Olena Kukla: “Despite the pain of loss, I haven’t stopped. I realize that what I’m doing now is very important, it is my contribution to our common cause”

Olena Kukla: “Despite the pain of loss, I haven’t stopped. I realize that what I’m doing now is very important, it is my contribution to our common cause”

October 16, 2022, 07:00 69

Olena Kukla is a former soldier, scout, volunteer. Today, Olena is a widow: her husband joined the troops in 2014 and was killed in 2018. Olena’s son fought in the Donbas region from the age of 18. He was among volunteers defending the Kyiv region from the Russian forces in the first days of the full-scale invasion, and died in there while performing a combat mission. Despite her grief, Olena continues to help the army as the head of a volunteer organization. She lives in Bohuslav, Kyiv region.

Olena is the second heroine of the “Women of War” documentary project. It is based on the real stories of eight Ukrainian women whose lives were forever changed by Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Volunteer, Mother and Wife of Fallen Heroes

We meet Olena at her organization’s headquarters.

“In our city and even outside, people know me as a volunteer who can be turned to for help at any time. We receive requests from various military units. Guys ask for absolutely everything, but in majority of cases they need ammunition. We try to load a cargo bus every week and ship it off,” says Olena.

She receives thank you notes from Ukrainian defenders, “Thank you for the cauldron, I will cook the most delicious food in it. Thank you for berets, gloves, coffee, food, and for socks.”

Flag with Zaluzhnyi’s Autograph

“This flag is very memorable for me: it is a gift from my brothers. Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, signed it, and the flag was transferred to me with a personal greeting from the General. This is a great honor and memory for me. The flag is always by my side,” confesses Olena Kukla, displaying the Ukrainian flag.

Twice a Widow and a Mother of Three Children

Olena had an ordinary family, but her first husband tragically died in an accident, and she was left with two small children to be taken care of.

“I didn’t live, I vegetated, but I was holding on for my children,” she admits.

Later, Olena met her second husband. He was also a widower and had a daughter. Thus, her family expanded with one more daughter.

In 2014, when the war began, her husband decided to join the armed forces.

“My son, Yaroslav, was 15 at that time. He was both very worried and proud of his stepfather. Volodymyr fought in the battles for the Donetsk airport. He was shot there, had a concussion. There was a time when he had to take over as a company commander. Since both my husband and my brother fought in the war, I could not sit idly by. I signed a contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and joined the brigade in which my husband served. However, our service was short-lived. On September 7, 2016, my husband died of the previously suffered injury. Aneurism rupture caused instantaneous death,” Olena recalls.

In the Trench, She Asked God to Be Spared for the Sake of the Children

At the time of her husband’s death, her son, Yaroslav was 17. He took this loss very painfully, because his stepfather was a role model for him. Yaroslav was in college, and Olena served in intelligence on the front lines in the Luhansk region.

“Our post was shelled by heavy artillery; three mines were laid next to the trench. At that moment, my whole life flashed before my eyes. I didn’t worry about myself, but about my children. I realized that they have no one but me,” the scout says.

Then Olena was evacuated and hospitalized. She was discharged from the hospital on the first day of the full-scale war.

I have a Dream to See Our Victory

“At that time, my son Yaroslav, had served 4 years. He had not known normal life but a war. We served in the same battalion. He was a scout, and scouts are always ahead.

“Yaroslav was not one of those who could wait. At 8 a.m. on February 24, he was standing with his belongings in the military headquarters. In his group, he was the only one with combat experience at the age of 22. Under missiles, Yaroslav led a group of sixteen soldiers to safety through the 13-kilometer field trail. They were on combat patrol; he was driving a car. It ran into an anti-tank mine and he took the full impact. Yarolsav was the only one of the four who died. I still can’t fully grasp it,” Olena shares her pain.

“My whole life is now connected with him. He is constantly in my thoughts. I founded a charity fund in honor of Yaroslav Shynkarenko. His memory is very important to me; that’s all that is left. Despite the pain of loss, I haven’t stopped. I realize that what I’m doing now is very important, it is my contribution to our common cause,” Olena Kukla emphasizes.
Text — Khrystyna Potereiko,
Traslation — Iryna Ivankovych,
Video — Zhyve TV

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