When we were planning the photoshoot for our Defender Collection, we didn’t want to work with regular models, we wanted to work with the people who inspire us.
Our goal was to find people who represent the values and vision that inspired us to make this line in the first place. Each of our models – Nazar, Ihor, and Dasha – have made a significant contribution to the freedom and defense of Ukraine. It’s our honor to highlight their personal stories as part of the Defender campaign.
In this article, we will introduce you to Ihor Zadorozhny.
Ihor was born into an entrepreneurial family in Cherkasy but he embarked on a different journey, deciding on a career as a professional soldier at an early age. He joined the Chernihiv Lyceum (educational institution) with an emphasis on military and physical training at 14 where he explored his childhood fascination with uniforms, weaponry, and the concept of being a defender.
After completing this phase of military education, Ihor was still too young to take the oath and enter into a higher military educational institution. Undeterred, he opted to study Psychology at Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University for a year while preparing for admission to a higher military institution. Finally, Ihor officially commenced his officer training in 2009 at the Military Institute of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University.
2014 was a turning point for Ihor, as it was for many Ukrainians.
As a cadet, he was forbidden from participating in civil protests during 2014's Revolution of Dignity. Despite facing expulsion from the military, he still joined his countrymen in the European Square to support their resistance.
After finishing his studies in 2014, Ihor was assigned to the 91st Engineering Regiment of Operational Support as a psychologist officer in the battalion of radio-chemical and biological protection located in Sumy region.
Ihor defending Ukraine in the East in 2014.
In late 2014, Ihor’s Commander asked a simple yet difficult question: “Who is ready to go to Donetsk Airport to rotate our boys?”
At that time, defending Donetsk Airport was the most dangerous and difficult mission for the Ukrainian military.
"Three of us, including me, senior soldier Yuriy Yuriev, and soldier Maksym "Pushkin," volunteered." says Ihor. "It took two days for the combined unit to synchronize and gather for departure to Donetsk Airport. After checking everyone and everything, we drove on to Donetsk Airport, where I spent two weeks in absolute hell, surrounded by those fuckers and enduring something that even reinforced concrete could not."
Ihor defending Ukraine in the East in 2014.
After surviving the battle for Donetsk Airport, Ihor’s understanding of life changed completely:
"I realized that you get a real taste of life only when you are very close to death and look it in the eyes," he says. "All the problems that I once had were moved into the category of “unresolved issues” after the events in the Donetsk Airport, the category of real “problem” refers only to injury or death. I’ve come to realize that strength and courage are ingrained in our genetic code. You simply have to conquer fear, be brave, and confront your fears head-on. When your fears sense your determination, they simply dissipate.
Ihor and his friends defending Ukraine in the East in 2014.
8 years later, on February 24, 2022, the nightmare of war would come knocking on Ihor's door once again.
On the 24th, Ihor’s was woken by a call from his brother, Nazar Palagitsky, who alerted him to the onset of war. Nazar told him that missiles had just struck his military unit just moments before. Ihor immediately told his wife, who insisted on staying by his side as he was already well prepared with guns and ammo, but Ihor asked her to leave for Cherkasy to join his parents.
Up until March 4, Ihor and his friends worked to establish a social volunteer center in their music studio in Kyiv. During this time, friends and acquaintances who remained in the city collaborated to provide essential support for those in need. On March 5, Ihor decided that his skills would be better used elsewhere, and he went to Irpin to join the Irpin Territorial Defense Force (TDF). With his prior combat experience, he quickly assumed command of the unit, leading a group of brave, and ordinary men from the city of Irpin. Together, they defended the famous “Giraffe” position for a month from Russia's brutal invasion.
Ihor says that the tactics of the Russians haven't changed; there are just more of them this time. "We need to acknowledge that if we don't defeat them this time, there will be even bigger war in the future," he says. "People worldwide must understand that if we don't stop this monster, it will reach everyone's homes. This is why we need support – sending ammunition, equipment, and weapons to Ukraine."
The legendary Giraffe Mall in Irpin, where the Ukrainian defenders held their positions.
When asked about his mental health, Ihor openly shares how he feels and, as someone who studied psychology, understands the importance of talking about it.
"The transition back to civilian life was routine after the Battle for Irpin, as it wasn't my first encounter with such an experience. However, returning to Bucha was exceptionally difficult. We entered the city on April 1, and the aftermath was devastating. The morning after the occupiers left, there were numerous casualties, mass burials, and a dead child at the entrance to a school basement. The scenes of civilians shot dead in their houses and on the sides of the road, including men on bicycles, haunted me. For a week, I didn't feel like communicating at all, constantly asking myself, “What for?”
As much as the full-scale invasion transformed Ukrainian society and impacted every single person, Ihor notes that many veterans may feel like no one cares about them and their sacrifice upon their return to civilian life. Ihor and his fellow veterans felt the same after returning from the frontlines after 2014, when a large percentage of the Ukrainian population could afford to ignore what was happening in the East.
He wants people to understand, especially those claiming to be tired, that the war hasn't even begun yet. "There can’t be any fatigue until we liberate our territories. I received a military call-up later last week, attended the TCC, and now I'm undergoing a military medical examination. As the father of an 8-month-old boy, I don't want him to go to war, so I need to take action."
When asked how he learned about Saint Javelin, Ihor says he saw his friend reposting one of the memes on his Instagram page.
You're undertaking an important task, and I appreciate how you’re communicating about this war with the West. I was born into an industrialist family and spent my entire childhood in the clothing industry. I can confidently say that the Defender collection's quality is wonderful. The photoshoot was also a fun experience. I enjoyed the atmosphere and working with such amazing and smart people. I hope that a part of this collection will turn into aid that will help us fight those fuckers.