Mykhailo Dymyd: “At my son Artemiy’s funeral, I said that heroes die. But on dying they leave a grain, an idea, an action, a positive vision of the future”

Mykhailo Dymyd. Photos: Roman Malko


The Ukrainian Week had a talk about how to endure son’s loss, about heroism as well as about spiritual readiness for sacrifice with Father Mykhailo Dymyd, the father of Artemiy Dymyd, a senior sailor of the Special Ops Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who died of a mortal wound on June 18 in the Mykolaiv Oblast. The conversation took place on the Lviv-Cherkasy-Mykolaiv trip, during which Father Mykhailo tried to reach the place where his son died, and also met with his brothers-in-arms.

On June 21, the whole Lviv came to say goodbye to 27-year-old Artemiy. According to the city council’s information, it was the most crowded funeral in the city during the full-scale war. At the wake Artemiy’s mother Ivanka sang a lullaby to her son, and his sisters and brother covered the coffin with a parachute. Artemiy loved extreme sports. He was in Brazil base-jumping from the statue of Christ the Redeemer when Russia launched a full-scale invasion. He also visited half a hundred countries of the world, riding his motorbike. He was a member of «Plast» from the age of seven, and when he returned to war-torn Ukraine and joined the Armed Forces, his scout nickname Kurka (it literally means «a hen») – became his call-sign.

Artemiy Dymyd

Memory of the Most Precious Things

Father Mykhailo Dymyd – a priest, theologian, scholar, the first rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University – currently temporarily lives in Belgium, where he was born. He takes care of his old mother. He only occasionally comes to Ukraine. At the moment of tragedy Father was in Lviv, and he had to take the brunt of fate. «I got a call from Artemiy’s best friend. Only 14-year-old Emilia, my youngest daughter, was at home then. I called her to me and asked to hug me. We hugged, and I said: Artemiy is gone, Artemiy is dead. I started crying, and so did Emilia. Then she said, «This is the first time I’ve ever seen you crying.»

Mykhailo Dymyd

For some, it will look strange, but while waiting for the last meeting with their son, the parents thought about the best way to immortalize his memory.

–  Ivanka came up with an idea to create a scholarship in memory of Artemiy, – says Father, – I immediately went to Father-rector of the UCU Bohdan Prakh, and two days before the funeral there was already an announcement. As of today, the scholarship ($75000) is almost collected. There is also another scholarship from an anonymous donor for 10 years. That is, we have two scholarships named after Artemiy Dymyd. One is for a student, who is the member of «Plast», and another one is for any student of the UCU.»

In Son’s Footsteps

Father felt the urge to go to the place where his son was killed, to meet with those who were by his side in his last moments, and to see the father of Artemiy’s comrade Pavlo Nakonechny (nickname Historian), with whom Artemiy died. During the war, the realization of this idea seemed almost unreal. But he had to try.

Before leaving Lviv, we visit Artemiy’s grave. During the six months of the war, the newly created cemetery on the Field of Mars (Marsove Pole) grew considerably. Artemiy’s grave is decorated with two large red and black flags. «Plast» neckerchiefs are tied on the cross, and there are sunflowers in a vase. After the memorial service, a young woman approaches Father. Her son is buried in the next row. She says that an hour after she heard the news about the death of Artemiy, she learned that her son had also died.

Grave of Artemiy Dymyd in Lviv

Before going to Mykolaiv, we are heading to Cherkasy to see Historian’s father Yury. He can be sent to the front any day, so we need to hurry. The acquaintance of two parents, whose sons gave their lives for the Motherland, is what both of them seems to really be needed. The families from Lviv and Cherkasy are now forever united by the death of their children. Pavlo’s father, like Artemiy’s, also aims at preserving the memory of his hero son and wants to continue his noble duty. Two years ago, in the legendary Kholodny Yar in Cherkasy region, Pavlo Nakonechny, together with like-minded people, founded the public organization «Call of the Yar» and regularly held patriotic camps for children. He believed that in order for Ukraine to be successful and strong, it is necessary first of all to raise responsible and conscious youth.

Not Letting the Heroes Die

– Brooding about the death of my son, who died for the will of Ukraine, I think about the fact that I accepted it and thank God for it, – says Father Mykhailo. – On the other hand, I mull over how this should be interpreted in the culture of each nation. In our tradition, , we lack fresh examples of love for the Motherland. We are mainly talking about Cossacks, about soldiers of the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). New heroes are emerging now, and we need their life-stories. Where did they come from, what was their lineage, how did they live, what were their ideals and how did they give their lives for the Motherland?

– Ukrainians have this formula of self-soothing – heroes never die, isn’t it harmful,

– I ask my father, – a self-deception behind which we want to hide our pain, but which does not heal?

– At Artemiy’s funeral, I said that heroes die. But on dying they leave a seed, an idea, an action, a positive vision of the future. They die physically, but they do not die spiritually, because they leave behind an example that will be followed by younger generations. Well, yes, pain, sacrifice, death, they exist. But all this is the price to pay to be a hero.

Farewell to Artemiy Dymyd in the Church of St. Clement in Lviv. A mother sings the last lullaby for her son. Video: UCU

It will be self-delusion if we leave the fulfillment of all tasks to those heroes and our past, – Father Mykhailo continues. – Like, since we struggled before, we will defeat the Muscovites. Since I suffered a lot, I can take bribes. We are a heroic people who, for generations, gave their sons for the freedom of Ukraine. Only heroism did not bear the appropriate fruits in those times. And one of the reasons for this is that the example of the heroes was not transferred to the people. They glorified heroes, but did not follow them, allowing themselves to compromise with the truth and conscience.

The present time differs. A whole generation of young people has already grown up in the independent Ukraine, perceiving it as their own home, in which you should be the master. These young people noticed that their parents were not good at keeping house and wanted to change that. They started with themselves, and from them emerged those who are heroes who fight and give their lives, who influence the future – economic, historical, and cultural.

Readiness to sacrifice

– Is it possible to quell the pain just by realizing your child’s heroism? – I ask Father Mykhailo. – Any death, no matter how heroic, is a terrible loss. Especially when it comes to the death of a beloved child.

– Losing a son in war is always a tragedy for everyone, – the priest answers, – especially for parents.

– I don’t know how to endure it though, – he admits, – I’m enduring it positively.

I’m a bit confused, but the father continues his point:

– There are three phases of life. The first is in the womb of our mother, when we are to be born for this earth. Then we live on this earth as long as God gives us time. After death, a person goes to eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. And I deeply believe in this transition. When I think about Artemiy, my son, I am sure that he lived here to the fullest and was already ready for the transition to eternity. I am convinced that God does not take anyone from this earth without giving him the opportunity to prepare, to think about his life and, in particular, that he may leave one day.

Well, yes, there is still an emotional moment of nostalgia when I could touch and hug him. Does this nostalgia bring pain? It does. Do I feel empty? I do. But does it prevent me from living? No, it doesn’t. Does it take away my strength? On the contrary, it gives me strength. As a Christian, I am sure that when God blesses something like this to happen, He will make up for it. When God calls Abraham and says: «Take your son Isaac, take him to the hill and offer him there as a sacrifice to Me.» Before that, God promises Abraham that he will become the father of a whole nation, and here he has to sacrifice his only son. But Abraham goes and is ready to sacrifice. Only in the last moment does a lamb appear, and God says to sacrifice this lamb. This willingness to sacrifice his son is very important. If you are ready for this, you receive a blessing from the Lord to become the father of a whole nation. These are the categories of thinking that show another layer of our life. And if you touch that, the son’s death is life-giving, brings new life.

Father Mykhailo during a divine service with military personnel in the Mykolaiv Oblast

– Were you ready for the sacrifice? – I ask. – When Artemiy went to war, you realized that everything could happen?

– Of course, I realized, but at the level of the subconscious, not at the level of thinking. As a priest, I bury people and talk about the three phases of life that I have already mentioned. When we look at the Crucifixion, we see death, but we do not believe in that death, but in the Resurrection, in the life that comes after death. This is an existential question: how do we feel about death? If death is the end, then we are miserable. If death is a transition, then there is a completely different perspective of eternity. And I think that on this earth we create for eternity.

If Only the Struggle Weren’t in Vain

On the way from Cherkasy to Mykolaiv, we plan to visit the youngest son of Father Mykhailo, Dmytro, who is also fighting on the southern front. The priest brings him a brand new copter from grandmother Lesya Krypyakevych. Next, we are to stay in the city of shipbuilders for the night, but, as it sometimes happens, when you plan to make a beeline and go across the country, be ready for adventures. No, we do not get lost. However, the good road suddenly ends, and we have to swerve around  huge number of pits. At the checkpoint between the steppe villages, where we arrive in the middle of the night, the local guys sincerely sympathize with us and show a secret Chumak path, which is much more comfortable and faster to drive. This is what saves us.

Mykhailo Dymyd during a trip to Mykolaiv Oblast

In general, our trip turns out to be surprisingly successful, we are lucky to accomplish almost everything planned, which in these unpredictable wartime circumstances often seems unrealistic. The only thing that will never be achieved is to get to the place of death of Historian and Kurka, but there is a justifiable reason for this.

– I took the trip to Mykolaiv Oblast as a personal mission, – Father Mykhailo says, – to advance as far as possible towards the front to the place where my son Artemiy died, in order to gather evidence and facts. We were not able to get to the place where he was mortally wounded, because there is still a flash point, but we  met many of his comrades, spoke to them, and this gives us a lot of information and evidence.

– Our struggle is a struggle for us, – the priest states. – Maybe it’s selfish, but we fight to live well. A story about modern heroes will help the younger generation to see these heroes next to them. To see heroes, about whom they can hear from friends; but I knew him, and I saw him. It is very important. Because then it is already a different attitude to their rank, a different level of adoption. This is almost mine. I will be the same. I will not be afraid. I will have an idea, I will protect my Motherland, I will be wise and sharp. I will study and try to make this struggle meaningful, so that it is not about sacrifice, but about the future and development.