Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in Ukraine, many mothers who have lost their children have emerged. And also children who, as a result of Russian military aggression, have lost their mothers.
Ukrainska Pravda. Life (media outlet) tells the story of Oksana Gorpinich, a 44-year-old mother of two daughters, who worked as a paramedic in the village of Zabolottsi in the Volyn region her entire pre-war life and signed a contract and joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2016.
During her 7 years of service, Oksana achieved the rank of senior sergeant and received numerous awards.
On May 9, 2022, after 5 days of searching, the servicewoman was found under the rubble of a hospital in the Kharkiv region that was hit by a Russian missile.
We spoke with Oksana’s daughters, Natalia Shchur and Iryna Kolisnychenko, her comrade-in-arms with the call sign Tuman (Fog), and learned more about Oksana’s pre-war life from her fellow villager, Ksenia Shchutska.
From civilian to military
Oksana Gorpinich was born on May 2, 1978, in the Russian village of Gordeevo. When she was 2 years old, she and her parents moved to Ukraine, to the town of Blahodatne in Volyn Oblast.
The woman graduated from Kivertsi Medical College and at the age of 17, she got her first job as a nurse at a medical outpost in the neighboring village of Zabolottsi.
She continued working there throughout her life: starting as a nurse and later becoming a paramedic. Oksana also worked as a nurse in a rural school.
Every day, she commuted to work on her bicycle, covering a distance of 5 km. She could also visit patients in person on her bike.
“You could call Oksana at any time, even at 8 or 9 in the evening. I said that a child is sick, and she replied: ‘Give this and that, if there’s none of that, then this.’ And that’s it. In the morning, she came to check on the child,” recalls her fellow villager Ksenia Shchutska.
The fact that the whole village knew their mother is mentioned by Oksana’s younger daughter, 25-year-old Iryna. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Iryna pursued a medical education and currently works as a medical representative in pharmacies.
According to Iryna, her mother demonstrated dedication to work almost every day, even in heavy snowfall or rain. She hopped on her bicycle and headed to work.
At the age of 17, Oksana got married and became a mother twice within the next two years. She married a man who had a connection to military affairs but was disqualified. They divorced in 2019 when Oksana herself had already held a military status for several years.
Oksana decided to join the army even before the full-scale invasion. She kept her decision hidden until the very end. Her daughters found out when their mother signed a contract for a 3-year military service term.
Iryna says that when she heard the news, she couldn’t hold back her tears. Oksana had never mentioned before that she wanted to join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A week after receiving the news, she went for her first training.
“Mom didn’t hide the fact that initially, she didn’t consider joining the army. When the question arose about whether to sign a second contract, she already said that it was her place. But her initial motivation was primarily driven by the salary. My sister and I were studying at that time: I was studying to become a pharmacist, and Natalia was studying to become a choreographer,” shares the girl.
During the first rotation, Iryna recalls, her mother announced that she would “return home after Ukraine’s victory.”
“Every day was the same for us: in the morning, we would wake up and not know whether she would write or not. When she said that she wouldn’t have communication for several hours, you would spend the whole day wondering how she was doing,” says Iryna.
Military doctor Murashka (ant)
Oksana joined the military in 2016, where her agility and willingness to help everyone earned her the call sign Murashka (Ant).
She served in the 14th Mechanized Brigade “Prince Roman the Great”. She achieved the rank of senior sergeant.
After training, from the early days of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), she and her brigade traveled across Donetsk and Luhansk regions. During the full-scale invasion, Oksana moved along the front line from the Kherson region to the Kharkiv region.
During the ATO Murashka received her first awards, including the ATO Participant Medal, in 2017 the Medal for Military Service to Ukraine, and in 2020 the Luhansk Region Defender Badge of Honor.
The full-scale invasion by Russia caught Oksana during her training in the Rivne region. Initially, her brigade was supposed to deploy to the Ukrainian-controlled territory of the Luhansk region, but later they were sent to the Zhytomyr region, near the border with Belarus.
In the early days, Oksana wrote to her daughters, urging them not to worry and advising them to prepare a basement as a temporary shelter. Oksana supported her children from the front line, while they supported her from the rear.
“At that time, there were many more casualties and injuries. Mom even said that she was afraid of being declared missing,” recalls Natalia.
In February 2022, Murashka (Ant) met a soldier with the call sign Tuman (Fog), who later became her driver.
“We had a Hummer, a vehicle equipped according to NATO standards, but no one knew how to drive it. Oksana spent 11 months looking for a driver for this vehicle. You can imagine how happy she was when we met,” shares the comrade of the woman.
The man recalls their military work routine and tells how, during the early days of the Russian advance, he went to set up positions in the outskirts of Ovruch in the Zhytomyr region. On the third day, he brought Oksana there.
On March 1, 2022, they headed to a car repair plant in Zhytomyr, but on the way, they came under fire.
“On the outskirts of Zhytomyr, at a checkpoint, we were accidentally hit by fire from Territorial Defense Forces. I sustained severe injuries, both of my legs were shattered. The left one is somewhat better, but the right one is still healing. Oksana suffered minor injuries as she was inside the vehicle,” recalls Tuman.
Despite the option to be hospitalized and take a 10-day sick leave, Oksana refused. She took care of herself and continued working.
The soldier says that he was almost the only one who saw Murashka crying because she “could not find peace because of the heavy losses at the front.”
Throughout her service, the woman returned home for rotation once or twice a year. Family meetings always ended in tears and long hugs, the children say.
During one of the rotations, Oksana fulfilled her dream of going to the seaside in Odesa. The three girls spent another vacation in the Carpathians. It was back in 2018 when both daughters were pregnant.
In that same year, Oksana became a grandmother for the first time. Iryna remembers that her mother was always available for support over the phone, and in difficult moments, she would come home for a few hours to provide personal support.
“When I started bleeding while in the maternity hospital, a friend called my mom and told her everything. After that, my mom came from Donbas to Lutsk for one day to support me. Everything turned out well, and I gave birth to a son,” shares Iryna.
Murashka became a grandmother first in December 2018, and then again in February 2019. Her children gave her two grandchildren. In the future, it was they who encouraged her to come back home more often.
The woman was last at home in February 2022 when they celebrated her youngest grandson’s 4th birthday within the family circle.
“The grandchildren adored their grandmother. Since there was no opportunity to communicate in person, we had video call each other. It would happen multiple times a day. Even now, the children sometimes want to call her because they miss her, but we explain that grandma is now in heaven,” adds Natalia.
The daughter adds that shortly before her mother’s death, she once again reached out and tried to change the mindset about the war among her relatives living in Russia. Two months before her death, she dedicated a post to them.
“Ordinary Russians, believe me, finally open your eyes. This is what your government, your top officials, have done. We, on our God-given land, did not take anything from anyone. It didn’t matter to us what language you speak or which church you go to,” wrote Oksana.
According to Natalia, communication with relatives in Russia completely ceased after the start of the full-scale invasion, and even after the death of their relative, their opinions about the war in Ukraine did not change.
The daughters learned about their mother’s death from a Facebook post
On the evening of May 4, 2022, a post with the words “eternal memory” was shared on Oksana’s Facebook page. They recount that on that day, as usual, they were messaging their mother, and everything was fine.
During their own “investigation,” the daughters managed to find out that their mother had been providing assistance to the victims in the village of Protopopivka in the Kharkiv region. A Russian projectile hit the building where she was located, and that’s why Oksana was reported missing.
On the second day of the search, the body of Oksana’s comrade-in-arms, who was working as her driver at the time, was retrieved from under the rubble.
“According to the accounts of the military, there was initially artillery shelling, and my mom stayed inside the building to help a wounded soldier. Later, a Russian projectile hit the building,” recounts Natalia.
Due to constant shelling, the search for the rubble was very slow. Oksana’s body was found 5 days later. She was with the deceased soldier, who had a tourniquet on his body and medicines scattered around.
The family organized the transportation of the body on their own. Their uncle came from Volyn to pick it up with volunteers who provided a car.
On May 12, at 5 o’clock in the morning, the body of the servicewoman was brought to her parents’ house in Blahodatne. She was laid to rest in the cemetery in the village of Bilychi.
“People waited from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. because the road from Kharkiv was difficult, and we didn’t know the exact time when they would bring mom. Many relatives, acquaintances from neighboring villages, and teachers from the school came. People formed a living corridor from the entrance of the town to the parents’ house, where they were bringing mom,” says Natalia.
Iryna: attitude towards the war has changed
In September 2022, Oksana Gorpinich was posthumously awarded the Order For Courage of the III degree.
This year, on her birthday, May 2 — the daughters brought a cake with a candle to their mother’s grave, as she would have turned 45.
The sisters admit that they still cannot come to terms with the thought that their mother is gone. A year after the burial, Iryna learned to “quietly cry” so that her son wouldn’t hear, and Natalia occasionally rereads their correspondence with their mother.
“I don’t delete our conversation. I often reread it, review it. It makes it easier. All the memories are preserved here, and all the words,” Natalia shares.
During the farewell to the military servicewoman, the casket was closed, so for a long time, Iryna says, it seemed like her mother was either captured or in an area without communication, and she would return after some time.
“There was hatred towards everyone — everyone was to blame for not protecting her. Our attitude towards the war changed, we started to fear every siren and missile even more. There were even thoughts of leaving the country because it was terrifying in Ukraine,” the girl says.
The military comrade of Oksana, with the call sign Tuman, who is currently undergoing treatment, calls her a hero and emphasizes that they do die there.
“Everyone shouts that heroes don’t die. They do. They are the ones who die first. And unfortunately, they are quickly forgotten,” notes Tuman.
Originally posted by Anastasia Poya on Ukrainska Pravda. Life. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website