Human: Taras Shevchuk
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Domain: Software engineering, Cross-platform application development
Job Profile: Software engineer/Xamarin Developer , Soldier (Armed Forces of Ukraine)
A valiant Eastern European nation has been time and again immortalized in the works of literary icons across history and one such masterpiece by the Ukrainian-born celebrated literary figure Nikolai Gogol transports us back in time to witness the beauty of his homeland.
Do you know the Ukrainian night ?
Oh, you do not know the Ukrainian night !
Look at it. The moon gazes down
from the middle of the sky;
the immense dome of heaven stretches farther,
more immense than ever;
it glows and breathes.
The earth is all bathed in silvery light,
and the exquisite air is
refreshing and warm and full of voluptuousness,
and stirs an ocean of fragrance.
Divine night ! Enchanting night !
-an excerpt from Nikolai Gogol’s famous work ‘Evenings near the village of Dikanka‘
Such is the allure of the land that the great Gogol has lauded in his works that have compelled the world to take notice once more, not only for its glory and fame but also for its citizens and their bravery in standing up for their right to save their homeland. This is a heroic story of one such citizen’s extraordinary courage to fight for his and his fellow countryman’s right to exist.
Most of the programmers and techies we have known in our lives didn’t have to live in bomb shelters or live in the fear of a missile striking their workplaces. Most technologists, we know, inhabit a world as far away from a battlefield as possible. But this is not the ordinary world we live in anymore.
So here’s introducing the next human in the series, the enticing Taras Shevchuk, who hails from the valorous nation of Ukraine, a software engineer by profession who has joined his country’s military forces to protect and defend his homeland and his people. He is one of the many brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to fighting for our freedom and serving as a beacon of hope for humanity.
Growing up in Kyiv
Having spent the majority of his life in Kyiv, he looks back on happy memories he has with his family in the city. His dad had been a military veteran and his mom a homemaker.
‘My mom has always made our home a joyful place to come back to…‘, he contentedly recalls.
The Shevchuk household has always been filled with food and warmth. He narrates wonderful memories he has of his childhood and of attending national festivals with his niece and participating in tech events or conferences in different parts of the town.
The young Taras always had an immense interest in computers and technology for as long as he could remember. One of his first collaborative projects was on Eyeleo, a useful PC application that aims to prevent eye strain by reminding users to take breaks to avoid prolonged screen time.
Music was another one of his passions, and he had performed at several events at his university. Life was indeed just getting started for a young techie with big dreams of his own. He had received his bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering and had gone on to work for a diverse group of tech companies. The world he knew would change forever after that fateful day on the 24th of February.
The news of the war had reached him through a call from his grandmother while he had just started his coursework in Italy.
He reveals, ‘I had just enrolled in a university in Milano, Italy to complete my master’s degree.‘
His initial plan was to split his time between Milan and Kyiv until his studies were completed, then he had planned to focus on researching and developing wearable technologies such as smart glasses.
‘Now as we know due to the war, my job profile is that of a soldier who is fighting for his country‘, he acknowledges.
A War for Freedom
The world he now inhabits is vastly different from that of his university days in Milan, where he recalls doing his best to assist in the early stages by visiting assistance centers, attending rallies, signing anti-war petitions and offering his expertise in tech help groups for Ukraine.
He remembers, ‘It was hard to see the news each day and not being able to help as much as I can.’
He explains how he discovered that there was a bus that would take volunteers from Milan to Ukraine to help to defend his country, which was being destroyed with each passing day.
‘I understood that there was no other excuse… that I had to go back …that I need to go home to my country.’, he reflects.
The family had just reunited when the country’s necessity for skilled military personnel led to his father, Mr. Shevchuk, a military veteran, being mobilized back into his country’s military unit to defend his nation. And that’s when he realized he needed to join the forces, like the many other brave souls who have volunteered to fight for their truth and freedom.
He divulges, ‘My dad is not stationed in the same unit as I am … but he is closeby. Perhaps a hundred kilometres…from me.’
He narrates to us the ordeals of war and what it takes to live in a warzone. He admits that he often worries about his father when he is unable to communicate with him.
‘It can be a bit scary … when you don’t know what has happened.’, he reveals.
Although the recent events have been challenging for the family, he recalls how courageously they supported their decisions to defend the nation, knowing that it was the right thing to do for their homeland and their people.
He describes, ‘Our national Icons like Taras Shevchenko have really embodied in their works the essence of what this war represents… we are indeed giving our bodies and souls for our freedom.‘
Being a software professional who has found himself in an extraordinary situation, he recalls how his initial task was to volunteer in the IT unit and provide his services wherever they were needed. As unpredictable as war is, he is now stationed in a military unit, and he explains how there is little room for choices when it comes to the battlefield.
A technologist’s journey
His introduction to technology began pretty early in his life when he was gifted a computer in his second year of school.
He recalls, ‘I was always passionate about computers. I got my first computer when I was in second grade. ’
That fueled his curiosity even more, and he remembers tinkering with the machine and trying to figure out how the parts worked and how everything was connected to create the images he saw on the screen. And that would lead to his interest in programming.
‘We had a really cool teacher who would help us after school hours. So we would head to the classroom of informatics and learn programming there. ’, he fondly remembers.
The logic involved in programming piqued his interest and led him to pursue a career in computer science. As he explains, this is how he decided what subjects to major in and what career path to take. So he never had any doubts about his path to becoming a software professional.
With a degree in computer science engineering from the prestigious Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the possibilities seemed limitless. He worked as a Xamarin developer for companies such as Glorium Technologies, Trinetix, KDD Digital Healthcare GmbH, and Upwork, to name a few.
C# was one of the first programming languages he recalls learning, and he explains how it has aided him throughout his career. His most important mentor in the field is Prof. Yurii Kravchenko, who guided him on his thesis. He was the department head at his university, and he describes how the wonderful academician had changed their perspective on technology.
His thesis was on developing cross-platform mobile applications for streaming devices, and he explains how, until recently, Chromecast technology was only available on selected platforms. It had been his intention to conduct additional research in the field of multiplatform streaming services and applications.
Until that fateful day in February, which would change everything in his life, he was enrolled in a master’s degree program in Computer Science engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy. He was also a member of Polispace, the university’s first student space association.
The future had indeed seemed so bright and clear to him.
‘We need to make the right choices even if it’s really hard to do.’ , he confesses.
Leaving his promising software career behind to serve alongside his countrymen in the armed forces was never an easy choice. But it was a decision he knew he would never regret looking back on his life.
He declares, ‘The stakes can be high and there can be doubts …We should make decisions that we won’t be ashamed of in the years to come.’
Nadiya na Maybutnye
From a software engineer to now a soldier doing his best to defend his country, Taras has shown an insurmountable strength and selflessness in the face of hardships and difficulties that most of us can only imagine. He is not oblivious to the horrors of war, and he reveals how the future is uncertain every day, with missiles and rockets falling from the sky in all directions.
‘It would be strange if it wasn’t scary. But it’s our land and we have to defend it.‘ , he confesses.
It’s been heartbreaking for him to see the destruction of cities he’s known his entire life, such as Mariupol, and to see civilians killed in a war that no one wanted to be a part of. He concedes that the world can be inhumane and evil at times.
When asked what keeps him going through such difficult circumstances, he describes how the people around him provide him with the much-needed assurance that they are fighting for the right thing.
He describes, ‘Everybody around me… people are really patriotic. They are willing to do whatever it takes to save our country and our people.’
A deep bond and friendship have formed among the many men and women who have found themselves in extraordinary circumstances to defend their homeland. He explains how being thrown together in such hard times has strengthened their resolve to do whatever it takes to save their homes and their fellow countrymen.
He smiles and says, ‘Maybe someday after the war is over… after our victory, I can get back to my studies.‘
There are moments when remarkable courage shines through during extraordinary times. A young soldier and technologist has heroically shown us what it means to fight for something you believe in. If courage had a face and an identity, we wouldn’t have to look much further than the Ukrainians and their resilience in the face of adversity.
As he would say, ‘Don’t be afraid to fight for things that are valuable to you. If truth is on your side, then you can’t lose.’
This has never been a war that the valiant nation of Ukraine would lose.
It is often said that heroes aren’t born but created out of circumstances. Sometimes people rise above the ordinary to achieve extraordinary feats, and these unsung heroes are where this nation’s strength lies, and one such young hero among us has proven that truth is worth fighting for.
This has been a battle already won.
Glory to the heroes!
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