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Like the Mountain Wind

October 22, 2017 / Internet publication “Galician Correspondent”-
Like the Mountain Wind

He dreamed of being a paratrooper, but became an unsurpassed intelligence officer. Apparently, he is the only Ukrainian soldier who personally wrote Intelligence Officer’s Code of Honor and even developed a chevron for his reconnaissance troop. Not because he was told to do so, but because he was guided by the call of his heart. The talented serviceman from Kolomyia, captain, reconnaissance troop commander of the 24th separate mechanized brigade of OC “Pivnich” (North) Stepan Vorobets (with the cover name Yastrub /Hawk/) amassed a handful of merit certificates and medals from all over the world and developed a detailed plan for the reformation of the Ukrainian landing troops. But he did not have enough time. When he was still a child, his mother would often ask Archangel Michael for strength and health for her son but, sadly, she forgot to ask for luck.

“You do not die until you give up. Until a scout gives up, he is stronger than his fate. The winner is not the one who is stronger, but the one who goes to the end. Set a goal - go to the end: tear your skin, die and resurrect, self-improve, but go to the end. Always choose the hardest path – that’s where you will not meet competitors. Fall ... Get up ... Fall ... Get up ... Fall ... Soar! That’s the only way!”

In life - until death

“On June 19, 2014 units of the 24th Brigade received an order to liberate the town of Yampil along with the suburbs from terrorists and take control of the bridge over the river Siverskyi Donets. Taking Yampol and Zakytne was strategically important. It was through these settlements that terrorists supplied weapons and ammunition to Sloviansk, - wrote Viktor Fito in “Kolomyiska Pravda” (Kolomyia Truth). – From the very beginning it was clear that the military order was not an easy task. The terrorists were armed to the teeth: 15 tanks, mortars, large-caliber artillery, anti-aircraft missile complexes, etc. However, the 24th Brigade was dubbed “the iron one” for a good reason. During battles, Ukrainian troops killed over 300 terrorists and completed the combat mission: Yampil, Kirovske and Zakitne were liberated from armed gang formations, and Sloviansk was finally surrounded. After the security sweep, Captain Stepan Vorobets’s reconnaissance troop was to gather intelligence on further offensive actions. The commander of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Igor Liashenko joined Vorobets’s reconnaissance men on the mission, which became the last one for two officers and five more contract servicemen”.

On the day when the 27-year-old Stepan Vorobetz was setting off for his final fight, he sent the following text message to his wife: “I love you ... my sons, take up my sails”.

His parents, two sisters, wife and two sons waited for him to return from the frontline.

The Captain was buried in Kolomyia on the Alley of Fame. On the 9th day after Stepan’s burial (commemoration day) his youngest son Denis turned one year old.

A small memorial sign was built on the battlefield, near Zakitne village, by fellow soldiers. By a Presidential decree (as of August 21, 2014) Stepan Vorobets was posthumously awarded the Order of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi of the I degree - for personal courage and heroism displayed in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, loyalty to the military oath and high professionalism in line of duty.

During his life Stepan posted the following words on his social network account: “Thank you, God for the fact that I was born a Ukrainian. Thank you for entrusting me with the honorary duty of defending the Ukrainian land and the Ukrainian nation. Thank you for our grand history and glorious ancestors. Thank you for the fact that I do not give way to grief while performing duty ... In life - until death, with Ukraine in my heart!”.

We will win or die for Ukraine

“Soul - to God, life - to Ukraine, honor - to nobody! - these words were the introduction to the Intelligence Officer’s Code of Honor which Stepan commenced immediately after graduation. - The spiritual basis for an Intelligence officer are the traditions of the  bohatyrs (knights) of Kyivan Rus, the Cossacks, the heroes of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the intelligence officers of previous generations and those who shed blood for the welfare, unity and integrity of Ukraine. One does not become an intelligence officer for life; this right must be revalidated daily. Each reconnaissance man is a patriot who puts the security and welfare of the Ukrainian people above his own interests and does his best to protect Homeland. Reconnaissance men must live and work for the good of Ukraine, constantly proving this with their actions. Respect the national feelings of other peoples, but give a decisive rebuff to any displays of anti-Ukrainian sentiment.

Remember that your brain is your best muscle... The ability to win a war, even if you lose a battle, is the characteristic trait of a true Reconnaissance man... As soon as a warrior starts to consider himself to be great, he will perish. Each time you skip a workout, someone else is training to beat you. Train today and be the first tomorrow. If you pity the enemy, you will die. The enemy ceases to be an enemy only when he is dead ... We will win or die for Ukraine, because those who are dead know no shame. Only he is a true Reconnaissance man who deems it an honor to give up his life for Christ the God, Ukraine and his combat brother”. Stepan’s fighters were not only required to know this code, but also to live in accordance with it.

The chevron, which was also designed by the Kolomyia-born warrior for his troop, displays the motto: “In life - until death, with Ukraine in the heart”. As if he created a self-fulfilling prophecy for himself...

Moskals took us by the throat

Stepan was the middle child in a family with two other sisters. His mother wanted a son, as their family had a long line of girls... When the boy was born the doctors admired the baby: he was completely healthy, strong, with a body that had ideal forms. The boy was named after his father. After each Sunday liturgy, HaHanna Vorobets approached the image of Archangel Michael and said a lengthy prayer - she asked for strength for her boy. “I did not know then that Archangel Michael is the patron of soldiers, - the woman sighs. - I prayed for good health... I didn’t realize back then that I should have asked for good fate...”

The boy did grow up to be strong, body and spirit alike. A true warrior! During childhood games he would always pretend to be a policeman or military; he would not let toy weapons out of his hands.

He loved football, once he even organized a competition between teams from different neighborhoods. Everything was at the highest level: merit certificates, awards ... His mother gave her son the last money she had to subscribe to a magazine about football. Stepan’s room was filled with posters of football players and for many years he did not allow any kind of repairs there - until he got married.

At school the English language came easy to him, he showed interest in the history of Ukraine, especially in the Cossack era. Once, Stepanko ran home and asked his mother: “Why do we dislike Moskals so much? After all, there were Poles, Austrians, and Germans...”. His mother was busy with something in the kitchen, so she did not give her answer much thought: “Son, I do not know why they are disliked to such an extent, but they have not trod on the toes of our family yet”.

Hanna Vorobets often recalls this conversation and realizes that she lied to her son, since Stepan’s great-grandfather died in the war. His great-grandmother was left with five children on her hands. The Soviet authorities took all food from the barn. She had to walk for 30 km to Kolomyia to buy bread. The poor children barely made it. “Back then I told him that they had not trod on our toes yet,- the mother continues. - And now the Moskals took us by the throat – they killed my only son ...”.

Mr. Hyria (Kettle bell)

Stepan prepared thoroughly before joining the Precarpathian military-sports boarding school. During the exams, the English teacher was most impressed with the fact that the boy could recite “Our Heavenly Father” in a foreign language. After graduating from the Lyceum, he was admitted to the Academy of Land Forces named after Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi, the faculty of Artillery Intelligence, although he dreamed of Special Forces and Airmobile Troops.

 “He was well trained, but we had no opportunity to help him; there was no money, so Stepanko could not get into the faculty he dreamed about, - Hanna Vorobets explains. – He showed good results in the institute as well, he self-improved, was engaged in parachute and weight sports, arm wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, boxing, he loved the mountains”.

As the best officer, Stepan Vorobets was sent to study at an intelligence institute in the USA where he received a handful of credentials and awards. The young man was dubbed Mr. Hyria, because he surpassed everyone in weightlifting.

His mother recalls that after her son’s death the family was contacted by a Latvian who studied in America with Vorobets. He said that Stepan had dreamed of reforming the Ukrainian army, in particular the landing troops. He wanted to implement best global practices in Ukraine.

Vorobets’s troop

Stepan lived with his wife Svetlana and their two sons Andrii and Denys in Yavora, Lviv region. There, he served in the 24th separate “iron” mechanized brigade as the commander of the reconnaissance troop of the headquarters battalion.

In spite of the deplorable condition of the Ukrainian army, his reconnaissance troop was a role model of combat capability. There were even jokes that Vorobets’s troop was a small subdivision of the American Army. All the soldiers were engaged in sports, no one smoked or consumed alcohol. The first thing that he taught every soldier is to love Ukraine. One of the young contract servicemen whom Vorobets taught wrote home: “Mom, do not worry about me, because I have a commander who knows everything.”

Hanna Vorobets remembers how the annexation of the Crimea enraged her son: “Why don’t they give orders to shoot? Our poor men... Why are the commanders surrendering everything to the Russians?...”.

When the military actions began, Yastrib and his troop were sent to the Russian border. He trained his men every day there. Then Vorobets was sent to organize mobilization in a military unit. Stepan collapsed. He was not himself. He demanded that the leadership send him back to his troop. Because he refused to sit behind someone’s back, hide in his office... That is not what he taught his soldiers. The authorities even threatened to punish Vorobets for his audacity. However, that did not deter him. In the end, the Kolomyia-born young man was sent back to the ATO zone.

We felt safe in his presence

“He was a wonderful husband and father, - his wife recalls. – He was very kind and patient at home, he never raised his voice. When I visited him at work I heard Stepan giving orders for the first time and I was very surprised, as I had never heard that intonation in my husband’s voice”.

Classmate Zhenia Kovalskyi met Stepan Vorobets in the ninth grade. He says that even at such a young age the boy was already rooting for Ukraine and tried to convey his patriotism to his peers: “You felt safe next to him; he radiated positive feelings and power. Always cheerful and with a smile”.

“When we first met I immediately associated Stepan with the mountain wind, - wrote Viktor Fito, - he is as strong, bold and determined but, at the same time, noble, light and independent. He was not one to complain, bringing everything to perfect order”.

Stepanko passed away first

His mother remembers that about five years ago, when she had just finished repairs in the apartment, her son came home from service and questioned her decision: “Mom, such devastation at home... Why do you need these repairs?” – “Son, when I die, people will come to the apartment and it will be beautiful and clean...”.

“But he was the first to go, - Hanna Vorobets cries. - How could I have known that Stepanko would be the first to be buried from our apartment?…”

When his mother learned about his death, the woman did not believe it until she saw her son in the coffin: “Stepan knew everything there was to know about military affairs, he was a highly skilled specialist. Well, how could he have die?”

After the funeral, Hanna Vorobets visited her son’s grave every day in the morning and evening. This continued for two years! “It feels as if I was killed with him under Zakitne, - she sighs. - My heart turned to stone and I could not shed a single tear from my eyes. I could not cry, I could not even speak...”.

She does not often see him in her dreams. The woman remembers how Stepan came to her in a dream on July 11th dressed in a military uniform, gloomy ... The next day his men from the 24th Brigade were shot by their enemy. Many fighters fell that day.

Natalia MOSTOVA