Mykola Mykolayovych Zabavchuk was born on October 25, 1996 in Lviv, Ukraine. Микола, Mykola, Nikolai, or “Nick” as he might be called in English, was beloved. And it’s not hard to understand why. He was thoughtful, decent, kind, outgoing, and effusively generous. And he carried himself with an infectiously warm and welcoming smile that was a steadfast reflection of the joyful, exuberant and optimistic soul within. He was dedicated always to his family and friends, and they to him.
He was a loving son to his mama, Larisa, and to his tato, Mykola Sr. His bond to sistra, Veronika, ran deep, and he was a playful and doting vuyko and Godfather to his twin niece and nephew. His friends knew him to be humble, cheerful, sincere, and someone you could take at their word. His betrothed, Oleksandra, always felt embraced with love, respect, and compassion. And while Mykola’s mother had begged him to marry Oleksandra sooner, he deferred–not for lack of commitment, but rather out of desire to first become a more worthy husband before they took their vows. That was the type of person Mykola was. He was also the type of person who believed in the power of symbols. He would go so far as to protect common house pests like spiders since he believed their webs depicted unity and enshrined the connections of family, friends, and community. Perhaps most conspicuously, he proudly emblazoned a wolf tattoo across his chest as a symbol of leadership and commitment to living a courageous life. The manner in which he lived demonstrated just how fully he had internalized that devotion. Mykola was a brave leader of the pack, not a follower.
When the war broke out in late February 2022, Mykola embraced his wolf spirit and volunteered without hesitation to go to the frontlines. He vowed to those he loved that he would never let harm come their way–not to them, not to his city Lviv, not to his home Ukraine. He said he would fight to his last drop of blood to defend them all. His strength of character combined with his talents and skills as an athlete and marksman made him a natural fit and a valuable asset for the forward units of the 125th Territorial Defense Brigade.
Sadly, fate intervened on July 21, 2022 in a cruel and capricious manner that fellow soldiers sometimes refer to as the arbitrary and unknowable “Finger of God.” As they returned from combat in the region near Bahkmut, Mykola and two fellow volunteers were killed by an “Iskander” hypersonic missile strike in Kramatorsk. In one moment, three shining lights of Ukrainian courage, spirit, and passion were snatched away from the mortal plane. Even so, Mykola’s spirit and memory, and that of brave Ukrainians like him, remain immortal. Mykola lives on in those left behind; in those who will continue to carry his inner fire now for him.
This loss is nearly unbearable for those closest to him. Mykola was such a bright and talented person that his absence leaves an enormous void for so many from his life before the war. Academically, he had been a hardworking and accomplished “techie.” He graduated from Lviv Polytechnic University and was planning for a career as an IT computer engineer. But his true passion had always been sports. His athleticism was apparent at a young age, and he excelled from early on in gymnastics and later in martial arts. He had always been an intense competitor, winning titles in kickboxing and powerlifting, and rising to the distinguished level of being a candidate for “Master of Sport.” He is deeply missed by his teammates at “Triumph” martial arts sports club, and also by fellow sharpshooters at the Lviv Shooting Range, where he is remembered as a gifted and energetic Range Officer.
The void Mykola leaves behind will never be filled. He now lies in eternal rest amongst hundreds of fellow heroes at Mars Field in Lychakiv Cemetery near downtown Lviv. His mother Larisa visits him frequently, but carries with her the immense pain of what could have been, “As soon as I see a little boy on the street, I think of the son Mykola wanted to have. When I see a tall man with a beard, I immediately think of my son. My son is a hero, a good man, honorable, kind, level-headed, and wanted to defend us.” His father also recalls the good and honorable man he was, “His callsign was ‘Bilyi’ (‘White’), because everyone knew him to be honest, frank, sincere, and decent.” His sister Veronika has lost part of herself, never imagining she could lose her dearest brother, friend and Godfather to her children, “Mykola was truly an amazing person. Unfortunately, we are losing so many wonderful people now.” And Mykola’s cherished “son,” a puppy he named “Arei”–whom he cradles in the picture that now rests above his grave–also visits Mykola at Lychakiv from time-to-time. Oleksandra cares for Arei now without her dearest Mykola, “He loved and cared for me so very much. Mykola was my support, my protection, and my closest friend in all the world. I don’t know how to live without him.” That sentiment rings true for so many that knew him. Микола Миколайович Забавчук was larger than life and the love of so many for him endures.
The Family of Dr. Nataliya Uboha & Dr. Douglas Davis
Volodymyr & Bogdana Ubohe
The Family of Drs. Taras & Ulyana Khaba
Dr. Jack & Joyce Davis
Dan & Sherry Sullivan
Dr. Myron Pozniak
Dr. Vincent Pieribone
Dr. Sarah Mourra Ziaeian & Dr. Boback Ziaeian
Dr. Hamid Emamekhoo
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