The story of a showman who courageously defended Bucha and Irpin from the invaders
Serhiy Velichanskyi is a serviceman of the 130th battalion of the forces of the TDF. He has been in the ranks of the Armed Forces since the first days of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Before the morning explosions on February 24, Serhiy was a famous showman, presenter, official MC Euro Club and did not even think about military affairs, but life turned out differently. The bright image with colored hair remained a thing of the past, and the concert suit had to be changed to a military uniform. Serhiy fought in Kyiv region and Kharkiv region, where he was wounded, after which he was hospitalized. In Kyiv, the husband underwent an operation and Serhiy is currently recovering in order to return to the army and continue to defend the country.
We talked with our hero about the beginning of the war, the defense of Irpin, and whether it is appropriate to conduct tours of hero cities.
- What were you doing before the full-scale invasion of Russia?
What was my occupation before February 24th? I was a showman, presenter, trainer in applied improvisation, was engaged in personality development through improvisation. I was a TV presenter, I was the official presenter of Euro 2012 - I played matches at the stadium, I taught at universities... In other words I was engaged in creative teaching activities, I had nothing to do with the Armed Forces at all, the only thing was that I liked watching combat films. But this [military business - ed.] was not mine, even though I knew already in January that there would be an invasion and I started the training together with the 130th Battalion of TDF forces.
- What have you been doing since the first days of the full-scale war? Where were you fighting?
On February 24 at 6:30 I woke up to a big explosion in Gostomel, I was just living there, I saw everything happening. And it worried me very much, as well as our whole country. But I knew that this was what we were preparing for in the TRO - so my backpack was already ready, my uniform was ready. I got dressed and went to the rendezvous point for our battalion, or rather our first company. Our company was one of the most ready for action, so on the first day we went to the airport Zhulyany defence. At the airport we stayed for about 10 days. There was nothing "that big" about it, but it was a cool time of moral preparation and cohesion for us. Right after that we went to Irpin. We went on rotation, to replace the local TrO fighters who had joined the battle from the first hours, and it was there that we held our defenses, held our positions until the complete liberation of the North behind Kiev. The tasks were such that we held sectors at "zero", where SRG penetration was expected. We accomplished our task. Unfortunately, one of our fighters with the pseudonym Mars gave his life there when the battle was fought. But we held on, we held those positions. We stood in the area near the Giraffe Mall - all the time under fire, somewhere over ten people were wounded.
After winning that stage, in mid-April we moved to Kharkiv region. Since then, we have been here all the time: at different positions and locations - mainly on the borders and lines of contact. The main task of our unit is observation, organization of ambushes, and meeting with armed groups.
The photo shows Sergey and his brothers on the day they learned that the Russian army retreated from Bucha and part of Irpin.
- Could the Russians, in your opinion, march on the Kiev region again? What would you advise to do in this case?
What I can advise is to listen carefully and not ignore the warning of any danger. And if there is still an opportunity not to return to Kiev, I always advise this. But not everyone has such an opportunity.
- Now there is a certain resentment in the society for conducting tours by "bold cities"? How do you feel about it?
As for tours of "brave cities" or "places of military glory", to use that term, I'll put it this way. You know, my brothers and I were shocked when we found out that many people in Irpin are now swimming in the very place where there was a very fierce battle and where our brother died. And, of course, we all get used to different things. But there are still a lot of shell casings there... That's the situation. It seems to me sometimes that it is the people who ignore such things - they are just, for some reason, against creating a new culture of introducing battle stories to guests and foreigners. So I think it's even the right thing to do, I would like people to know the names of those who died standing there. I know that in Irpin 43 people just stood up to defend, they were not in the TDF, they were in the DFTG (volunteer formation of territorial societies), they had experience, but were not in the military at the time. And they died in the first 10-15 days. Then other units went in. So it would be cool to reconstruct all the facts, the nuances of each city's defense, and create some plaques, memorials in places where either people died or important defense events took place. I think this is important. Several foreign friends have already visited - I personally showed them the places where we held the defenses and told them how everything happened.
- Do you think such tours can be conducted now? Or after our victory and the end of the war?
I think that some places can already be shown now. For example, Irpin, to which I have already conducted several excursions for foreign guests, so that they understand and pass on what and how it happens. I think that I could show Irpin and Bucha. I think that here it is possible to tell stories in stages: first to tell about the combat moments, and only later, perhaps, later - the memorial moments, where civilians were killed, and so on... I think that such a format of these stories can be developed here.
- Tell me as a military man - is it safe now? For example, a tour to Bucha or Chernihiv?
Regarding the safety of tours, I will say one thing: nowhere can be safe, and this must be understood. So it is necessary that each participant of such a tour understood it and took personal responsibility for it. Regarding Irpin, Bucha - these are more secure cities than Chernihiv, Sumy, etc., there is still shelling. Therefore here it is necessary to introduce some or other tours step by step. I believe that it should be just introductions, stories of how the defense took place, and then victorious battles in certain cities.
- What should not be shown and mentioned in such tours in any case? And what, on the contrary, is absolutely necessary?
First of all, I don't think it's outright "impossible" to show anything right now. Stories about the fighters, stories about those events, names, things - there's a lot of filming about all that, by the way. I think, here it is possible to use quietly what is in reports, for example, about defence of Irpin, Gostomel... There is a lot of interesting information that can be used to tell people what and how it happened... Certainly, some photos, some locations where it is possible - stands, photos of these events, these faces. And, of course, a separate memorial reference to the dead, preferably by name. In principle, an example would be a memorial location in Washington, D.C., where all those who died in Vietnam are mentioned by name.
- As a Ukrainian and a military man, would you suggest that your acquaintances, family or friends visit tours of "brave" cities?
Honestly, I would make everyone walk these paths, these positions, these moments. To listen, to talk... But because I'm a democratic person, so of course I would advise both for patriotic education in schools and for tourists to see. Because people are surprised, they are really surprised. And it is necessary to support this theme of Ukraine in the world, to make everybody proud. The sooner we organize such things in a beautiful, correct, high-quality and service-oriented way, the better. These people also help us, these people also send money, so it would be very interesting, and I would advise it.
Photo: Kostyantyn Reutskyi.
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