In the memory of the 18-year-old Right Sector volunteer Serhii Tabala, Sumy city honored citizen.
Sever's comrade Semen Salatenko, former volunteer soldier of Dnipro battalion, recently elected Sumy regional council deputy with Batkivshchyna party, tells the killed hero's story [shortened for the English version - ed.].
"I met Sever in spring of 2013, he was 17. At that time, he was fighting pedophilia, which was a great local problem.
"One moment he came up to me and said he wanted to fight for Ukraine not only with his words. He was very young and restless, and spoke Ukrainian beautifully - he never used Russian. He had a " Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes!" tattoo on his arms, which he had done before the Maidan.
"He was a patriot who treated Ukraine as a real person. He believed the revolution was to happen, and that Ukraine would need to be fought for. And he did fight.
"In October 2013 we were actively confronting the openly pro-Russian project by Victor Medvedchuk called 'Ukrainian Choice', demolishing their tents, and dispersing their events. It was clear back then what was to follow. No one said it out loud - the war. The only person from my circle who did say that was Sever. He kept saying "We will be fighting with Russia."
"We all realized that this federalization idea by Medvedchuk, who was Putin's friend, would not end well. Maybe in Kyiv it all looked like an election project, but it was not. It was a mechanism of a civil war and destruction of Ukraine being launched. It had to be nipped in the bud then. Me and Sever, we tried to do that then, and the Sumy youth's great achievement at that time was that there was no hint at "DPR" in Sumy, which is close to the Russian border. We had people to protect Ukraine.
"To be honest, real heroes are not saints. Sever had organized his own street gang back in school in order to control his blocks. He was a hooligan. He was a leader when a schoolboy and was trying to solve live issues with his methods. He was a harsh leader. Harsh and tenacious.
"But when Serhii finished his education, he changed a lot. When at high school, he became a Ukrainian nationalist and attempted to rectify his gang, but failed. So he left the group and started to search for comrades who were ultimate Ukraine's patriots.
"He was a reckless fighter. He used to say "Who but us? When but now?" He was afraid of very few things.
"We left for the Maidan from the very beginning, in November. Sever was searching for same decisive guys at Maidan who were ready to stick to guns.
"He was among those who right away started to train how to fight Berkut soldiers with sticks and shields. He was saying from the very beginning that one had to fight militia and that there were fights ahead.
"On Dec. 1 he was among those few boys who smashed Kyiv city administration's windows and penetrated into the building, provoking its seizure by revolutionaries. I watched the video later showing two youngsters in masks coming up with their sticks.
"I went to where they were and we together left for the Presidential Administration. In front of us there was Poroshenko with his security - he climbed a scraping machine and started to speak. I was to Poroshenko's left, Sever - to his right.
"Poroshenko … started to shout out that we had to be quiet and peaceful. I screamed back to him - if you're with us, let's go to the Bankova St. You will lead us. People started to throw small stuff at him. Poroshenko said OK, he would go, and continued to speak. And then several young ones, including Sever, started to grad Poroshenko, and they dragged him off the scraping machine, this big guy! Anyway, he dissolved in the crowd and escaped.
"When people were thrown grenades at, our group split. This moment was the most pivotal for me. At some point, a tide of gas spread, and the mob bobbed down. Everyone. And then a bagpiper sticks out and starts to play the Ukrainian hymn. The mob rises simultaneously and waves against Berkut soldiers. More grenades against us follow, and the wave gets back, bobs down, the bagpiper rises, plays the hymn, and all rise. It repeated several times. This performance was worth an action movie.
"After the Bankova events we parted ways with Sever. He joined the Right Sector, I went to Samooborona (Self-Defense). We still stayed in touch, of course. In January … I also joined the Right Sector. And while I used to be the superior in Sumy, and the kids used to obey, in January at the Maidan I had to subordinate to Sever. He gained authority in the Right Sector really fast; he was able to make people subordinate. He became a respected commander in the Right Sector, he was appreciated, and he participated in every fight.
"During the first day of events at Hrushevskoho St. in January I saw Sever leading a Right Sector unit with another guy from Sumy against Berkut. They were in front of the unit without any protection. I took off my helmet and put in on Sever, and gave my glasses to the other guy. I was a thirty-year old fulfilled man, and they were kids going to fight… I couldn't resist it, so I joined them in the first row.
"He participated in combats with militia on Feb. 18 at Instytutska St. when law enforcers were dispersing the protesters [killing about a hundred of them over three days - ed.].
"During that fighting, when several protesters were killed, Sever opened fire for effect for the first time against those militia men who were beating up unprotected people. He had a revolver and said that had two hits. I am not sure whether it's true, I was not a witness to it. He threw the revolver away after the fighting.
"In the night of Feb. 19, his unit was guarding a barricade at Khreshchatyk Str., where people burned down two armored vehicles with inflammable mixture bottles. He called me from the barricade so I learned about the armored vehicles before the news spread.
"After Maidan Sever looked more like a war lord.
"When the war started, I became a volunteer. I met Sever again in September 2014 - he was wounded for the first time then, and underwent treatment. He got injured by shrapnel in the Donetsk airport when it was like hell there in September; he got there voluntarily and participated in all the combats.
"He came and asked to help with the status [of the anti-terrorist operation participant - ed.] and equipment - he needed uniform, knee cover, gloves, and glasses. I bought him knee covers and gloves. We gathered everything for him; he didn't spend a spare day in the city, for he was hurrying back to the airport, where every fighter counted. As soon as he got released from the hospital, he left. The night before his leaving I took him to a nice brewery for some good beer. I still remember him saying: "I've never drunk such tasty beer in my life." … I told him: " Be careful. There are so many dead heroes, and so few living ones." When he left, I went to Dnipro right after it. I was going through a medical examination to get into the Dnipro battalion when I received this call saying Sever was killed…
"Every Ukrainian shall know why guys like Sever were killed and are being killed now. They were killed not only by Russian missiles and bullets. Not even by the separatists. They were killed by bribable politicians, judges, prosecutors, militia men, who have been robbing our Fatherland for so many years, so that 18-year-olds are being killed in this terrifying war. Each lie, every deceit, each bribe mean a killed person.
" Sever was a hero. That ' s out of question. He knew how to make people like him. He could always be relied upon in a combat. He did love his country. He had been improving and adding to his tattoo all the time, and got it finished right before his death. I met Right Sector fighters who fought with him at the front line, and all of them said he was like a brother to them."
Censor.NET is asking Sever's comrades from the Right Sector, who fought with him at the Maidan and in the Donetsk airport, to get in touch in order to find out more details of the hero's life.
The heroes do not die as long as they are remembered.
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET
Related materials: Episodes of the Russian-Ukrainian war