A farewell letter from Ukrainian paramedic Iryna Tsybukh

Combat medic Iryna 'Cheka' Tsybukh died in action near the frontline in Kharkiv region last week. Last year, she wrote a farewell letter to her brother, 'just in case'. A day after her death, Yuriy Tsybukh shared his sister's impressive words on his Instagram page. 

Iryna Tsybukh died near Kharkiv last week. Photo: Hospitaliers Paramedics

by Iryna Tsybukh

Iryna Tsybukh would have turned 26 on Saturday, June 1st. Instead, a memorial was held for her in Kyiv on June 2nd, and she was buried in her hometown Lviv on June 3rd. She was a journalist by profession, and joined the medical volunteer battalion Hospitaliers at the start of the full-scale invasion. Tsybukh regularly appeared in Ukrainian media, where she shared her experiences from the war.

After her death, Iryna's brother Yuri Tsybukh published a letter she had previously written to him, in case of her death. The volunteer organization Saint Javelin translated the letter into English:

Hi, accept my condolences. I don’t like seeing you sad, but over time, this despair will fade, and life will go on. So don’t waste time on suffering, move forward.

It’s now 7:19 PM, Saturday, April 8, 2023. My team and I are working on reconnaissance for the 80th brigade. ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith is playing in the background. There have been so many close calls this past year, I figured I should write a posthumous letter just in case.

It’s sad to me how we lead our frail lives, relying on societal approval so much, that we only find true freedom in death alone. The only problem is that life ends, and then freedom bears no meaning. From today on, I don’t care what people will say about me, about you, about this text, about anything. Whether these words get likes or not, in the end no one’s opinion matters to me anymore because l’m dead.

Freedom is the highest value. Almost 25 years passed by, often bogged down by fears and insecurities. But these distractions had no place in my pursuit of freedom. I’m grateful to myself, my parents, my brother, my family, and my friends for allowing me to be free and live the life I wanted.

In order to be free, you have to attain new kinds of values. You have to understand yourself well, and know who you are, know what happiness means to you and how to achieve it. Once you have these answers, the most important thing is to keep moving forward. Here in Donetsk, I’m on my path, being myself and doing what I want.

Nothing else matters really, which is why writing this letter comes so easily. Right this moment, same as the moment when my time comes, I have no regrets in the face of death because I’m finally living the life that I wanted. I won’t lie: to feel this true freedom, I’ll need more rounds of therapy, face more fears, and shed more tears.

Today, everything is behind me. My life is over, and it was important for me to live with dignity: to be honest, kind, and loving. Today, we are working for the heroes, and it’s a great way to reaffirm my values – to be that person truly.

Thank you to everyone who loved and supported me. Don’t mourn me, life is so short. If it continues after death, we’ll meet again.

My brother, don’t worry about me. I stopped worrying about you when you turned 17. Today, you had your first tour of princely Lviv, and I’m so proud of you. Whoever you choose to be, trust yourself, listen to yourself, love yourself, and live a happy life. If I can, I’ll support you from heaven. But what really matters is that while I was alive, we loved each other and were wonderful siblings. Those were good times. Let these memories warm you and motivate you, but don’t let them upset you.

To have the strength to be a free person, you must be brave. Only the brave find happiness, and it is better to die running than to live rotting. Be worthy of the feats of our heroes, don’t despair, and be brave!

Kisses, yours

04.08.23 Donetsk region

KozatskyThe service in Saint Michael's Cathedral in Kyiv was followed by a procession to Independence Square. Photo: Orest Kozatsky
Valya PolischukMemorial for Iryna Tsybukh on Independence Square in Kyiv. Photo: Valya Polishchuk

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