Ukrainian border guards greeted Zhyzneuski’s parents as heroes.
Parents of the Hero of Ukraine Mikhail Zhyzneuski, Nina and Mikhail, who received the Golden Star order and the documents on behalf of their deceased son from the hands of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, returned from Kyiv to Homel.
Homel residents, who know the family, met the parents of the hero with red and white roses.
– Our Mikhail’s star arrived to his Homeland, – Mrs. Nina told Radio Liberty reporters right after coming out of the bus with her husband. – This time, the road seemed easier than usual. Upon return, the Ukrainian border guards met us with flowers, greeted, offered coffee. My husband had some, but I stayed in the bus as it’s hard for me to walk. The border guards brought passports to the bus themselves after checking. The Belarusian border guards didn’t congratulate us, but also recorded our arrival to the Homeland without demanding we should come out of the bus and go to the passport control hall, as usual.
Mrs. Nina also told about the details of the ceremony in the residence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the reception in Kyiv to the reporters.
– They sent a car for us from the presidential residence. Unexpectedly, the door to the residence got opened and we saw Petro Poroshenko. Shyness came over me. He greeted us and said sincerely, as if we knew each other for ages: “Mrs. Nina, you told me in February you had some health issues, that you came to say goodbye. See, we met again. And we will meet again.” He encouraged me, having said I was a very strong person. And when he said very cordial words about my son, whom he knew personally, and called him “a great Ukrainian and a great Belarusian”, I felt very much relieved. My husband and I are very grateful to the President of Ukraine, and to all Ukrainians, for not having forgotten our son, for appreciating him as a strong fighter for freedom and independence. I think there are many such people in Belarus as well. Ukrainians showed us how to defend the country from corrupt officials at power, along with their own human dignity.
- Did you manage to see the places in Kyiv, connected with your son?
– We always do it when in Kyiv. When we came out of the presidential residence, not only the journalists but the city dwellers met us, with bouquets of roses. We asked to take us to the Hrushevskiy Street where our son was killed by Yanukovych’s mercenaries on January 22, 2014. A people’s memorial made of small-size paving flagstones remained in the center of the street, with Mikhail’s photo on it. We put some roses on this memorial. The Ukrainian authorities placed an official monument to our son not far from it. President Petro Poroshenko and his spouse come to honour his memory on the Day of Remembrance of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes. We put roses there as well. I was so touched, I couldn’t hold back tears. My Ukrainian friends also wiped their eyes. We also rejoiced that Mikhail with this most significant award finally joined the “golden” ranks of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes.
Then we went to the Biloruska Street, where they opened the monument to Belarusians who died for Ukarine. We lighted candles and put flowers there.
- Who, along with the Ukrainian authorities, facilitated the Verkhovna Rada to amend the legislation so that Mikhail Zhyzneuski could be posthumously awarded with the Hero of Ukraine Star?
- Petro Poroshenko himself initiated making such amendments. I also know that our poet-politician Uladzimir Niakliaeu personally spoke to the Ukrainian President about our Mikhail. Film director Volha Nikalaichyk from Minsk also handled this issue.
Our family received sympathy and support from many Homel dwellers who have democratic views. They collected money for the monument, and helped to install it, and held various events on memorable dates, connected with the biography of our son and the independence of Belarus.
- Do you think the Belarusians’ attitude towards Mikhail Zhyzneuski will change after he has been honoured with the Hero of Ukraine Star?
- I think so, but there are different people. I believe the honourable title of a Hero will sort of protect Mikhail’s monument on his grave. And we will not have to appeal to the President of Ukraine to help to protect it from vandals. They tried to dishonour it already, having scraped an offending word “traitor” on it. Our son gave his life for the freedom of not only Ukraine, but Belarus as well.
The hero’s father Mikhail added they planned to name one of Kyiv streets after Mikhail Zhyzneuski. The residents of Kyiv who personally know the family and are aware of the current affairs of the municipal authorities told the hero’s parents about it.
“Sadly, some countrymen from the older generation, who don’t read the alternative sources of information, the internet, don’t have any idea why the Maidan occurred, who is at war in Donetsk and Luhansk. They also think Russia has nothing to do with the war in South-East Ukraine. I am convinced that most young people in Belarus will understand what the heroic deed of our son was about. He was a part of the self-defence, the people who defended the Euromaidan, trying to peacefully release the escalating tension between the protesters and the hawks. Our son was killed with a shot in the heart.”
Having taken a short rest, Nina and Mikhail Zhyzneuskis went to the cemetery to the village of Flag Truda near Homel. They went there with the honourable Ukrainian award, to tell their son – Mikhail, you are a Hero.