The Ukrainian people’s mission is not lost on Fedir Sandor, a Ukrainian professor turned soldier.
He joined the war effort on the day it began, February 24, 2022, leaving the confines of his classroom at Uzhhorod National University in Western Ukraine’s Transcarpathian region to defend his country against the Russian invasion.
Sandor, who is half-Hungarian, initially spoke to Newsweek in May 2022 when images of him conducting lectures from battlefield trenches went viral.
“When you are at war, in the trenches, you assess the situation more realistically,” Sandor recently told Newsweek via Telegram. “Since we are fighting a 140-million-strong monster, it is logical that the war will last longer. We constantly talk about it and understand that we need to be patient.”
Ukraine’s demise was projected by many to occur in a matter of days or weeks, as Russian troops targeted the capital city of Kyiv in the initial days of the invasion. But Ukraine’s resilience on the battlefield has been bolstered by global support from NATO and European Union (EU) countries, which have continuously offered military, financial and humanitarian aid despite fears of exacerbating tensions with Russia, a main U.S. adversary.
Sandor’s most recent deployment has been in the Kyiv region, close to the Belarusian border, and began three weeks ago. The sergeant has been all around the country since the start of the war. He originally prepared for battle in the Transcarpathia region on the western side of Ukraine for nearly two months before spending four months in the Donetsk region, where intense fighting has occurred.
Ukrainians, Hungarians, Slovaks and Romanians comprised the Transcarpathian battalion, while Sandor recalled continuous artillery shelling in Donetsk, near Adamivka.
He then spent about three months in the Kharkiv region, between September 6 and December 8, where he was assigned as an extraordinary rank junior sergeant and held the position of company commander for two months. Drone attacks were routine, Sandor said, in addition to mines and an influx of “saboteurs” near Malynivka.
On December 8, he transferred to the headquarters of the 101st Brigade in the Sumy region. He also spent time near the Russian border, near Dvorichna, above Kupyansk.
“The level of damage caused by the Russians is beyond the imagination of a civilized person. Schools and infrastructure were destroyed everywhere. I don’t even understand why it should be destroyed. There is no logic,” Sandor said.
He has experienced the deaths of many colleagues, though, “most importantly,” he said, no soldier from any of his battalions ever retreated.
“This is a senseless and illogical war [started by] the morbid imagination of an aging political impotent [who] wanted a separate page in the history textbook,” Sandor said, in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Western leaders have bucked threats from Russia and continued to supply weapons to Ukraine. Germany and the U.S. are supplying tanks and the U.S. recently announced an expedited timeline for Patriot missile defense systems being delivered to Ukraine. Last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that Warsaw would send Ukraine four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets “literally within days.”
Sandor expressed gratitude to NATO and Western allies for their military, financial and humanitarian aid. NATO has “received an excellent opportunity to test its real military potential and interaction with partners in a combat environment,” he said.
Without that help, Sandor said, Russia would have taken Ukraine and “destroyed the entire European civilization.” But, he said, military aid needs to start arriving faster.
“We need weapons, especially air weapons,” he said. “We are paying too high a price with our lives for the fact that military aid is too slow to arrive. We have already won, now we need to record the victory.”
Committed to fighting to the end, when asked what the term “victory” means, he said, “the complete destruction of the enemy. The disintegration of Russia into parts.”
That includes an international trial of “Russian criminals” for genocide, violence, murder, pedophilia and child abduction, he added.
“Then you can raise the flag of victory,” he said. “The hydra must be killed or it will destroy civilization again….Russians for three generations should be ashamed of what they have done.”
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin and another Russian official, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for allegedly deporting Ukrainian children unlawfully. It prompted threats from Russian officials, including former President Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested that Russia could strike the court with a hypersonic missile in response.
The arrest warrant has seemingly done little to convince Putin to stop the war, something U.S. officials say he has the option to do at any time. Because there is no end to the war in sight, it is unclear when families will see a return to normal.
Sandor is the father of four children: two boys and two girls. He has seen them in person once since the war began for 10 days. They communicate routinely via Starlink, a generator and a tablet. Despite a deep personal sacrifice, he said he will continue to fight, going wherever he is told. He’s also committed to continuing his twice-weekly lectures so his students continue their educations.
“War is not a Hollywood movie, and not even just death and destruction,” he said. “War is the stolen future of millions of people.”
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