Hope dies last. Ukraine will be liberated

Hope dies last. Ukraine will be liberated

A distinct change becomes noticeable, driving east toward liberation and a nation's destiny. 

The air becomes heavy, settling upon you with unrelenting, unyielding tension while the stakes for which we fight come into sharpened focus. Living among these swirling gusts of war since the first days of March 2022, I'm still not used to the discernible change that settles in as the Donbas is closer on the map than the Dnipro River.

More than two years after arriving in Ukraine, and despite holding the rank of Sergeant in the Ukrainian Defense Forces, I can't fully comprehend the notion of war. What I do know, however, is that with the passing of three easter Sundays, whatever war was at the beginning of Russia's illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine is now something demonstratively different. This difference, a hybrid monster of unfathomable future tech deployed in the present, zipping over and around battlefields lifted from a century ago, has been discussed by President Zelensky, Commander in Chief Syrskyi, and numerous others. And while the current reality of Ukraine's fight for liberation has been analyzed at length by a plethora of journalists and think tank denizens, only those who experience it can truly appreciate not only the scale of the changes but the reality of the impact it has on those serving the forces of good during a period of seismic changes and under such tumultuous and harrowing conditions.

The 5th Assault Brigade gives thanks to the American people on behalf of Commander in Chief Syrskyi and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Photo credit: Sarah Ashton-Cirillo

Due to the factors that make up the conditions above and the fact that neither living under a constant barrage of terrorist attacks nor fighting in combat is an emotionally monolithic or homogenized experience, I asked my command to allow me to join a team from the General Staff's Directorate of Strategic Communications of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on an information gathering and media mission to the eastern frontlines of the Donbas.

The purpose of this trip was twofold for me. With upwards of 25,000 Russian troops amassing in the areas around Chasiv Yar, my first goal was to visit my colleagues defending the furthest lines of contact to understand better the challenges they are facing in the present while also engaging with them as to their ongoing morale and psycho-social resilience. I could then share their successes and ongoing resolve directly with the global audience.

The second aspect of our journey held equal importance. In the face of unrelenting lies and false claims of censorship churned out by those opposing both Ukraine's civilian government and the Ukrainian Defense Forces, ZSU leadership allowed a representative of an independent media outlet to join us on the journey to the zero line. In this area, I would be acting as the defacto media liaison. From President Zelensky and his advisors to Colonel-General Syrskyi and his team of senior officers, the country's entire leadership structure values free press and free speech. This trip and what it means for the future of journalism in Ukraine, along with other recent developments, including the appointment of Commander Dmytro Pletenchuck as spokesperson of Operational Command South, are clear indicators of those values.

After an arduous trip from Kyiv, our team of six settled in Kramatorsk. Our first assignment was meeting with soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine's Fifth Assault Brigade. Touring recent wreckage wrought upon Ukrainian civilians by Putin's terrorist cabal in several towns along the road to Chasiv Yar, multiple members of the highly decorated assault unit made clear that a return to Ukraine's 1991 borders was still the goal, still the order they were pursuing.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and the vote in the US House of Representatives made clear the American people stood united in freedom with Ukrainians. Passing the ruins of a destroyed kindergarten in Kostyantynivka, targeted just days before by the Kremlin, with sun rays glistening off shards of blown-out windows and rust-specked rebar breaking through concrete at mangled angles, the guys asked that we stop.

In this setting, as coloring books and oversized maps of a liberated Ukraine blew among our boots, they grabbed an American flag and a Ukrainian one, agreeing to make a video on behalf of the commander-in-chief and the country, thanking the American people for their support.

Bidding our goodbyes, one assault soldier with the call sign "Yankee" told us to remind the Russians that this aid package with the long-range ATACMS is just the start of what's coming. He finished with a warning for them to "just wait" until the F-16s arrived.

Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo 

This will be a semi-regular dispatch from the eastern frontlines of Ukraine's war for liberty and liberation

The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Ukrinform's editorial board.

While citing and using any materials on the Internet, links to the website ukrinform.net not lower than the first paragraph are mandatory. In addition, citing the translated materials of foreign media outlets is possible only if there is a link to the website ukrinform.net and the website of a foreign media outlet. Materials marked as "Advertisement" or with a disclaimer reading "The material has been posted in accordance with Part 3 of Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine "On Advertising" No. 270/96-VR of July 3, 1996 and the Law of Ukraine "On the Media" No. 2849-Х of March 31, 2023 and on the basis of an agreement/invoice.

© 2015-2024 Ukrinform. All rights reserved.

Extended searchHide extended search
By period: