Story #94. What Awaits Ukrainians After Victory: Reflections from Machine Gunner Oksana Rubanyak

May 31, 2023
Oksana Rubanyak, call sign Xena, is a 20-year-old Ukrainian writer and soldier. #UkraineWorldTestimony

Now who serves as a machine gunner with the Black Zaporizhzhians 72nd Mechanized Brigade. Before the war, Oksana studied at university, worked in the Ivano-Frankivsk city government in the Department of Youth Policy and Sports, and co-founded a private school.

Oksana decided to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the first day of the full-scale Russian invasion. At first, she served in humanitarian missions in combat zones, but later took up arms herself.

After receiving a shrapnel injury near Vuhledar, Oksana Rubanyak was forced to return home to Ivano-Frankivsk to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. Although she is now safe, Oksana never stops worrying about her comrades and plans to return to the front. "One day, I will have a black ribbon on my photo. It's a matter of time. When you're on the frontline, your day of death approaches thousands of times," Oksana reflects.

"Many of my friends are gone. And where are your friends? They are walking, studying, and working. Mine were killed in battle with the enemy, while others are still fighting for their right to live every day. My fallen friends and I meet not in cafes, parks, or restaurants, but in the cemeteries. Conversations turn into hour-long monologues, watching our photos and videos together, and rarely appearing in our dreams.

I'm used to hearing it lately: "The soldiers will come back and make things right!" Are you sure they will come back? How many? Do you know how many Ukrainian soldiers have actually died during the Russian-Ukrainian war? Yes, we rejoice over the 200,000 mark of dead occupiers. But are you ready for the real number of posthumous Heroes of Ukraine? Are you ready to hear that most of the missing are dead, that their families' searches are pointless, and that their hopes are in vain?

Do you accept the fact that those who will return after the victory will want peace and quiet? They have been fighting all this time, and are exhausted and disappointed. They've lost their health, some have lost limbs, and almost all of them have contusions and psychological problems.

The military in the rear will face disrespect, injustice, and disorder. We will need to learn to coexist, not to blame, not to insult each other, but to coexist."

While she is away from the front, Oksana Rubanyak feels a kind of gap between civilians and the military in how people think. But despite being ready to die, Oksana still wants to live. After Ukraine's victory, she dreams of returning to her pre-war work of developing the private school she co-founded, along with writing poetry and prose.