Hundreds gather in Ukraine’s capital to honor renowned poet who was also a soldier killed in action

Hundreds of people attended a ceremony Thursday honoring the memory of renowned Ukrainian poet Maksym Kryvtsov, who was killed in action while serving as a soldier in the war Russia started in Ukraine nearly two years ago.

A large crowd gathered in the courtyard of Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, where ceremonies are often held to honor soldiers killed in the war. People brought flowers adorned with blue and yellow ribbons — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — and patiently queued up to enter the monastery and pay their respects. A funeral was scheduled to be held in Kryvtsov’s hometown of Rivne on Friday.

Among those attending the memorial service were many fellow soldiers, including some who had served with Kryvtsov since 2014.

“He became a warrior right away, but he was very kind,” said a soldier who asked to be identified by his military call sign Grandpa. He said he finds it difficult to speak about Kryvtsov, saying that it feels like “a piece of the heart has been torn out.”

“He did not die,” Grandpa added. “We just gained another guardian angel. He will always be with us.”

Kryvtsov was killed on Jan. 7 by artillery fire in the Kupiansk area of the Kharkiv region — one of the key fronts in Moscow’s winter offensive.

He was an active participant in the Revolution of Dignity, the uprising that unleashed a decade of momentous change for Ukraine, and joined the army in 2014 after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Several years later, he took a break from the war and focused on civil activities, including poetry.

His first and last book, “Poems from the Loophole,” published in 2023, received a warm reception and high praise within Ukraine’s cultural community. The published poems primarily reflect on the harsh reality imposed by the war.

With the onset of Russia’s invasion in 2022, Kryvtsov had re-enlisted.

The Ukrainian chapter of the International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists, or PEN, included his book on its list of the best books of 2023. Earlier, Kryvtsov’s poems were also featured in collections with the works of other poets. The print run of the book has already been swept from the shelves of bookstores.

Kryvtsov’s death sparked a broad reaction on social media, where his poetry went viral for several days following his passing. Many drew parallels with Ukrainian cultural figures killed during the Soviet repression of artists of the 1920s and early 1930s, known in Ukrainian history as the “Executed Renaissance.”

“They kill our artists and then laugh in our faces,” wrote Ukrainian composer Yana Yaschuk on Facebook.

An assessment by the Ukrainian PEN found that 95 people in artistic professions have been killed in the war as of December 2023. Among them are actors, painters, sculptors, linguists, historians and others. PEN noted that the actual number could be higher.

Award-winning Ukrainian writer Viktoria Amelina was killed in a deadly Russian missile attack on a popular restaurant in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region in July of last year.

Many fans of Kryvtsov’s poetry also attended the memorial, some holding his book in their hands.

As the casket was carried out of the monastery, attendees in the crowded courtyard knelt to bid him farewell. An air raid siren announcing a possible missile threat went off but people continued to kneel, holding flowers and flags.

The crowd then proceeded to Kyiv’s central square, where the second part of the memorial service was to take place. The movement was accompanied by an old recording of Kryvtsov’s voice reading his poetry. People on the streets stopped and some burst into tears as the column, led by the poet’s body, passed by.

At the central Independence Square, people took turns approaching the public microphone, sharing their memories related to Kryvtsov, and urging people to preserve his memory and creative legacy for future generations.

Poet, volunteer and combat medic Olena Herasymiuk, who was a close friend of Kryvtsov, said he “left behind a colossal height of poetry.”


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