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The Daring "Circus Performer"

June 23, 2016 / online edition of the Starokonstantinov newspaper "Our Town"

Unveiling our heroic compatriots, who are defending the East of Ukraine, today’s story is about Alexander Semenyuk, scout of the 58th separate motorized infantry brigade.

Alexander's (Sasha for short) parents, who are originally from the Starokostyantinivskiy area, have been living near Krasnoperekopsk in the Crimea for a long time, where our hero was born and lives. Sasha often comes to our city to visit his older sister. In autumn 2013, during one of his visits to Starokonstantino, Alexander met a charming girl Natasha, whom he married the following June.

After Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Sasha repeatedly tried to enroll in the Ukrainian army. In November 2014, Alexander signed a contract and became a rifleman in the Aviation Brigade Guard Squadron. From the first days of service he proved to be a disciplined and enterprising soldier. The so-called anti-terrorist operation developed into a full-fledged war and Sasha tried to get a transfer to the front line, repeatedly wrote reports asking to be enlisted in the consolidated unit "Wild Duck". On one occasion he had a meeting with the commander of the 8th regiment of special purposes in Khmelnytskyi, during which his desire to serve in this elite unit was evaluated and a written consent to the transfer was granted. But fate decreed otherwise. In August 2015 the Aviation Brigade sent servicemen to bring the Ground Forces up to strength and Alexander, together with a group of friends, found themselves in the 58th motorized infantry brigade, which underwent combat coordination on the Rivne training ground.

Doing service in the automotive repair unit Sasha obtained a transfer to the reconnaissance squadron and in November he arrived to the new stationing in Verhnotoretske village in the Donetsk region. It was there that he received his first baptism of fire and got the call-sign "circus performer" for his courage and daring actions. The main tasks performed by Alexander along with his comrades included reconnaissance of the positions of Russian mercenaries in the Gorlovka area. Scouts conducted military raids into enemy lines, uncovered equipment and manpower. It was there that he was caught in the midst of a mortar attack and got his first concussion.

In view of the exhibited high level of professionalism, courage and bravery the brigade headquarters appointed Alexander as commander of the reconnaissance unit and granted him the rank "sergeant."

Since this February the "circus performer’s" reconnaissance unit has been relocated to Avdeevka, where assault functions were added to their basic reconnaissance missions. These brave and courageous men, along with a unit of the 74th reconnaissance battalion, assault group of the "Right Sector", with the support of the 16th battalion infantry drove Russian mercenaries out of the notorious Avdeevka industrial zone. From this industrial zone terrorists shelled our positions and residential areas of the old Avdeevka. In addition, our fighters established control over the "Yasinuvatska interchange" area, which the separatists used to transfer machinery and equipment from Donetsk to Gorlovka. Among those who will remain forever on the Donetsk land are the so-called ‘kadyrivtsi’ (Chechen fighters), Russian "holidaymakers", local supporters of the "Russian world" and others.

Having recovered after the crushing defeat and losses the enemy threw large forces at our defenders to drive them out of the industrial zone. But the numerous attacks on the positions of our divisions, shelling from heavy weapons, including from tanks and artillery systems, which are prohibited by the Minsk agreements, shattered against the unwavering rock of courage and bravery exhibited by Ukrainian fighters.

On March 29, while performing a special mission the reconnaissance unit with Sergeant Alexander Semeniuk were moving into the enemy rear. Suddenly, in the silence of the night the "circus performer" heard a muffled click, typical to the activation of a hand grenade. The sapper of the unit, who was moving ahead of the group, had stepped on this hidden "surprise" – a tripwire. He reacted instantly and fell to the side, which saved his life. Alexander’s comrade Dmytro had just enough time to turn around and, with his whole body, he blocked our compatriot, receiving the lion’s share of the fragments. Sasha received a shrapnel wound to the right temple and right hand. Having fallen to the ground the scouts instantly opened fire and pulled the wounded Dmytro away from the machine-gun fire. The "circus performer" continued to fire together with a machine gunner from the group and managed to cover the retreat of their comrades.

After the group’s retreat away from the shelling Sasha was given medical aid and was then sent to a military hospital in Krasnoarmiysk along with his comrade. There the fragment was removed from his head, which fortunately did no great harm. After treatment Alexander was given a 1-month medical leave, which he spent with his family helping to plant his parents-in-law’s garden and met up with some colleagues in our military unit. Despite the sore arm with the remaining fragment and the constant nightmares of shelling Sasha is full of optimism and faith in victory and strives to reunite with his reconnaissance squadron.

Alexander is most uneasy about the fact that he does not communicate with his own father, who did not support his son’s choice to protect Ukraine and fell prey to the lies of Russian TV channels about the horrors of the mythical "banderevtsi".

His leave was quick to end, and Alexander returned to his unit. Happiness and fortune to you, and may the Blessed Virgin protect you always!

Alexander received great help in the form of specialized gear and equipment from our fellow countrymen, defenders of the Donetsk airport Andriy Kazmirchuk, Vadym Vasylyuk and Dmytro Arsenyuk.

Sergey Zhmurko