After being seriously wounded in Donbas, Eduard Maliovanyi from Zhytomyr found the strength to return to life and with his optimism inspires others to keep going.
He has many years of experience in peacekeeping missions in Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Africa. A retired professional military officer could easily enjoy his leisure time with his grandchildren, go fishing and "quiet hunting" in the woods. But after the victory of the Maidan, where Mr. Eduard stood defending dignity and freedom from the very first day, Russia's armed aggression in Donbas began, and he did not hesitate to volunteer for the front. He was told - you have already served your time, let the younger ones fight now. The man strongly objected - what do you mean, let them? How can you stay away when there is a war in your home? He even went to the Ministry of Defense to protest with a poster "I want to defend my homeland!". And he got his way - he was taken to the front. He served in reconnaissance, in the 11th Battalion "Kyivan Rus". And on August 15, 2014, near the village of Mala Ivanivka in Luhansk region, he received an injury that was almost incompatible with life...
"When I received a call from the Kyiv military hospital and was told the terrible news, I did not realize the full extent of the trouble," recalls Liudmyla, his wife, "I immediately rushed to the hospital. The doctor said that my husband had a serious head wound, with half of his face missing... "And the eye?" I asked. "Unfortunately, the eye is lost and it will not be possible to restore it," the doctor replied. "I thought it was a nightmare, and I was about to wake up.
And then there were many extremely complicated surgeries: Eduard's head and face were literally put back together "piece by piece". They made a new cheekbone from his own rib, but it did not take root several times. Liudmyla was constantly by her husband's side. At first, she did not know how to behave when he woke up from anesthesia, she admits. "What to say? No one explained how to react in such a situation. But mutual understanding and love helped, says Liudmyla. As well as God's grace and the optimism of her beloved husband.
"You should have seen how lively he was - on the fifth day after the next surgery, he was repairing the plumbing in the ward," Mrs. Liudmyla recalls such moments with a smile. "Where's Eduard?" - "He's fixing the taps in the bathroom." - "Are you kidding me?!"
No kidding... It's hot, and the maxillofacial surgery department has no air conditioning, plumbing is out of order, and there's nowhere to wash clothes. "Volunteers arrived and asked if we needed anything. Yes, we did - washing machines and air conditioners! The next day we already had everything we needed, and I went to fix the plumbing and shower facilities so the guys could have a proper wash," smiles Mr. Eduard. "When I was discharged from the hospital, the head of the department asked me half-jokingly, 'Maybe you could stay with us to help with the housekeeping? And then he added seriously, with respect, "You know, Eduard, you can always count on us!"
...There are some people who make you feel calm and confident from the first moment you meet them. We've been talking to Mr. Eduard and Mrs. Liudmyla in their cozy kitchen for only an hour, and it feels like we've known them for years. They are the kind of people who do not complain about their own troubles, but lend a reliable shoulder to others whenever needed. Although they have their share of problems... Mr. Eduard has serious health problems, he has to take medication all the time, and some of the drugs are very expensive. Mrs. Liudmyla takes care of her husband and her bedridden mother. It is a heavy daily burden. Two years ago, with the help of volunteers, they were lucky to find a specialist who agreed to perform plastic surgery on Eduard’s injured face. And Mr. Eduard had already undergone several stages of this complex, lengthy procedure, and a prosthetic cheekbone was to be made in Germany. However, Russia's large-scale invasion began, and everything stopped. "And now I have no moral right to call the doctor and bother him with my problems. There are so many wounded guys who need emergency care. They are top priority, and I will wait. If we win, we will continue," he says.
When you help from the heart, God repays you with good things, Mr. Eduard is sure. In hospitals, he visited the wounded to "keep the guys' morale up." Although it was hard for him, he pulled himself together. He went to those who had it even harder. He said, "You are young, everything will be fine, you will meet your destiny, you will have a family". "There were those who did not want to make contact," my interlocutor recalls. "You look at a guy in his 20s and already without legs. It's hard... There used to be almost no psychologists in the hospital, and no chaplains either. Someone had to go to the person, talk to him, bring him out of that trance. And no matter how hard it was to see it myself, I went and talked. One fellow soldier who lost his leg was already on drugs. I set him on the right path. And now he serves as a chaplain."
Mr. Eduard has many battle honors. But the most precious award for him is from Euromaidan SOS. He holds this statuette in his hands with special tenderness, blowing off the dust. The most memorable gifts are meetings and acquaintances with good people. At one such meeting of veterans he was able to meet Dalia Grybauskaite. Mr. Eduard said to the President of Lithuania that we should create a Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade, it was time to join forces for common defense. And some time later, at Mrs. Dalia's request, he was invited to a meeting, where the President informed, "We are creating a joint brigade, Eduard!".
His greatest joy today is his grandchildren Danya and Marynka. "We have a special family," he says, "Our daughter is a patriot, and she is the most patriotic one can find. We raised her that way. After the outbreak of a full-scale war, my son-in-law volunteered for the front. He fought near Bakhmut and got out of the encirclement. He was wounded and had seven contusions. When he was going to the military registration and enlistment office, I asked him, "Have you thought it over? You have two children!" And he replied, "Yes, I have. There is a war in our country, we need to help. You can't fight anymore - it’s my turn now."
"After our victory, we will build a high wall on the border with Russia, to fence off these bandits," Mr. Eduard voices his vision of the future. "We are a strong nation. Ukraine has united the whole of Europe, we have become so close to each other. After the victory, I want us not to shout what heroes we are, that we have defeated evil (and there is no doubt that we will!), but unite and love each other, as well as build a strong European state. I want to live to see this happiness."
In the first days of the full-scale invasion, Mr. Eduard got behind the wheel of his car and drove to Makariv to evacuate people from the war zone. "I want to be useful. It's important for me to be where my help is needed," he says in parting, giving me his smile and a firm handshake.
Mr. Eduard receives monthly financial assistance as part of the Family to Family Ukrainian-Polish project. This project, which Caritas-Spes Ukraine has been implementing since October last year in cooperation with Caritas Poland and thanks to the support of Caritas Poland, is aimed at helping Ukrainian families in financial need and those affected by the consequences of the war in Ukraine.