Interview

Widow of general Kulchytskyi: “I Was ready to follow him anywhere”

He was with his soldiers from the first days of the war in the east of Ukraine: he lived in a tent with them, ate with them and sometimes even cooked for them. After he had been killed, one of his soldiers said: ”Men, we are orphans now”.

Major general Kulchytskyi is the first representative of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with such a high rank, who was killed during the war in Donbas. On 29 May 2014 near Sloviansk the militants shot with portable anti-aircraft missile system a helicopter returning from the Karachun mountain. Twelve servicemen of the National Guard and the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine including general Kulchytskyi were killed. 

Five years have passed since that time. Nadia Bohdanivna, a widow of the major general Serhiy Petrovych Kulchytskyi, makes a tremendous effort to speak about her husband again and to remember their life, which was full of colours before he perished. She was with him during a long way when he was a lieutenant and later when he became a general.

Here is her story:

Serhiy and I met after we had finished the first year of study: I was a student of Chortkiv Pedagogical School and he was a cadet of Far Eastern High Military Command School. We were both on holidays and got acquainted in Ternopil oblast, were his parents originated from. Serhiy was very well organised with good manners and actions; he was a senior student of his study course and had 120 subordinates, he had got military training in Suvorov military school. I saw a well-bred, handsome, clever and elegant young boy who definitely deserved my friendship. Serhiy did not talk much, and I also liked it as what he said was essential.

We agreed that we would get married in three years and went to the places where we studied. We had a three-year romance in letters. I used a woman’s manipulation telling Serhiy: “I will write you, but please reply to my every letter”. As a result I got two letters every week. We were so happy about it! For instance, he returns from a training and the cadets say: “You have received two letters and both of them are from a girl”. Serhiy served in the east of the Soviet Union where nobody spoke Ukrainian. And I wrote all letters in Ukrainian, and always spoke with him only in Ukrainian. He told me later that he had learned Ukrainian thanks to my letters, and it was easier for him to understand them, because I used a literary language.

Serhiy Kulchytskyi (on the right)

I was ready to follow him anywhere: to live with him, to accompany him to a place where he served even considering it would not be easy. I just knew that Serhiy was reliable,  I felt safe near him.

Serhiy finished the military school, I started a correspondence course at Kyiv Pedagogical Institute, and we went to Murmansk. From the very beginning we did everything together. Our son was born in a year and we were nursing him together. We lived  seven years there and my wish to stay with Serhiy was stronger than many troubles we faced.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Serhiy decided to return home to Ukraine. We came to Ternopil, where his parents lived. And Serhiy headed a battalion there.

Serhiy always said that every commander should take care of his soldiers. And Serhiy could do it, he could even cook for them. He could do anything by himself, he had lots of talents. He was not afraid of any work. 

I was a very good school pupil, I graduated from the Institute, received a post-graduate education and wrote a thesis. It was very important for me to study, I understood that I had to develop myself. And Serhiy had to develop himself too. I saw that he wanted to climb a career ladder, that he could do it, it was a goal of his life. I always supported him in that. I told him: “Enter the Academy”. And those times were difficult for us… no money, everyday problems, lack of own dwelling. To continue to study it was necessary for Serhiy to go to Kyiv, to live somewhere there and have money for meals. But we managed to do it, because when a person has a wish, he finds opportunities. In 10 years Serhiy told me: “It happened thanks to you. If you didn’t persist, I would stop and would never continue to study”.

Every Sunday my husband cooked borsch and plov. But it was not always like that. Once somebody told me: “You are lucky, he cooks lunches for you”, I joked: “If you want your husband to cook for you now, you should have cooked for him very good all previous years of your marriage life.” It had been like that in our family: when I knew he was coming home, I put the first, the second dish and a glass of compote on the table.

Serhiy was a man of action, he did not speak much. That is why, when the events in Maidan (the events of the Revolution of Dignity – Author) and the war in the east of Ukraine started, he did not tell me anything. In December 2013 we went together to Kyiv, to Maidan. In January I returned to Lviv and  Serhiy had holidays. On 25 February he went to Kyiv and in a few weeks – to a military training base of Petrivtsi (major general Kulchytskyi took part in formation of the first voluntary unit of activists-representatives of self-defence of Maidan – Autor). He trained the soldiers of the battalion there, and after that was sent to the east. He said nothing about it, only that he took part in many trainings and asked to come to see him some time later.

Approximately on 16 April they went to the east. In a few days just before Easter I met an officer, whom I knew and he said: “Nadia, do you know that Serhiy has gone to the east with his battalion?”. I said: “No, but now I will know”. I did not show Serhiy I knew the truth and was waiting for him to tell me about it. But when I saw him on TV, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I called him and said that I knew where he was. He answered: “Yes, we have just arrived here yesterday”.

When he was in the east I said: “Serhiy, I want to hear your voice every day and will be waiting for your call. But remember that I will not call you first, because I do not want to disturb your service”. So, he called me every day. He spoke about everything but the service. He asked me about myself and about our grandson. “I have been waiting for our meeting, I have been missing you” were the common phrases he used. I did not want to ask anything, because I understood: it was like in any war. And if I had asked, he would have answered that everything was OK. Serhiy was killed on Thursday and on Wednesday approximately at 12 we talked with him for the last time. It was a usual talk as always.

Friends of our son informed him that Serhiy had been killed. He came to me from his workplace and said “Mother, father…is…all”. And I understood what he was talking about, what it meant “is…all”… Then I received calls from the officers, our friends came to support me not to be alone. The coffin was delivered very soon. And then there was the funeral…

I do not know if I am a strong woman. But I do not show any weaknesses. Maybe my life hardened me, or maybe Serhiy taught me… I have to live, I have to do something. I could not be in despair. I had to support my son, my elderly mother and mother-in-law. I understood that it was very difficult for them. Helping my family gives me strength. And also my flower garden. I grow flowers and it adds positiveness. Our grandson Sashko has been our happiness both in those hard times and now. I feel warm and nice when I am with him. He was only 1,7 years old when Serhiy perished. Sashko does not remember his grandfather. Only when he is looking through the pictures he says: “It’s my granddad and I”.

Serhiy was strict at work, but very kind at home and his kindness was spreading over all of us. Looking through the pictures, where he is holding our grandson, I have noticed that he never watches straight ahead, but to our grandson with love.

Five years have passed and I hardly believe it. Every day reminds me about my husband – I give an interview, take part in a programme or a meeting, have a talk – it is my job related to Serhiy. My life is sad, but active.

I have always been proud of my husband, I am proud of him now.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Send this to a friend