Ambushed and Injured: From DJ to Combatant in the Ukraine Conflict

After surviving a life-threatening injury, one Ukrainian soldier finds his way to the Chicagoland area to receive the care he couldn’t find back home.


Photo provided by Andrii Dovhaichuk

From spinning tracks to defending his country, Andrii Dovhaichuk has been fighting for Ukraine since the very beginning.

Nick Karmia, Staff Writer

Exposed to beheadings, rape and protests gone violent, Andrii Dovhaichuk transitioned from being a DJ to becoming a soldier for the Ukrainian Special Forces in the fight against Russia. 

When Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 2013, it served as one of many tipping points for Dovhaichuk’s involvement in the Russo-Ukrainian War. 

Dovhaichuk as a solider in May 2015 (Photo provided by Andrii Dovhaichuk)

“[This started] the ‘Revolution of Dignity,’” Dovhaichuk said. “We [had this] pro-Russian President. He always stole from the people, and there’s a lot of corruption from [his] presidency. He was in prison three times.” 

A protest broke out in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine, at Independence Square where many demonstrated their disagreement with the president’s decision not to bring Ukraine into the EU. Protestors attributed Yanukovych’s actions to Russian influence. 

 “There were about 100 freshmen from college there,” Dovhaichuk said. “There were police that started beating these kids with batons, breaking hands and legs.” 

On that night, Dovhaichuk was coming home from work, and his journalist friend sent him videos of what was going on in the square. The next day, Dovhaichuk went to the capital himself from Lviv to Kyiv to group up with over 1,000,000 people who also came to protest. 

Dovhaichuk stationed at a camp in June 2015 (Photo provided by Andrii Dovhaichuk)

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea soon after the revolution, Dovhaichuk fought for two years in a volunteer battalion in 2014 and 2015 where from that day on, “the army became stronger and was reborn,” Dovhaichuk said.

“At that time our armies [were] basically being killed off, and because of this a lot of people started coming in as volunteers to come help with the war with Russia,” Dovhaichuk said. 

After his service, he returned to his civilian life until Russia came back and attacked again in 2022. From there, he became a special forces soldier for Ukraine, and he fought until he was injured. 

In August 2022, Dovhaichuk and his platoon were sent out on a rescue mission to recover a wounded soldier in what’s known as a “gray zone,” an area of warfare that has been contested by opposing military forces. 

As Dovhaichuk’s team made their way to the rescue site, the group was ambushed by a tank. He suffered an explosive wound from the attack, nearly losing his right arm from the blast after being struck by shrapnel from the tank. Dovhaichuk was able to escape.  

Blurred image of Dovhaichuk’s explosive wound to the right elbow. (Photo provided by Andrii Dovhaichuk)

After traveling to several medical sites, no one inside Ukraine could perform the proper medical treatment to get his arm back to full functionality. But Dovhaichuk’s father, who lives in Bloomingdale Ill., managed to get his church, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, involved to arrange the medical treatment needed for Dovhaichuk’s injury in the United States.  

Flying out of Poland, he was able to gain safe travel into the United States where various surgeries were performed pro bono to clear infections and fuse the elbow back together. 

Although Dovhaichuk is not seeking refugee status, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Department of Homeland Security’s Uniting for Ukraine initiative has brought in over “125,000 Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members” into the United States according to a recent press release. 

Dovhaichuk will be required to return to Ukraine for medical evaluation to determine if he can reenter the military. Dovhaichuk is currently waiting to see if he needs another surgery to complete the recovery process. If he isn’t allowed to continue in service, Dovhaichuk wants to explore different business options in Ukraine and continue with his music.  

“The problem is Russia doesn’t just want to beat Ukraine, they want to essentially eradicate the Ukrainians and create a genocide,” Dovhaichuk said.