A year ago on 24 August – the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence – a new generation of pilots were leading the Ukrainian air forces flying over Independence Square in Kyiv. The fighter jet column was headed by Anton Lystopad, who was recognised as one of the country’s best pilots. He was 30 years old, born in the year of independence. Almost a year later, in August 2022, Lystopad received the Order for Courage from the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. A few days after the ceremony, he was killed in combat.
Lystopad’s story may sound almost too symbolic, but Ukrainians have become used to such tragic symbolism. Six months on from the start of the Russian invasion, with its indiscriminate bombardment of peaceful towns, the atrocities and horrors of Bucha and Mariupol, but also the solidarity, resilience and sacrifices we have experienced, everything feels sharper and deeper. The bitterness of losses and the joy of survival.