“You need to see how the fighters wait for the arrival of volunteers. It’s like children expecting gifts from St. Nicholas. The help of volunteers gives us a feeling of love… If someone thinks he is already doing enough for the army, then he is seriously mistaken. The army needs much more to be taken care of, which volunteers can help with,” said Andriy Romanyuk, with a candidate’s degree in technical sciences, assistant professor of Computer Science and Information Technologies at Ukrainian Catholic University and professor of the basics of programming at the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty. He is now in eastern Ukraine.
Romanyuk is a professor with more than 20 years of experience, author of more than 30 scholarly and methodological works. In the second day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine’s territory, 25 February, Andriy Romanyuk joined the army. He is now in eastern Ukraine: he’s defending our homeland from the Russian occupiers and fighting for my freedom and yours.
Read in this short interview about his decision to make a change, what he is doing on the frontlines, why volunteering is important, and why now is the time for education. Andriy Romanyuk wrote answers to our questions in-between fulfilling his obligations as a soldier. We thank Andriy for his service! We believe in victory. Return alive!
When and why did you decide to become a soldier?
Back in 2014… I decided already then, but it so happened that I only came here now. The evening of 23 February I understood that war would come the next day, and on the 25th I spent the night in the army base. I haven’t slept at home since then.
Why did I become a soldier? That’s a harder question. Certainly, I couldn’t do otherwise. I must answer this question fairly often. According to the law, professors are mobilized in the last wave. I could have stayed home, and not everyone understands why I’m here now. My fellow soldiers ask me. I sometimes ask myself.
I couldn’t do otherwise. It sounds very simple, but this is sincere and without unnecessary pathos. In this response are hours of thoughts and worries. To tell the truth, it’s difficult to make such a decision. Now I continue to think about it and face the need to make the next similar decision, because this is not the last choice which one makes in military service.
What was hardest for you in the first weeks of service?
To hear foul language. I don’t think foul language brings anything good, and the tension of the first weeks of the war did not justify the strength of this dirt. I would suggest thinking whether each of your foul words invites the Muscovite occupier to our land.
Also, daily needs are not organized. Yes, the war exploded, but to suppose that a soldier himself should take care of daily needs and that his general daily conditions should not require high standards, and the argument that conditions could be even worse, is fairly weak.
What incident made you feel that you are in a war?
Yes, I’m in a war, but do I feel it? This is not a very good question. It’s like, for example, the question if you can understand war… Daily I feel explosions and wake up because of shaking walls. I saw shells exploding. I carried away those wounded as a result of shelling. But most of all, the eyes of veterans of the ATO show me where I am now.
What do you do on the front lines now?
I can’t give details about what I do now. So I’ll talk very generally. I serve in the territorial defense unit. The media and social networks are now speaking fairly actively about territorial defense. I don’t have time now to add something to that, but, after the war, I’ll share my observations and impressions.
Our unit is now taking part in the battle for Donbas. I’m carrying out a task of command. It’s not so easy. Life and professional experience show that some things can be done differently, but one needs to carry out others’ instructions.
The team of the Applied Sciences Faculty recently gave your brigade an automobile. How does the support of volunteers help now in the fight with Russia? Is it important to continue supporting the Ukrainian army?
Volunteers help us carry out our work. Certainly, you won’t find a soldier in our unit, or in our whole army, who doesn’t have ammunition or something else which volunteers provided.
Our unit has received significant help from Ukrainian Catholic University. UCU volunteers gave money to purchase automobiles. A mini-van and other technical equipment were purchased. The guys say they haven’t met better volunteers than those from UCU.
You need to see how the soldiers wait for the arrival of volunteers. It’s like children expecting gifts from St. Nicholas. The help of volunteers gives a feeling of love; His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar spoke of that. So I want to thank volunteers for their work and wish them the endurance and strength to continue their work. It will go to a new level when needs will be studied more thoroughly, considering, for example, recommendations on economizing resources made by our professor, Myroslava Kushnir. (At the start of the war, Myroslava Kushnir gave a webinar “From need to resource – How to be thrifty in conditions of war.” You can watch the Ukrainian language webinar at https://youtu.be/huFOS5Tjn0A), and, correspondingly, these needs will be effectively taken care of.
If someone thinks he is already doing enough for the army, then he is seriously mistaken. The army needs much more to be taken care of, which volunteers can help with. For example, not only to provide food, cleaning products, technical or military equipment, but to try to integrate all this into daily or additional rations, help with sanitary conditions, etc. To provide not separate devices but to propose systems which could build on this equipment. The fund Come Back Alive works with a similar model.
What have you asked the volunteers for, and how do the volunteers look after your unit?
Every unit works closely with volunteers. In addition, a volunteer is constantly transporting everything that the volunteers provide for us and all other packages for the soldiers of our unit. At first, I expected that the determination of needs and, accordingly, the search for ways to meet them, would be more precisely organized in the unit. When I didn’t see this, according to intuition and experience, I asked for help in certain conditions. I asked for the unit to be provided with certain technical items and elements of ammunition, for example, tablet computers with maps, binoculars, thermal imager, night lamp, belt and shoulder straps.
I was excited that, in addition to all this, volunteers of Ukrainian Catholic University provided us with a mini-van, also. In particular, I want to thank Rostyslav Hryniv [professor at the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty – ed.], who not only organizes and coordinates volunteers to help us but is concerned about what will remain “not done” if there will be no future “requests.”
Tell us about your fellow soldiers.
I wasn’t expecting such a variety of people in the army around me. The palette of their characters and personalities even now inspires and lifts me up, frustrates and disheartens.
Every soldier has a code name. Like we once read about the Cossacks, now we have code names which tell, for example, about an ability: “Cutter” is a great barber; or about particular visual characteristics, “Cat,” “Little”; or, in general, a code name covers much more. There are already many interesting stories about “Fun.”
Certainly, each of my fellow soldiers deserves a separate description, and some of their personalities require a short story or novel.
Interesting and unexpected: the majority of them cook well. French fries in field conditions and shish kebab in two hours is easy. Last week we had great borshch for breakfast. T. got up early and made it. Porridge or pasta from a pot has a special taste.
In the first weeks, one of the soldiers was in bed with a high temperature, COVID. Many still remember how this sickness feels. I was impressed when two days later I saw A. in uniform. It was a small thing, but he demonstrated our people’s strength and readiness to fight. It’s interesting to see my peers. Still, we differ at bit in age and experience. Here I’m reading a provocatively supportive post from B.: “Look closely at an older person in a profession where men usually die young.”
Another short story. We’re sitting inside and one of us starts reading a poster from civil defense, written in Russian. He reads slowly, gets to the bottom of the poster and concludes “Call 101.” At that moment, someone asks: “Call where?” P’s answer, “It’s not written where to call,” gets drowned in general laughter.
How do younger soldiers treat you?
Well, slightly respectfully, sometimes with jokes. They asked us to do something, and a 33-year-old joked about my age: “Bohdanovych, don’t go now, because you’ll fall apart again…” After an hour or two, I “shoot back” – “P., do you have any glue that dries quickly and firmly?” He answers: “I don’t. What needs to be glued.” “I need to be glued, because something fell off.” (He laughs.)
How do you use your professional experience in military matters?
Unfortunately, I don’t use my professional experience now. It’s understood that military commanders place soldiers according to military specialties. But if you acquired your specialty 35 years ago, it’s likely that it’s quicker to prepare another specialization in a corresponding or related military specialty than to start re-training you in your field. Sadly, neither the first nor the second was done. And here again it’s worthwhile mentioning the rational use and maintenance of resources.
You can address our youth and students from the front line. In your opinion, why is it important to study and why now?
High school and college students have the opportunity to study, regardless of the difficult circumstances caused by war. Some in these conditions can look for justifications not to use this opportunity. When laziness or reluctance to study prevails, recall your peers, parents, and relatives who are now on the front lines. Why are they there? And why are they giving you an opportunity to study now? Print out their photographs from the front. Read accounts of their battles and get to work! You need to build and re-build a new country. Your qualifications will allow you to develop those areas in which you specialize.
If we now allow gaps in the education of qualified specialists, the time for the rebirth of our flowering homeland will be delayed. Study is interesting, necessary, and has a future!
We note that in 2020 Andriy Romanyuk received a professor’s stipend at UCU for his research and instructional work, a stipend from Taras Kytsmey, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the IT company SoftServe.
The UCU Information Department at that time made a short video about Romanyuk where he talked about why his schedule is not limited by his job description. And his students shared why they are inspired by a professor devoted to his work. Andriy Romanyuk then said that service for him is not some formality but a natural process. Ukrainian-language video: https://youtu.be/ydnlhv5gCdQ
Also, in July 2022, during the UCU commencement ceremonies, Rostyslav Hryniv received the rector’s award for scholarly work at the international level.
Text: Andriy Hrynykha, Veronika Savruk
Photos: from Andriy Romanyuk’s personal archive; blessing of the auto by Lesyk Urban
Source: “Tvoye Misto” (Your city)