"We will have more than one February 24th". Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

The heroes recalled what the day of February 24, 2022, was like for them

February 24, 2022 is one of the most terrible days in the history of Ukraine. Russia launched an invasion of our country. Ukraine has survived, Ukrainians are resisting the occupation, but the war continues.

OBOZ.UA talked to famous artists who are currently defending the country and famous Ukrainian women whose husbands are in the Armed Forces. The heroes recalled what the day of February 24, 2022, was like for them, admitted how they felt being separated from their families and how the war changed them and their relationships.

Marichka Padalko: "It became difficult to find moments of joy"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Journalist and former MP Yehor Soboliev joined the terrorist defense before the start of the great war, signing a contract with the Armed Forces. On February 24, 2022, he stood up to defend the country. He participated in the liberation of Kyiv region, and fought in eastern and southern Ukraine. He is married to TV presenter Marichka Padalko.

– "I don't really like to think back to February 24, 2022," says Marichka Padalko, "It was my work week at Snidanok, so I woke up very early. I saw Putin's declaration of war at home. I called the driver to the studio to pick me up early. And just as I finished getting ready quickly, I heard explosions... I arrived at work, Yehor Gordeev came in and said that we were just going on the air: no prompter, no stories planned the day before.

Last year I was very reflective about this day, but now I am more relaxed. Because I realize that we will have more than one February 24 during the war, and we need to gather strength, even if we don't have it. February 26 is my husband's and my birthday. For the past two years, we have not seen each other on this day. In 2022, it was just a terrible day. In 2023, at least we managed to communicate. In addition, I agreed to go to the shooting in advance to keep myself busy so that I wouldn't have time to think about sad things. We are planning to see each other this year. I hope it will be possible. We don't organize anything - trips, gatherings with friends. The best place now is home. And our children are with us.

How are we living now? To be honest, it has become difficult to find moments to feel happy, to experience joy. I have lost this skill. I think this is not only because my husband is at the front, but in general. It used to be easy for me to feel joy from the smallest things, but now it's not, even when there are all the conditions for it. I've also become more pragmatic, but I don't think this is a strength. I think that strength is in desperate actions. Yegor has also changed. I don't notice it, but he says he's become angrier. For himself, because he is very calm about his family and some everyday things. It seems to me that this is not critical yet. And he realizes that he will have to work on it after the Victory.

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

What gives you the strength to continue living your life? The first is the realization of how much has already been put into our future Victory. You cannot despair and you cannot give up either. Therefore, the greatest motivation for me is the memory of those people who gave their lives for us. Secondly, I have children who see their future only in Ukraine and are very concerned that everything will be fine here. And thirdly, I am a pillar of support for my husband, and I need to be strong. We try to talk every day. We all take part in the conversation together. We have a rule: a joint phone call at a certain time. If possible, everyone joins in, and if they can't, they write in a family chat about what happened today. These calls are a very important connection for our family.

Yevhen Nyshchuk: "Either you are at the front or you are for the front. There is no third option"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Yevhen Nyshchuk, People's Artist of Ukraine, actor of the Ivan Franko Theater in Kyiv and twice Minister of Culture, has been defending the country with arms since the first days of the Russian invasion. He mobilized to the Armed Forces as a soldier.

– "During the first nights of the war, we were hiding from rocket attacks in the basement of the Suzirya Theater in Kyiv, and Ada Rogovtseva was with us," Yevhen Nyshchuk recalls. "It seems to me that Ada Mykolaivna has long felt that events would unfold in this way - that the Russians would move on. Now her son-in-law and grandson are fighting in her family. I realized that I would not go anywhere. Both because of my convictions and because I am a public figure. I signed up for the terrorist defense. And then I found out that a volunteer battalion was being created not far from my house, so I joined them. We went to the Kyiv region. Then there was Chernihiv region. And later - the south, where I mobilized into the ranks of the Armed Forces.

What has changed in these two years? I became more focused - I feel it. More disciplined, maybe even so. Now I'm a soldier, so I have to restrain all my tendencies to initiate something (although my ideas are always accepted). Creative improvisations or managerial ambitions need to be hidden within myself. I am required to fulfill the task precisely because the safety of not only myself but also everyone around me depends on it. I try to follow the military chain of command.

I feel very tired from the two-year war. Due to certain circumstances, I am now being transferred to Kyiv region, closer to home. I do need a rotation - not for 10 or 20 days. And I'm speaking only for myself, but for others, the situation is the same or even more difficult. But at the same time, we all realize that the fight is ongoing. It is now at a turning point. Yes, we are very dependent on subjective and objective partnership situations in the West. But we keep the spirit of strength and the desire to win.

It does not fade away because it is in the name of those we love, in the name of those we remember and honor. Soldiers who have already given their lives for freedom and our independence. But, of course, we need to prepare for a long struggle in a very planned way. How long will the war last? I am not a military analyst or expert. But I think that we will be partially caught up in 2025, at least in the spring.

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Where do I find strength? We recently honored the memory of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes. These are events that are very memorable to my heart. It was the first battle against the same aggressor. At that time, they were just their proxies here in Ukraine. But in fact, the team came from there, it's obvious. And we remembered these first hundred heroes who gave their lives, who practically forced Yanukovych to flee the country at the cost of their lives. And at such moments you think: "How can you say you are tired?" The struggle continues, and now there are two things: either you are at the front, or you are for the front. There is no third option.

Roman Nedzelskyi: "When you come to Kyiv, you break a little bit of the patterns"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Music producer and former general manager of the Palace "Ukraine" Roman Nedzelskyi signed a contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine in mid-January 2022. Currently, Roman Stefanovych is a logistics officer with the 135th Battalion of the Logistics Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 114th Separate Brigade of the Logistics Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He has been married to People's Artist of Ukraine Oksana Bilozir for over 30 years.

– I have been on a contract in the army since January 15, 2022. "February 24 began for me at five o'clock in the morning, when Boryspil was shelled," says Roman Nedzelskyi. "I was in the military unit at 8 a.m. And since then I have been on duty. Now I am a mobilized logistics officer. We are now in the east, near Bakhmut. Now, talking to you, I'm in a car, passing checkpoints. Here 85-90% are military. There are very few local people. As a rule, there are older people who have nowhere to go or do not want to leave their homes. This is the contingent. What do I feel? That there is a war in the country. However, when you come to Kyiv, the patterns break a little bit. When you see, for example, men who are "not born for war".

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

I don't think the war has changed me - I'm still the same as I was. But, of course, it's easier to see from the outside. No one thought that our fate would turn out like this. Today, for me, my previous life is like a dream, very pleasant, but unrealizable. My instruments are at home (Nedzelskyi is a guitarist and violist - Ed.), and I am holding an assault rifle.

Do you see any famous artists at the front? I don't invite my friends here - it's not the same war as it was in '14. And tell me: who is fighting? As soon as I see a famous person wearing camouflage, questions immediately arise: "Where do you serve? Why such a clean uniform? Why clean shoes? Why are your hands neat?" Our hands are not like that. And our clothes are closer to field clothes. I don't believe in our artists who are filmed in camouflage.

We talk to Ira Bilyk on the phone and support each other. Garik Krichevsky, Oleg Vynnyk, Zhenia Galych. By the way, he is also a soldier - in our battalion. He is also an officer. When my comrades have birthdays or other important holidays, the artists record greetings and send them to us. I call and say: "It's my brother's birthday - make an emotional gift." I keep all this in my gallery for history. We are in constant contact with Ivo Bobul, who also helps us a lot. He comes to perform in Kyiv region, where we are stationed. The battalion is also greatly supported by Vasyl Ilashchuk, the former president of the First National TV Channel, who now runs a private clinic in Kyiv. He sends doctors here and sends a lot of provisions.

I remember that during the second week of the war, a couple of soldiers got married. They had been living together for a long time, their children are grown, and when the war started, they decided: "We don't know what will happen tomorrow, we need to get married." However, our commander was killed a week later... So, Oleh Vynnyk, together with Iryna Bilyk and Oksana Bilozir, congratulated them with videos, and it was very cool. It seemed like all these stars were singing right at our wedding.

Anna Tambova: "The desire to live in the moment came"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Popular Ukrainian actor Kostiantyn Kostyshyn has been in the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces since last fall. The actor's wife is Anna Tambova, an actress at the Kyiv Theater in Podil.

– "February 24, 2022, was a hard day," says Anna Tambova, "I had a performance the day before. By the time I got home (and we live near Kyiv, in Bila Tserkva), it was already 11 p.m. And the next day we were scheduled to shoot, and I had to be picked up by car at seven in the morning. I was getting ready at three, went to bed, and two hours later we woke up to explosions. I immediately rushed to my daughter because she was very scared. We heard both Vasylkiv and Hostomel, which is on the other side. I wrote a message to my acting assistant at six in the morning saying that I would not come, I would stay with my family. She was in Kyiv, probably hadn't heard anything, and replied: "What's wrong? You can't miss it." I write back: "Don't you know? We are being bombed!"

At first, of course, we did not understand what to do. We moved to the basement of our house and only went out to eat. And then there were two states. First, a period of intense activity: running up to the second floor, to the balcony, filming other people's helicopters flying overhead to send to the chatbot. It was a period of complete powerlessness: lying on a mattress and not even being able to get up. It was a very strange thing happening to my psyche. When we were about to eat, I started setting the table for the party. I was doing a good job, but I don't know why. Perhaps for the sake of feeling that something had to be done.

And then our cat, who had been sterilized on February 23, had her stitches come apart and her insides fell out - literally. And we were cut off - the Russians did not come within one kilometer of us. We couldn't turn on the lights because it was flying in. But we got in the car and drove to the veterinary hospital. We were driving and realized that our car was a moving target. However, everything was fine.

How did you feel when you found out that Kostia had received a call? You know, he must have been psychologically prepared for this. To be honest, he was. Although we didn't talk about it... And I was ready for it to happen. But the first thing you feel is that your body suddenly feels cold. It still does but in a different way. I'm in anabiosis - all the joys of life have suddenly slowed down. He was on vacation and just left a few days ago, and I'm starting to get back into a state where I'm responsible for everything myself. Not having a strong shoulder to stand on is a big problem.

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

How have we changed during the war? I can say for myself: I stopped smiling. Everyone tells me that in the theater. But I can't lie and don't like it, so I can't deliberately be happy. But when Kostia arrived and I came to the performance, everyone was surprised at the changes. It seemed to me that nothing had changed, but it did. How did he change? He got the feeling that he had to do what he wanted to do right now. Before, he could put off something pleasant for himself because it was not the right time or something else. But when he was on vacation: to meet friends, to go somewhere - everything was only "in favor". This is the change that took place - a desire to live in the moment. To savor life.

Dmytro Dikusar: "February 24, 2022 was the beginning of a new life for me"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

Choreographer Dmytro Dikusar has been defending the country from the first days of the Russian invasion. Since March 5, 2022, he has been in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

– What was February 24, 2022, like for me? "It was the beginning of a new life," Dmytro Dikusar admits, "for a new me, whom I have never known and am still trying to find out. What has changed now? There was a certain disappointment in certain people. I knew that over time everyone would get used to the war and the attitude towards the military would be "I didn't send them there," but I didn't think it would be so fast.

I was disappointed to see how easy it is to mislead and divide people on the topic of language ("thank you" to Farion), on the topics of "all commanders are f*ckers" and "the Armed Forces do not give out anything, everyone runs around with their asses bare"... The enemy's IPSO is working, unfortunately! The third disappointment is the work of pseudo-volunteers, which undermined the credibility of real volunteers. I did not think that there are citizens in my country who have neither conscience nor honor at all. The fourth disappointment is some officials who decided that now is a very convenient moment to steal even more than they did before. Not allowing the thought that there will be a reckoning for this. All this (plus the loss of a huge number of comrades and fatigue from the long war) made me very intolerant of "sh*t people" and at certain moments very aggressive. Sometimes I make an extra effort inside myself not to break someone's head in half.

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

A certain number of good and decent people who tirelessly continue to support the military, believe in our victory (especially in the occupied territories) and pray for our lives keep us going! They also keep alive the memory of their comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom and the existence of the entire Ukrainian nation. And the thirst for revenge against the non-humans who caused so much trouble and disaster in my country and abroad.

Valentyna Khamaiko: "The pain we are all experiencing is unbearable"

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

A former banker and blogger with an audience of several hundred thousand, Andrii Onistrat has been defending the country since the first days of the invasion. He serves as the commander of the UAV strike company of the 68th separate ranger brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He and TV presenter Valentyna Khamaiko have four children together, the youngest of whom is five years old.

– "On February 24, 2022, we woke up at home to loud explosions - we live near Kyiv," recalls Valentyna Khamaiko. We woke up the children; the eldest Solomiia, by the way, had an alarming suitcase packed. The younger children did not fully understand the seriousness of the situation. We did not know what decisions to make ourselves. Friends started calling, asking if they could come, believing that it was safer outside Kyiv. Then came the most difficult moments when we saw Russian helicopters flying to Vasylkiv... I felt incredibly cold inside, fear and stupor. At nine o'clock, I remember going to the shower and standing under the water for thirty minutes thinking about what to do. But I needed this half hour to feel warm because I was still freezing. The water was very calming.

Then I realized that no matter what the situation was, we had a farm, and we could survive on these products for six months. By the end of the day, a lot of people came to us - about 40, some of them went further to the west of the country the next day. Two families stayed with us, and we lived together for the first few months. Later, we decided to send the older children to my sister in Vienna, because everything was escalating. It was a difficult decision, but I realized that if we died here, they would be helped to survive there. I also thought about this option: if there was an emergency evacuation, it would be easier to escape with two younger ones than with all four.

How has the war changed us? I think I've become more straightforward. I can also see that I break down more easily where I used to be able to hold back. I sometimes feel emotionally unstable. One second I may have eyes full of tears - I am flooded with an ocean of emotions. But somewhere I've become more resilient because I can't afford to fall into suffering. It seems to me that we will be recovering from this state for a very long time. These are the consequences of the war - nothing can be done. For now, we have to take it for granted.

The only thing I've been struggling with since the first moments of the war is that I don't want to be endlessly sad. My children sometimes ask me: "Mom, is something wrong? You have such an expression on your face". I apologize: "Globally, I'm fine. You are here, and I love you. It's just that this is the situation we've been living in for two years. I hope it will pass." I try to be active, to joke around, not to stop living.

''We will have more than one February 24th''. Artists who are fighting and wives of soldiers - about their difficult two years of the great war

My husband seems like he hasn't changed over the years. In fact, he has changed a lot. When he returned from the front, I realized that he was not the same as before. When he was leaving, I had a difficult emotional period because I didn't know if he would come back next time. I was afraid of calls from an unknown number because I had no idea what news they were bringing me. The only thing that helped was even more work - I was working myself to the bone.

Very difficult changes happened to my husband after the loss of his eldest son at the front. The pain we all experience is unbearable. I caught myself thinking that when we talked on the phone, he was mostly silent. It was very hard - he was living in total pain. I asked him to transfer closer to us because I felt that I could not help him from a distance. And I couldn't leave the children and go away either. I saw that we were just falling apart as a family. My husband transferred. And then I realized the depth of all the changes that had taken place in us during the war. It seemed impossible to help on my own. I started looking for military psychologists, convincing my husband that it was necessary - it was a difficult path. And not on the first try I managed to find a specialist whom my husband could trust. But two months have passed, and I can say that I see a completely different person now.

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