The quiet life of a border town on the westernmost edge of Ukraine was disrupted by the tragic news, it was the first to feel the breath of the war with the northern aggressor. Dwellers of Berehove, who have not lost a single fellow citizen in the Afghanistan war, mourned the young warrior Roland Popovych, participant of the anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine, and buried him with all due military honors. Sadness, sorrow, and grief gripped the town’s public institutions, squares and streets, and the hearts of its residents.
Our brave fellow compatriot died in the village of Makarove, Stanytsia Luhanska raion. That is where Ukrainian patriots, who went to defend the country’s integrity, have been dying during the past months from separatists’ bullets. Popovych, an ethnic Hungarian, was one of those who took up arms. On July 22 he would have turned 20.
He was shot while being on combat duty at one of the checkpoints. The commanders ordered the soldiers of the 128th ICBM subdivision to check every car that passed the village. The vehicles that crossed the border and entered Luhansk oblast from Russia required special attention. On that tragic day, a few men got out of a car at the checkpoint and, when asked to show the content of the trunk, suddenly opened a devastating fire. Neither the bulletproof vest nor the helmet saved Popovych from the bullets. His comrades did not even have the time to tell him to get down or duck. The criminals shot the soldier in the head. According to his fellow soldiers, who brought Popovych’s body from Kharkiv to the airport in Uzhhorod, they shot the attackers with bursts of machine gun fire. If they had hesitated for another moment, they would have shared their comrade’s fate. The Saturday of June 14 turned out to be fatal for Popovych, a patriot and defender of his country.
He was born into an ordinary family in the downtown of Berehove. Honor, honesty, integrity, sincerity, ability to keep one’s word were respected in it. Army service (and the young man enrolled last spring) tempered him even more, so when the time for demobilization came, he decided to stay in the army. He went to the east of the country not so long ago, with other troops from Mukacheve, he did not even have time to familiarize himself with the new surroundings.
Until the 9th grade, Popovych studied at School No.1. Headmistress Oksana Matolych noted that this calm and thoughtful boy was very kind. Then he applied to the service industries college, but later changed his mind and transferred to School No.10. School principal Petro Veresh brought a huge bunch of flowers to the funeral of his former student: from himself and his colleagues. Top officials of the oblast, raion, and municipal authorities stood nearby. “Roland was a good student, and he was extremely hard-working, he got a part-time job while still at school to earn some money and bring it home. He was also very reliable, he would never let anyone down. In other words, we lost another good young person, a real patriot of Ukraine,” Veresh says.
The last tribute was paid to the patriot and soldier at the House of Culture on June 16. Priests were serving a funeral mass, the male choir Kupazh, which had sung at Maidan in Kyiv, performed a funeral song, people were flowing in non-stop, bringing flowers and wreaths. The portrait of the brave fighter Popovych was added to the memorial wall of the Heavenly Sotnia’s Heroes. A lot of his peers came to say their last goodbyes. The servicemen carried the coffin through a live corridor strewn with flower petals, which was created by almost two thousand people in the central square. May the native Transcarpathian earth be soft as swan’s-down for the hero and defender of Ukraine!