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A pilot who rescued people from Azovstal

Story and photo: Mr. Ivan

Illustration: #SophiaRunova


For 86 days, Ukrainian defenders heroically held the line of Mariupol at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, the last fortress of the city destroyed by the Russians. Russian troops bombarded Mariupol and Azovstal with numerous heavy weapons, didn’t allow the evacuation of the wounded and dead. Fighters of the Azov Regiment, marines, border guards, officers of the National Police and the Security Service of Ukraine, as well as thousands of civilians were forced to live in the dungeons of the plant for weeks.

Thanks to the heroism of the Ukrainian pilots, it was still possible to evacuate some of the seriously wounded fighters from Azovstal. The rescue operation was extremely risky, because the Russian army completely controlled the sky above Mariupol. Pilots often sacrificed their lives to save the defenders of Mariupol, as did pilot Bohdan Liashenko.

Bohdan was 28 years old, but he had already become the commander of a helicopter unit—a very high position for such an age. The man graduated from the Ivan Kozhedub National Air Force University (Kharkiv) in 2016. Bohdan wanted to build a military career, so a year after graduation he went to serve in the ATO zone, in the east of Ukraine, where the previous phase of the war with Russia was going on. In a few years, he received the rank of captain, became an instructor and taught others his profession.

When Russia launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Bohdan's expertise became indispensable. At first, he protected the skies of Kyiv and Chernihiv Oblasts, but in April he informed his parents that he was going on a mission to Zaporizhzhia. The relatives immediately understood that it was actually about Mariupol. Bohdan began to evacuate the wounded from Azovstal.

During the first week, Bohdan's father received some news from his son. The last message came on May 2, at eight o'clock in the morning, and already in the evening it was reported from the unit that Bohdan passed away. The details of the operation couldn’t be disclosed.

Quickly after his death, the parents learned that Bohdan received honorary state awards from Ukraine in March and April: the Orders of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi of classes II and III. Also, the rescued defenders of Azovstal in Kyiv hospitals are grateful to the deceased pilot for their rescue and saving their lives. This doesn’t lessen the pain of losing him, but Bohdan's parents know that not only they lost the most precious thing, but also the whole Ukraine was left without one of its bravest and most worthy citizens.


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