TV journalist joins Ukrainian military after fiancé dies fighting Russian forces


Oleksandr Makhov held a grenade as he proposed to Anastasiia Blyshchyk for a wedding day that never happened (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

Bending down on one knee, Oleksandr Makhov offers a grenade pin as he proposes to his partner from Ukraine’s frontline with Russian forces.

Clad in battle gear, the soldier playfully holds up the explosive to the camera as he asks Anastasiia Blyshchyk to take his hand in marriage. 

Oleksandr got the answer he wanted, but would not live to see the day.   

A month later, the 36-year-old reservist was killed by Russian artillery fire as he fought to reclaim territory in the eastern Kharkiv region. 

Anastasiia, 23, has now left her job as a national TV presenter so she can continue his work, becoming a soldier near Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been dubbed the ‘meat grinder’ because of the high rate of casualties on both sides.   

She tells how their lives changed overnight after Russia launched the full-scale invasion, shattering their life in Kyiv, where they would share their last hug at an enlistment office.

‘In the evening of February 24, we had dinner at home and went to the military commissariat,’ the journalist says.

‘We hugged each other and I believed that it was not the last hug.  

‘But on May 9, I hugged a closed coffin.’

Anastasiia serves with the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Izyum in the Kharkiv region (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

Oleksandr first joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2015 as a volunteer before becoming a TV reporter specialising in military journalism.

Receiving mobilisation orders two days before the all-out assault, he joined the 95th Separate Amphibious Assault Brigade as a sergeant.  

Oleksandr was killed by Russian artillery fire on May 4 in the village of Dovhenke, which lies near the city of Izyum. 

His sacrifice was not in vain. A few months later, Ukrainian forces drove Russian troops from the settlement and most of the Oblast in a rapid counter-offensive.

Anastasiia and Oleksandr embrace for what would be the last time (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

The soldier was posthumously awarded the Ukrainian Order for Courage (Third Class) by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and has had a street named after him in the capital. 

Anastasiia has been left with memories of their time before the war, which was fractured as the first air and missile strikes hit Kyiv.

‘Before the Russian invasion I had everything without realising it,’ she says.

‘We travelled together, went snowboarding in the Carpathian mountains, went to the movies for premieres and had picnics on weekends.

Anastasiia covers Ukraine’s Independence Day in 2020 (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

Anastasiia changes a street sign in Kyiv as it is renamed after her fiancé (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

‘Everything changed on February 22 when Oleksandr called me and asked me to pack all his equipment because he was a reservist in the Ukrainian army. Two days later, Oleksandr woke me up with a phone call.   

‘A while later I heard distant explosions outside the window.’  

In the proposal video, Oleskandr, known as Sasha, doesn’t flinch as artillery fire sounds in the background before dropping onto one knee and smiling into the camera while he asks the question.

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On Facebook, Anastasiia wrote, ’How I got a grenade ring instead of a wedding ring. Of course, YES!’  

The serviceman fell as Ukrainian forces resisted the invaders in the prelude to the lightning counter-attack which recaptured Izyum and other eastern cities at the end of September.  

Anastasiia decided the best way to honour her fiancé was on the battlefield, ignoring her loved ones’ pleas as she joined the Kharkiv Brigade as a soldier.

They have entered liberated Izyum and now hold the defence there.   

Anastasiia with the tools of war in liberated Izyum (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

The former Telekanal 24 journalist currently serves near Bakhmut, the focal point of the war which has been the scene of intense and brutal fighting.  

While she is principally a soldier, she acts as a press officer, leading journalists to the combat zone, helping to organise their work and protecting them from mines and other hazards. 

She has also told the serviceman’s story for a photography exhibition about the role of media in the war and the alleged killing and wounding of journalists by Russian forces.

Anastasiia serves with the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Izyum (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

The new recruit knows how to disassemble, clean and reassemble and fire a machine gun and how to shoot from an armoured personnel carrier. 

She hopes to one day raise the blue and yellow flag in Oleksandr’s home province of Luhansk, which is held by Russian-backed proxy forces in the eastern Donbas region.   

‘Only one thought held me on the Earth after his death.’ Anastasiia says.   

‘I realised I had to do everything that Oleksandr did not have time to finish. Because if not me, then who?’

Anastasiia and Oleksandr at a concert in Kyiv before the full-scale invasion (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

Oleksandr’s legacy includes being part of a valiant Ukrainian military resistance that has driven Russian troops from the approaches to Kyiv and reclaimed swathes of territory in the east and south.   

Vladimir Putin has responded with the grinding assault on Bakhmut and launched waves of drone and missile strikes aimed at destroying the country’s civilian infrastructure as the freezing winter sets in.

A huge bombardment yesterday targeted the national energy grid and left Kharkiv, the second city, without power.

Anastasiia raises the Ukrainian flag in Izyum (Picture: Anastasiia Blyshchyk/Instagram/@anastasiia_blyshchyk)

Anastasiia nevertheless envisages a future where Moscow’s forces have been defeated and Ukrainians no longer have to bear arms.   

‘Victory should be in the heart of every Ukrainian,’ she says.    

‘We must do everything so that our children or grandchildren do not have to pick up weapons again.’

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