Neither Nazis nor Radicals: who were the Heavenly Hundred Heroes?

Neither Nazis nor Radicals: who were the Heavenly Hundred Heroes?

On February 20, Ukraine will celebrate the Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes. The name "Heavenly Hundred" arose by analogy with the central structural units of the Maidan Self-Defenсe — the hundreds. This name first came out from the Maidan stage during the farewell to the fallen on February 21-22, 2014. 

Today we remember them as the first heroes of the Russian-Ukrainian war. After all, in 2014, they won the battle because they did not allow Putin to destroy Ukraine by the hands of Yanukovych.

Each had their own life and profession; they were of different ages, from all over Ukraine and the world, and of various nationalities and religions.

But their highest value was love for their homeland and the struggle for independence.

Nine years later, Ukrainians continued to fight for freedom, which the Maidan protesters started. 

We are telling the stories of nine Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred who died in the fight for democracy, human rights and freedoms, and a European future, who changed the course of history.

Learn more about each at the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity website

Ivan Nakonechnyi, 82 years old

He survived the Holodomor as a child and remembered the German occupation. He served in the Navy, was later discharged and worked as an engineer.

He joined the protests immediately after Berkut officers beat peaceful activists on November 30, 2013. After that, he would go to the Maidan almost daily and wanted to join the Maidan Self-Defence but was refused because of his age, although he was involved in the duties and others followed his advice.

On February 18, along with other protesters, Ivan Nakonechnyi was in the building block of the government, surrounded by security forces. The special forces pushed the protesters to Independence Square, using traumatic weapons, stun grenades, and beating people. Nakonechnyi was among them. On Instytutska Street, he received severe injuries to his head and neck. After surgery, the wounded man was in a coma for two weeks. Then, on March 7, 2014, his heart stopped.

Ivan Nakonechnyi was the oldest of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes.

Nazarii Voitovych, 17 years old

Nazarii Voitovych was the only child in the family. He studied design at the Ternopil Cooperative College of Trade and Economics. He was active and inquisitive, dreaming of becoming an artist and travelling the world.

Since the beginning of the protests in November 2013, he participated in rallies in Teatralna Square in Ternopil and delivered items to Kyiv protesters. On the evening of February 19, 2014, he packed a parcel for the capital's Maidan. There was a free seat on the bus going to Kyiv, so he decided to go to the Maidan. He had never been to Kyiv before.

On the morning of February 20, when he heard shots on Instytutska Street, he ran there. Protected only by a helmet and shields that covered his arms and legs, he helped the wounded and carried cobblestones to strengthen the barricade. 

While he was standing on the sidewalk near the October Palace, a bullet hit his carotid artery and injured his spine. 

Nazarii Voitovych became the youngest of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes.

Roman Huryk, 19 years old

During the Revolution of Dignity, he was a student at the Precarpathian National University, studying at the Faculty of Philosophy. He was versatile — interested in dancing, swimming, and Thai boxing, created a music band with his friends, and was fond of philosophy. 

At the age of 10, during the Orange Revolution, he and his classmates organised their Maidan at the lyceum, wearing orange ties in support of the protesters. 

During the Maidan protests, he periodically travelled to Kyiv with his friends, and in December 2013, he came to the capital's Maidan with his father. The last time he went to Kyiv was on February 15; from that day on, he was always at the barricades. 

On the morning of February 20, together with other protesters pushing the special forces up Instytutska Street, Roman found himself on the "death knoll" near the upper exit of the Khreshchatyk metro station. While saving his wounded comrade, he was fatally shot in the head. He had only a homemade shield to protect himself.  

Roman died young, just like his great-grandfather's brothers, who served in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and were killed during a raid by the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the USSR.

Yakiv Zaiko, 73 years old

Yakiv Zaiko, from the Belarusian village of Deliatichi, Hrodna Oblast, has lived in Zhytomyr since he was 15. He worked as a journalist, and in the summer of 1988, a semi-legal club he founded with like-minded people turned into a political structure, the Civic Front for Perestroika, which eliminated the communist nomenklatura in Zhytomyr. 

In 1990, Yakiv Zaiko was elected as a People's Deputy to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine I convocation. He joined the creation of the parliamentary opposition, the People's Council, which won the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty in 1990 and the Act of Independence of Ukraine in 1991.

Zaiko participated in the Granite Revolution (1990) and the Orange Revolution (2004). In December 2013, he also joined the mass protests in Kyiv. He went to the Maidan every day and regularly participated in protest pickets. 

On February 18, 2014, he was in the building block of the government. Due to the offensive of the security forces, he found himself in a crowd — people began to retreat down Instytutska Street towards Independence Square. A few hours later, it became known that Zaiko died of a heart attack on the platform of the Teatralna metro station. 

Yakiv Zaiko is the Heavenly Hundred Hero who participated in three revolutions.

Serhii Nigoian, 20 years old 

Serhiy Nigoyan was born into an Armenian family that moved to Ukraine to escape the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After school, he entered the Dniprodzerzhynsk (now Kamianske) College of Physical Education and took up karate. He was fond of radio engineering, loved poetry, planned to see the country of his ancestors, and dreamed of becoming an actor. 

He arrived in Kyiv on December 8, 2013, taking along The Our Father prayer in Armenian and the Armenian flag. 

He was on duty at the barricades near the Liadska Brama [Gate - TN], driving the titushky (a collective name for mercenaries) away from the camp. And in early January 2014, he became a fighter of the Self-Defence Third Hundred.

The video of an Armenian Maidan activist reading an excerpt from Shevchenko's Caucasus, recorded on December 21, 2013, by director Serhii Proskurnia on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's birth, became one of the symbols of the revolutionary events, and the words "Keep fighting — you are sure to win!" inspired.

On the Fire Epiphany — January 19, 2014 — Serhii Nigoian helped the wounded in the epicentre of the confrontation on Mykhailo Hrushevskyi Street. But, unfortunately, on the morning of January 22, Serhii was fatally injured near the colonnade of the Dynamo Stadium: three bullets hit him in the neck, head and chest. 

Serhii Nigoian was the first protester to die from a gunshot wound.

Mikhailo Zhyznevskyi, 25 years old 

A native of Gomel, Belarus, he lived in Ukraine since the age of 17. He worked as a welder, window installer, and freelance correspondent for the newspaper Soborna Kyivshchyna. Since school, he was interested in history and mythology. He planned to serve in the army and enter the theological seminary.

From the first days of the protests, Mykhailo Zhyznevskyi joined the Maidan protesters: he helped build barricades and protected Maidan facilities.

On the morning of January 22, security forces tried to push the activists back to European Square. During these clashes, Mykhailo, as a person who had experience in reenactment battles, was appointed shield officer. With a shield made of chipboard, he walked ahead, covering the others. 

When the activists encountered Berkut, trying to move them away, several grenades flew at the group, and a bullet hit Mykhailo near one of the burned buses. He sustained a perforating gunshot wound to the heart area caused by a bullet meant to force a vehicle to stop. 

The defender was escorted from the Maidan to the tune "Plyve kacha po Tysyni" - his favourite song, which became a requiem for the Heavenly Hundred Heroes.

David Kipiani, 33 years old 

Born in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, his mother was Ukrainian. David was interested in politics and was a member of the Georgian United National Movement party and the Georgian youth non-governmental organisation Free Zone, which opposed Russia's occupation policy.

In 2012, he came to Ukraine. He worked as an electrician and bricklayer. He kept in touch with the Free Zone, spreading information about its activities.

In December 2013, he joined the Maidan protesters and later united with his fellow countrymen who called themselves the Georgian Hundred.  

He always appeared at the actions of the Revolution of Dignity with the flag of Georgia. During the three months of protests, he reinforced barricades and helped the wounded during the escalation of the confrontation. On February 20, when the most significant number of protesters were killed on Instytutska Street, David and his friend filled almost 250 Molotov cocktail bottles at the barricades and then carried the wounded to safety.

That day, David complained of feeling unwell, and when he was carrying one of the severely wounded and heard his last dying moan, he grabbed his heart. At night, he was found unconscious in an underpass on Khreshchatyk Street. Unfortunately, it was not possible to save the man.

Antonina Dvorianets, 61 years old 

Antonina Dvorianets is a native of the Chornobyl district, the village of Staropillia. In 1985, she moved to Chornobyl with her husband and children. After the explosion at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986, the family was evacuated, but the couple returned to Chornobyl as liquidators. 

Antonina and her husband participated in various civil disobedience actions: in 2000-2001, the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaign, and in 2004, the Orange Revolution.

After protesters were beaten, they participated in the Revolution of Dignity on December 1, 2013. The couple celebrated New Year and Christmas on the Maidan. Antonina cooked and delivered food to the self-defence activists, cared for warm clothes, and supported them with money. Her whole family went to the assembly in Brovary on Svobody Square.

On February 18, 2014, Antonina Dvorianets was in Kyiv on Instytutska Street. When the special forces began to push the protesters away from the government quarter, she was near the barricade opposite the Khreshchatyk metro station. When she saw the security forces beating the protesters, she tried to stand up for the victims. However, according to a photographer who witnessed the events, one of the security forces hit the woman. In the evening, Antonina Dvorianets' body was moved from the barricade. 

She was identified by her certificate of liquidator of the Chornobyl accident.

Antonina Dvorianets became one of the three female Heavenly Hundred Heroes.

Volodymyr Rybak, 42 years old

Born, lived and worked in Horlivka, Donetsk region, which has been under Russian occupation for nine years.

For 14 years, Rybak worked at the Horlivka City Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Criminal Investigation Department. In 2009, he decided to start a political career and became a member of the Batkivshchyna party. He was elected to Horlivka City Council and became a member of the City Council's Standing Committee on Housing and Communal Services. Faced with the problems of the townspeople, Rybak criticised the local administration and fellow party members for corruption schemes.

During the Revolution of Dignity, Volodymyr Rybak visited Kyiv several times. When he returned to Horlivka, he met with local activists, telling them about the events in the capital. In addition, he held meetings and negotiations, trying to prevent the spread of separatism in his hometown. 

On April 17, 2014, Volodymyr Rybak participated in Horlivka's For United Ukraine rally. He tried to remove the flag of the illegal armed group "DPR" from the building of Horlivka City Council and install the flag of Ukraine. The same evening, the man was abducted by unknown persons.

The investigation later established that they were militants from the group of Russian lieutenant colonel and saboteur Igor Bezler and former FSB lieutenant colonel Igor Girkin. They took the  Deputy to Sloviansk, where they tortured him. 

Two days later, the man was found by local fishermen in the Kazennyi Torets River.