Oleksandr Maksymenko: Reconnaissance officer risks life to end war; ‘my duty, my job to be there’

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Name: Oleksandr Maksymenko

Age: 29

Education: Military Academy in Odesa

Profession: reconnaissance officer

Did you know? He was awarded the Bohdan Khmelnytsky medal “For Personal Courage” for carrying out a successful reconnaissance mission in Donetsk Oblast in 2015.

Since early childhood, Oleksandr Maksymenko had dreamed of a career in the military. His favorite movies were about soldiers, in particular the 1971 movie “Officers,” a Soviet drama that tells the story of two friends and army officers who fall in love with the same woman, but retain their friendship and sense of duty.

“They always had that right patriotic mood,” Maksymenko says of the characters in the film. He fulfilled his childhood ambition: First, he persuaded his father that he wanted to become a soldier, and then he moved to Odesa so that he could study at what then was called the Odesa Institute of Ground Forces (Odesa Military Academy).

Maksymenko served with the 25th brigade before being assigned to the Intelligence Center of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in 2013.

The Russian-instigated war in the eastern Ukraine was the next challenge for the young soldier.

Maksymenko first went to eastern Ukraine in 2014, when a Russian special forces group seized the police station and district Security Service of Ukraine headquarters in Sloviansk, a Donetsk Oblast city of 125,000 people.

He recalls having mixed feelings then, as no one understood what exactly was going on.

“I remember it was really different to what we saw later in Ilovaisk or Mariupol,” Maksymenko said. “Before that we hadn’t experienced a real war raging on our own territory.”

Back in 2014, years of neglect of the army’s personnel, weapons, healthcare, training, and equipment exacted a painful and very real cost, Maksymenko said. Since then, army conditions have improved slightly, but there’s more to be done. He says he hopes soldiers will be better rewarded for accomplishing their missions and can count on social and health care during their service.

Maksymenko has spent months on the frontlines risking his life to “bring the war to its end.”

“We still have to fight, even though there are not many results in the fourth year,” Maksymenko said, adding that he returned home from the Donbas in July and could be sent back there at any time again.

Maksymenko says he doesn’t need any motivation to go to the war zone.

“I never think of it as a burden, it’s my duty, my job to be there,” Maksymenko explains. “I only wish that the war would end and the fighters could come back home.”

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