Story #126: Officer Orest - A Fearsome Bear With a Kind Heart

December 6, 2023
Deep reflections of a Reconnaissance Officer on fear, support, growth and honor of the military profession.

Orest, call sign 'Bear', Junior Lieutenant, Head of the Reconnaissance Group.

Whirling in a frenzied dance with war, do not lose yourself, nor those for whom you entered this dance.

UkraineWorld continues to share with you the stories of Ukrainian soldiers, because each of them is unique and significant, and behind the same uniform hides completely different worldviews and characters, which together are the strength that keeps the Ukrainian army going.

Orest looks like a strong and stern man, but his voice is filled with kindness, balance, and compassion.

He enlisted in the army as a volunteer soldier at the start of the full-scale invasion. He has a wife, a 9-year-old daughter, and a one-and-a-half-year-old son waiting for him at home.

In his civilian life, Orest was involved in a handful of pastimes. He is a veterinarian by trade. However, his favourite occupation was carpentry.

"I really enjoyed working with wood. It is alive and warm in comparison to metal."

He had no prior military experience, but he had long gotten used to difficult conditions, loads, and cold from hiking in the mountains.

War is like tourism: the more comfortable your gear is, the safer your hike, Orest jokes.

According to his hiking buddies, he got his nickname because his walking style is lethargic like a bear's.


"Understanding and formation comes when you get closer to the contact line. Especially if you have never dealt with weapons before. Everything becomes very confusing when something starts shooting, falling, or flying over your head. Training centres will never prepare you for this."

At the beginning of the full-scale operation, Orest's brigade was thrown into "interesting" places,  he says.

"Krasnopillia, and Dolyna in Donetsk Oblast are among the more 'serious' ones. Tanks are destroying everything, shrapnel is falling, planes are flying, and helicopters are striking. You stand there and think, "Oh, my God, where have I come? What do they want from me and what am I supposed to do here?" Orest says in a lighthearted tone.

"In these moments, the most important thing is to gather yourself, to realize that, scary as it may be, this is your job from now on. Accept it and begin to evolve."


"The main paradigms for a soldier, in my opinion, are three: find time to sleep; drink plenty of water; after you have slept well and cleaned yourself up a bit, do not stop training, read literature, watch training videos, and develop your subordinates."

"Training, even though it may not always reveal the whole essence of where you are going, significantly increases your chances of successfully completing a combat mission and surviving."

According to Orest, systematic training with weapons is also crucial, as it develops the skill of automaticity.

"When you get to the front, no matter how strong a lion you are, it all comes down to instincts and what you have developed in your muscle memory."

"The longer I stay here, the more I realize how much more I need to learn and study. The longer I stay here, the more I realize how little I understand."


Fear does not fade away with time. I believe that being fearless is a bad thing, and that person will not last long. There should be a healthy fear of change and an understanding that anything can happen at any time. You must mentally prepare for this.

At the front, it is vital to take care not only of yourself but also of your fellow soldiers, helping them to cope with the anxiety that no one can escape.

Everyone is unique. Everyone needs an individual approach. The most important thing is not to show your fear. Make an effort to speak clearly. To demonstrate that, no matter how dire the situation, there is always a way out and everything is not so bad.

"All the guys around me are great people, professionals, people who want to develop and achieve something, wonderful, incredible. They are all great. I am extremely grateful to the fate that I know them, and that I have the honour to serve with them. Maybe I don't always tell them that, but I really love them all. They are all very important to me. They provide tremendous support. Without them, everything would be different."


"The army needs to be brought to a completely different level. We need to change society's and the military's attitude. They must understand that they have to be a model of dignity, honour, and loyalty. An example of behaviour."

We need to move away from the Soviet paradigm that says that those who could not enter an educational institution and did not want to do anything join the army.

"An exemplary soldier is a model of determination, dignity, and honour. This is a person who shows what society should strive for. This is a physically and intellectually developed person who does not rest on his laurels and is always learning. A person who, in addition to military training, reads classical literature. A person who gives up his seat on public transportation does not litter, etc. In other words, the Ukrainian soldier is the standard of civilization. A person who shows others through his actions and work that there are no unattainable goals."

In addition, the outdated perception of women in the military is also a problematic echo of the past, Orest adds. In his unit, there are women who do mostly medical and paperwork. Orest claims that there is also a lot of Sovietism in this context. Senior commanders find it difficult to see women as a full-fledged combat force on the front lines.

"I have no prejudice against women in the army. If she can be a machine gunner, why not? If a woman wants to work with documentation, that's fine too. This is also a job that needs to be done."

Describing the image of an exemplary soldier, Orest is modest about himself, comparing himself to "a small cog in a big system, just doing his job."

This trait is common to many Ukrainian soldiers. It seems that sometimes they shyly downplay the importance of their contribution, while without the coordinated and hard work of these "cogs", there would be no cohesive army and no such valuable sense of security among civilians.

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld