Story #115: He Was Dubbed "Tonko" by Everyone

September 26, 2023
Dedicated to the memory of Canadian volunteer Anthony Ihnat, who helped Ukraine until his last breath.

Anthony "Tonko" Ihnat, 58, a Slovak-born Canadian. He lived in Ontario before moving to Ukraine, where he worked as a handyman and supported the hockey team "Toronto Maple Leafs."

He sold his truck and moved to Ukraine to volunteer in 2022. The Canadian had nothing to do with Ukraine other than a genuine desire to assist.

"The news of what's going on here struck me right in the gut. My parents emigrated from Slovakia. I never had the opportunity to visit there, but it's very close. So, I've developed a soft spot for Ukraine. That's why I'm here, doing my bit," Tonko would say.

Tonko volunteered for several organizations, including "Brave to Rebuild" and "Road to Relief."

"On February 21st, I met Tonko. It was his first time volunteering for our organization. We seemed to have known each other for a very long time. He was very easy to talk to, and he was very positive and bright. "People were drawn to him," Taisia, a member of the "Brave to Rebuild" team, recalled.

Tonko never shied away from the most difficult and dangerous jobs. He traveled to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, delivering humanitarian aid and evacuating civilians and the dead in the Donetsk Oblast.

Tonko in a Bakhmut neighborhood. Facebook/Stepan Bilynskyy

"Despite being 58 years old and the majority of our team being young, we never felt the age gap." Surprisingly, he quickly became a close friend of ours. We even went to Ukrainian band concerts together. Because he was always interested in Ukrainian culture, we wanted to immerse him in it."

Tonko and other foreign volunteers were traveling from Chasovyi Yar to Ivanivske (Donetsk Oblast) on September 9th to deliver aid to civilians along the "Road of Death."

A Russian shell directly hit their vehicle. Emma Igual, a Spanish citizen, was later reported dead as another foreign volunteer.

"It's a huge loss for us because he was such a genuine and kind person. Perhaps I've never met such a kindhearted individual. Despite having no Ukrainian connections or friends, he came here and did everything he could" Taisiya added.

"All of his friends called him Tonko, and that's how he always introduced himself."

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld