We have reported on the untimely death of Nikolai Berezovoi, husband of Ukrainian investigative journalist Tetyana Chornovol. His wife and children remain must now face life without him, and in her newspaper’s blog, Tetyana bids a final farewell to the man she loved so dearly, the father of her little ones.
This translation is from the Ukrainian language, and my Ukrainian is sorely lacking, so I’ll issue apologies from the outset. Due to space this will be a condensed version, but even so, we do not seek to condense or abbreviate any of the accomplishments or character of a man who will be missed. You may recall that Tetyana was severely beaten and left for dead this past December because of her work as a journalist. She and her family have paid dearly to defend their homeland.
I am in Borispol (village outside Kyiv) at 12:00 Noon. We are at the cemetery and here also is the grave of Ukrainian composer and poet Pavel Chubinsky, author of Ukraine’s national anthem, “Ukraine Is Not Yet Dead”. My Nikolai loved that anthem and the words served him sincerely. He believed those words with all his heart.
Nikolai did not seek publicity. He was not really meant for public relations or politics. He just fought for Ukraine. He wanted his homeland to be free, He was born in the Donbass region and lived there most of his life. He wanted to liberate his native land from the rebel invaders.
He believed that the duty of every free man is to fight for his country. He believed that freedom is offered rarely, maybe even once every thousand years, and so a man must make a choice whether to live free, or in servitude. One much choose freedom or death–he chose to fight for the future of his children.
He understood that choosing freedom often bears a heavy price. He wanted to be an example to other men, that freedom gives dignity and that Ukraine will eventually win. If we stick together, we can claim the real Ukraine, a country where patriotism and service to our country, with dignity, is the norm.
For centuries we have been the slaves of other masters. We must survive and build a stable Ukrainian state, because without that, we will continue to be dominated by others.
Nikolai and I were partners. He supported me, even when my life was at risk when writing about corruption and injustice. He believed that a free country was worth the sacrifice of our lives.
He was so happy that I survived the assassination attempt on my life in December! He loved me very much, all 12 years of our life together. I knew that he suffered because of my work. He worried much, but supported me.
He died for freedom. He was killed because he was bright and genuine. Under sniper fire, he rushed to rescue the wounded–such were his duties as a commander, and he believed himself responsible for each of his men. He died helping others understand the value of freedom.
I was also there for a few days before the battle. I learned to clean his gun, and everyone laughed. I wanted to be with him, at his side, to do something useful. But I knew that the presence of a loved one is a burden on the commander. I returned to the cit of Mariupol.
He and I were one, and his men made me feel welcome, like a relative. They were the best, because when a person makes the choice to sacrifice for his country, it brings out the best of human qualities. Sadly, with government, it is the contrary.
I regret that when he died I was not near. I realized that he was at war, and that he might die, but I prayed that the end of this war would be soon. Now I now ask myself if maybe I could have helped? We were each others’ guardian angels.
He was wounded in the leg, fatally. He bled for me, he died for me, so far away …
The chance to say goodbye never came. On that day at five in the morning, he sent a text: “Storming city of Ilovaysk. Connectivity is lost, so do not worry., I love you.”
I read his text later that morning. I answered: “I love you very much. Hold on.” My text was never answered because he was already dead.
He was so organized, smart and competent. He always checked my writing for errors. He often had a problem with employment because of my work as an investigative journalistic.
But my Nikolai did not die in vain, not in vain, not in vain!
Our Ukraine is and will become free. His sacrifice will be an example, giving hope and enthusiasm for the best. In his blood, and the blood of others who make this choice for freedom, we will travel this road to the end.
Ukraine will win now, and our independence will be paid for by the blood of warriors. He was one of those warriors, fighting for survival not only for his direct descendants, but for the future of all Ukrainians.
So, all is not lost. Heroes do not live or die in vain. Self-sacrifice is never in vain. Ever.
My Nicholas! My Sunshine! He loved me and the children.
Forgive me for not being there to say goodbye.
I love you.