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‘A shell exploded and shrapnel hit my face’: An injured Ukrainian’s journey from the war to Dublin

No one can be certain about Ukraine’s war after one year of fighting.

The human cost of military confrontations in the past centuries is immense.

Russia and Ukraine have not released exact casualty numbers, but this conflict has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

People like Captain Maks Horobets.


He was a sapper in Ukraine’s 808 Support Regiment and now wears civilian clothes while he navigates the streets of Ireland’s biggest city.

The cotton baseball cap he wears gives him anonymity, but doesn’t cover his wounds.

Warning! A graphic image showing facial injuries is included in the article.

Image Captain Horobets was joined in Ireland by his daughter and wife

Last March, the 30-year-old suffered serious injuries when shrapnel from an artillery shell fired by Russia hit his face.

Before the European Union organized specialist treatment in Dublin, he was transferred from one Ukrainian hospital to another.

He said, “They said that they would help me to get my face back.” “Everyone was happy my face would be repaired.”

Captain Horobets’s unit remained in Zaporizhzhia when the Russians seized territory in eastern Ukraine.

He and two of his colleagues were dispatched to repair a broken communications link on a bridge.

They were however spotted by the enemy who placed an artillery barrage in the area.

“As we waited to the end and were about for departure, several more shells had been fired. He explained that I crouched down and turned my head, then was hit in the head.

“When did it occur to you that you would be hurt?” I was curious.

“It was a severe hit. My face was hit by shrapnel after a shell exploded. I have pictures.

Captain Horobets lost part of his right eye as well as his nose. His right jaw and skull were severely damaged.

His life was saved by doctors in Zaporizhzhia. His jaw was reassembled by maxillofacial surgeons from Lviv, Ukraine.

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Image Captain Horobets was struck by shrapnel

It was evident that he would require specialist, long-term care, something which the overcrowded Ukrainian healthcare system could not offer.

The case was forwarded to the European Union team that runs the medical evacuation operation. It was a complex and unique initiative that has seen more than 2000 of the most severely injured Ukrainians treated in hospitals across Europe.

A team from Brussels discovered a Dublin hospital bed and devised a plan for Captain Horobets to be moved there.

The soldier with severe injuries was taken to Rzeszow, southeast Poland. He was then flown via a French medical plane to Ireland.

Captain Horobets said, “Everything happened so fast,” he added. He had never traveled abroad before his’medevac.

But his progress has been slow.

A severe infection had developed on his right side, and doctors delayed his treatment.

High admission rates in Ireland’s hospitals have caused further delays.

Like everyone else, Captain Horobets has had to wait for his turn.

“I’ve already fought in my war”

Captain Horobets found time to visit fellow Ukrainians such as Ivan Nedobryk who is currently being treated at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin’s outskirts.

Sergeant Nedobryk was twice shot in June at Dolyna, in the Donetsk region.

One bullet entered his shoulder and traveled through his spine, causing the 32-year old to be in a wheelchair.

“How do you feel after [your treatment]?” Captain Horobets asked.

He replied, “I can’t even get up,”

Captain Horobets, after a long pause, said “But you look great.”

Image Seargeant Nedobryk declares he wants to remain in Ireland
Image Sergeant Ivan Nedobryk was hit by a bullet in his spinal column

Sergeant Nedobryk was a troubled man. He feels both psychological and physical pain.

I was asked, “Tell me about war.”

It was horrible – I had never seen anything like it in films. I changed my mind when the war started. I saw what the soldiers go through everyday. It’s difficult to talk about and hard to think about.

“Will your return to Ukraine?” I was curious.

Sergeant Nedobryk said, “To tell you the truth, I’d love to stay here,” and was joined by his family in Ireland.

“I’ve already fought in my war.”

“The truth is on our side”

Captain Horobets has a different plan. He would like to be a part of the eastern front battle.

“Is it worth it?” “I mean, you have suffered,” I said.

“Of course it’s. That is a question! It is.

“The truth is on the side of us. They have caused us so much pain.”

Image Captain Horobets would like to fight

Captain Horobets feels a strong connection to his home and admits to feeling guilt when he looks around at his new surroundings.

He said, “It’s difficult to be safe here when someone is dying there every single day.”

However, he is likely to make the difficult decision of returning to work after completing his treatment.

He is now accompanied in Ireland by his wife, one-year-old daughter and says that they feel safe and happy.


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