KYIV, Ukraine—One year ago on Saturday, a 19-year-old Ukrainian soldier named Daniel Kasyanenko died on a battlefield in eastern Ukraine.
He died alongside one of his friends, a fellow Ukrainian volunteer soldier, when a mortar fell on them. They were among 18 Ukrainian soldiers to die in a 10-day stretch from Aug. 1 to Aug. 10, 2015.
I first met Daniel two months before his death, while I was embedded with the Ukrainian army’s 93rd Brigade in a front-line village called Pisky, just outside the Donetsk airport. The morning I departed the front lines to return to Kyiv, I was supposed to meet Daniel for one last goodbye. I waited in the courtyard of a bullet-ridden, shrapnel-shredded, abandoned home, but he never showed up.
I assumed he had been delayed by some soldierly duty, and I didn’t think much of his missing my departure, other than feeling a vague sense of regret for not having one more chance to shake his hand and wish him well.