Dublin shop manager killed in Ukraine remembered as an ‘outstanding person’

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, known as Alex to his Irish friends, died on March 30th
Dublin shop manager killed in Ukraine remembered as an ‘outstanding person’

Updated 10am

A Ukrainian father-of-two, who spent more than 20 years living in Ireland and was killed after returning to defend his homeland in its war against Russia, has been remembered as an "outstanding person".

Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, known as Alex to his Irish friends, died on March 30th, family friend Anye Neilande said in a post on GoFundMe.

It is believed that the 45-year-old, who was deputy manager in the Aldi store in Dublin's Sandyford, left for Ukraine on March 2nd and died while fighting in Popasna near Luhansk.

He was an outstanding person. He was a true people person.

Mr Zavhorodniy was remembered by his friends as a "people person" who was held in high esteem by all who knew him.

His long-time friend Anton Burihhin told Newstalk Breakfast that it was difficult to absorb the loss of such a special person.

"He felt responsible to be a good worker at Aldi and he was always very courteous. He was an outstanding person. He was a true people person.

“He created a huge network of friends and you can see that from the support he is getting from Irish people. It is so generous and enormous.

“We have raised so far €13,000 on a GoFundMe. I think he deserves every penny. His bravery in his decision to go back."

Mr Burihhin said that his friend died in heavy fighting in a "military shoot-out" in a village called Popasna in Ukraine.

"Unfortunately Alex got hit by one of the missiles. It was a very heavy shoot-out."

He said that Mr Zavhorodniy was identified following his death by his grandmother.

Alley of Heroes

Another friend Alex Cucuet told RTE's Morning Ireland that Mr Zavhorodniy was a "super energetic, funny person."

"He was always the first person who was in front of everything that needed to be organised. I met him eight years ago through a friend of mine. We met at a barbecue and have been friends since.

"His grandmother and sister survived the bombing and they have been keeping in touch. We have managed to sort the burial. We have managed to bury him in a place called the Alley of Heroes."

Mr Cucuet, who is a Dublin bus driver, said that he had managed to keep in touch with his friend for a short period after he left for Ukraine.

"He was on Whatsapp. He was texting me and sending funny pictures trying to keep everybody laughing even though we were worrying.

"I was worried. We were all worried. But after everything that had happened we kind of understand what was in his heart. Every single person in his boots in his situation would act the same. I would act the same honestly."

It is understood Mr Zavhorodniy had completed military service when he was younger. He was living in Stillorgan before he returned to Ukraine.

'Second home'

A third friend Ms Neilande, who set up the GoFundMe to raise money for Mr Zavhorodniy’s family, said Ireland was “his second home” but his heart “remained in Ukraine.”

“He spent over 20 years in Ireland, where he found his second home. His heart, however, remained in Ukraine, and that's why he chose to go back... to protect his country and its people,” she wrote.

“When Alex arrived in Warsaw, he gave everything he had at the time to those in need (women and children). When he arrived at the military unit, he kept positive and did his best to calm his worrying family and friends by joking and sending funny pictures...

“We all will miss his kindness and cracking sense of humor, even in the most challenging situations.”

The fundraiser, aiming to help Mr Zavhorodniy’s family who are “now away from home, mostly displaced, and devastated… [and] will not be able to attend his funerals in his hometown Ohtyrka” had raised €15,898 as of Thursday morning.

Mr Zavhorodniy's employer Aldi said that he was a "valued and much-loved member" of the team for over eight years, according to a report in the Irish Examiner.

"He was a great asset to the company and will be greatly missed. We are all shocked by this news and our thoughts are with Oleksandr’s family and friends at this very difficult time."

The supermarket chain said it has made counselling services available to all colleagues "impacted by this terrible news and will be offering supports to Oleksandr’s immediate family".

The fundraising page for Mr Zavhorodniy’s family can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/paying-tribute-to-oleksandr-zavhorodniy.

-Additional reporting by Olivia Kelleher

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