“Friend, let us defend the homeland”, the heroic story of the Ukrainian who lived in Spain and fought for his people

Above. A photo of a smiling man in military uniform. And two flags, the Ukrainian and the Spanish. This is the resting place of Vitalii Pokhyla, a Ukrainian from Resident in Valencia, in his hometown Lukashivka, for 40 years, in the Cherkasy region. “It was our decision to raise the Spanish flag on his grave. “He loved this country, so it became important to us,” his sister Alla explains to LA RAZÓN.

Just over six months after one A Russian tank almost cost him his life Vugledar, in the Donetsk region, the wound of loss is extremely raw. However, Alla can’t help but smile tenderly and proudly when she talks about “El Español,” as her fellow contestants knew him.. Vitalii By then I had lived in Valencia for 8 years Russia invaded their homeland. The picture showing Alla shows an elegant and well-dressed man. He holds a razor in his hands: after moving to Spain, he learned to cut hair professionally. Then He opened a hair salon and later a barber shop.

“He wanted to prove to himself that he was capable of building a new life and achieving something from scratch,” says Alla. It was very difficult for him, but his personality conquered first his Ukrainian compatriots from the local diaspora, and then the Spaniards. “I remember how your customers greeted me and hugged me on my first visit to you Living room as if they had known me all their lives”remembers Alla.

Vitalii Pokhila
Vitalii PokhilaThe reason

Despite his established life in Spain, when the Russian tanks invaded Ukraine, He felt he couldn’t stay away while his family, his parents and two sisters, were in mortal danger.

“He was the first to call me and tell me: ‘Friend, we are going to defend the homeland,'” recalls Sergi Pavuk, who met Vitalii in Valencia..

They vowed to stay together until the end. Vitalii and Sergi were interviewed as they entered Ukraine in March 2022 after a three-day trip to join the army, while women and children fled in the opposite direction. “Aren’t you afraid?” asked a journalist. “We are afraid to be in Spain and watch from there how they kill Ukrainians”Vitalii replied. Alla was not surprised by his decision: “Family and friends were always very important to him. “He always left all his affairs to help us.”

As soon as he arrived in Lviv, Vitalii joined the army. There was no time to go to central Ukraine, where his family lived, to see them. It ended at the epicenter of fighting in the Donetsk region. He wielded a grenade launcher, fought at the front and also acted as a hairdresser for his comrades. Like Vitalii, many had no real military experience and had to learn to use “the heaps of iron” in their hands, as one comrade recounted, in battles while trying to survive the constant onslaught of Russian artillery, aviation and tanks.

The situation was often critical, but he still tried to encourage his family and friends by talking about small successes. “Ukraine is strong. Victory will be ours,” he wrote to them. “We have to remain optimistic. That’s how life is, in short, complicated. But for some reason we are alive,” he said in a phone call.

“You are a hero,” a friend wrote.. “I do this because I love you all,” he replied.

“He saw it as his mission. It was the work of his life. Protect. He spoke about it without pathos. I just knew I had to be there,” says Tetiana Shabliy, a humanitarian volunteer who supports several military units, including Vitalii. He felt tired, but the war only sharpened the qualities Vitalii already possessed. “It made him stronger. But at the same time he became even friendlier.

Tetiana remembers that the soldier was always surrounded by dogs and cats. He proudly talked about how he helped protect animals on the front lines. In a video of him petting a dog, he says: “We must do good wherever we are, whether at war or not.”

“The more people you lose, the more you appreciate the living and the more you appreciate life in general.” And believe me, he lost a lot.explains Tetiana, pointing out that today only about twenty of the original hundred members of the Vitalii unit are still alive or without serious injuries.

Advancement in logistics

Vitalii’s organizational skills caught the attention of commanders, who asked him to take on a logistics position. He was loved and respected by everyone – his comrade remembers – and they wanted him to be safe. But He refused and continued on dangerous ground at the front.

“I wanted to be with the boys. To be useful, that your actions made a difference,” Alla recalls. He was wounded in the head by a tank shell during one of the many Russian attacks near Vugledar in February. He died in Sergi’s arms.

“For me he not only became my best friend, but he was like a brother who I miss very much.” Friends like that only come once in a lifetime,” admits Sergi.

“He saved lives,” emphasizes Tetiana, who believes Vitalii diverted attention from the tank long enough to help four of his companions escape danger. He points out that the decision was natural for him. “In such critical situations, a person doesn’t sit down and think. “He acts according to his soul, according to his nature.”

Despite the tragedy of the war, those close to Vitalii emphasize their fascination with him and other resistance heroes. “He kept the fire of victory in his heart. “I believed there would be a future,” says Tetiana.

After his death, His brigade helped stop the Russian advance near Vugledar, where the invasion force ultimately suffered one of the greatest defeats of their winter campaign. Later, captured the village of Blagodatne during the Summer counteroffensive.

Vitalii fully understood what he was fighting for.

“In Spain I had everything, a shop, a car, an apartment, everything was good,” assures Tetiana. He learned the language quickly, he wanted to become part of this society there, communicate with people, and develop himself further, adds Tetiana. However, after returning to Ukraine, he was guided by love and patriotism.

“He was a simple man who loved life so much that he sacrificed himself to save others,” emphasizes Tetiana. “He lived a dignified life and walked with dignity while protecting his homeland. He loved her sincerely. “How he loved everyone.”

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