupol, are gone. But they decided to return in the summer of 2022. They were already in Ukraine in August. The children said they don’t want to learn German (laughs).”

Then there is the involvement in support of the Armed Forces: fundraisers for car repairs, for medicine, a marathon that he planned even before the full-scale invasion, and a lot of other things that are necessary for veterans.

And the other day, Serhiy joined the promotion of the inclusive class of cars from Uklon.

“They want to start a taxi for people with disabilities. This is a really necessary thing. For Kyiv, it is very appropriate, vitally necessary. I don’t even want to talk about the fact that similar processes are being launched in Ukraine only in the ninth year of the war. Yes, now the number of opportunities for veterans, military amputees has increased. But with a full-scale invasion, the number of wounded increased, so the problem grew exponentially. We need a more systematic approach to solving a complex of problems,” the man says playfully.

– What would you advise relatives, wives of young soldiers who lost their limbs due to the full-scale invasion?

– “Do not caress and do not cherish” , unequivocally. I remember very well how my wife said: nothing has changed for me. Get up, walk, think, move. To”cherish” and to “nourish” is good, of course, if you are lying down and cannot do anything in the literal sense, you cannot raise your arms or legs. But as soon as you have more or less stabilized – go ahead, because then the buns get relaxed, and you won’t want to do anything else, they think that everyone is to blame for everything,” argues the man.

– After amputation, sexual life does not end?

– No. Everything was great and hassle-free. Maybe even something more original appears (smiles – ed.)… Sometimes it was quite difficult, but.. All this is quite individual – everyone has their own problems, injuries, someone may have damaged genitals. But in general – no, sexual life does not end.

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

– This is a difficult question. For me personally, as of 2015, a victory would be the liberation of our territories, including Crimea. And now I understand that this “boss” will always be by my side, this poor neighbor with imperial ambitions. If it weren’t for the nuclear status of this state, everything would be much easier… But to begin with, the liberation of our territories. Including Crimea.

… End of winter 2022. Poland, heavy snowfall. A man with an amputated arm, jumping on one leg, lands in a snow pillow, and makes a “snow angel”.

This is also Serhii Khrapko. Veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war. He and his children are visiting Poland as part of one of the rehabilitation programs. Later, he published these videos and called for donations to repair the cars of his brothers. And the money was still collected. The army continued to fight.

We will remind you that the Ukrainian online car calling service Uklon has launched the “Inclusive” class. Veterans, soldiers and all wheelchair users will be able to move freely in specially equipped cars. The new class of cars is available in Kyiv and its suburbs within a radius of 20 km, and further geographic expansion is planned.
The Ukrainian Veterans Foundation of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine is a partner of Uklon Inclusive among veterans and their families.


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