22 October, 2023

Defenders of Mariupol City. Stories by the invincible ones: a Sensei with his unfailing love for tanks

Defenders of Mariupol City. Stories by the invincible ones: a Sensei with his unfailing love for tanks

My name is Tetiana, and I am a daughter to Vladyslav Shelomiyenko. He was a Soviet officer’s son but a true Ukrainian body and soul.

Back in 1980 he came to live in Kharkiv but found his love. And I’m not talking of his wife and children. Here is his story.


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Vladyslav loved tanks more than everything else! It was then that he got settled as a tank operator and a crash tester. He knew everything about these vehicles.

And then he got fired because of a slippage. He got employed as a long-haul trucker but still longed with his heart and soul to come back to tanks. He even used to have a complete collection of models at home – it used to be a fashion then, those plastic models like do-it-yourself, assembling and gluing.

In 2014, Vladyslav decided it was time to stay at home for some time, so he resigned from his long-haul trucker’s position and started to work as a serviceman at a repair shop in Kharkiv city.

Late in the year, there was an explosion at his station, and, as he was saving cars from the fire, he got burned a lot. I still can remember the doctor’s words:

«Your father really had a bad luck, he needs a skin transplantation; and then, his left arm, one of the nerves is damaged so he won’t be able to work with it. The rehabilitation is going to take a long time».

But you should have known Vlad’s character better – in two-week time he was discharged from the hospital, and all the doctors came to shake hands with him. They could not believe that this man, only with his moral courage and self-efficacy was able to rise from the bed. By the way, he did not go for an operation ever since.

The way: from disability to volunteering

Yet, due to his burns and his arm that would not get healed properly, he was constantly advised to get registered as a disabled person and receive the invalidity status.

Every time he heard the advice, he got really angry: «I am not a disabled one, I will prove what I can do».

And so it happened that Vladyslav made up his mind to go to war, to protect his motherland. But the recruiting station officers would not accept him on health grounds. However, he would not give in and went in the direction of Donetsk city. He joined volunteers and started helping them.

Once it happened so that in a battle a tank got broken with our soldiers, and they could have got into trouble. Vlad happened to be there at that time, as a volunteer. He did not think a minute to rush to the combat vehicle, and in a few minutes the tank was able to escape to a safe place self-propelled.

Vladyslav becomes Sensei

The soldiers he helped out then appeared to be warriors from the Azov regiment. That’s how Vladyslav’s dream came true, and he returned to his love – to the combat vehicles he had had in his dreams all his life.

Then he got to the town of Urzuf, serving in a maintenance troop. It was then that he became his name – Sensei – for many of his comrades.


He could surprise anybody with his ingenuity. There used to be two tanks at their station: one could travel but could not shoot, and the other one could shoot but could not travel. They were going to decommission them both, as they were not subject to repair. Not for Sensei. Vladyslav coupled one of the tanks to the other, so that the one still on the go dragged the one that could shoot. A luck collaboration case it appeared.

There were many things he could do one cannot imagine.

And then the war broke out. City of Mariupol. Captivity for the sake of lives. The colony of Olenivka. The act of terror.

And, Shelomiyenko Vladyslav, the Sensei, is found on the list of the dead under No 23. One cannot believe that yet. Fire took him away in the end. But it did not take our memories of him.

You are our true Hero. We do remember you. We always will.

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Defenders of Mariupol are true warriors, desperately committed to defending the city of Mariupol in total entrapment for 86 days. Ever since the first day of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation, Mariupol’s defenders proved to the whole world their incredible courage, will power and their fighting spirit for freedom. Due to the city defense, Ukraine was able to receive arms from the partner countries, regroup troops in other direction and consequently regain the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. They fought the enemy’s overwhelming forces, having not enough ammunition, food, water and sleep. During the period from May 16 to May 20, Mariupol’s defenders laid down their weapon at the AzovStal plant and exited to captivity by the order from the senior Ukraine’s authorities.


Defenders of Mariupol. Stories of the Invincible Ones – is a common project by Infopost.media a and  Olenivka Families Community, a community uniting the captives’ families, the injured and killed during the act of terror in Olenivka on the night of July 28 to 29th, 2022.

“Olenivka Families Community” was launched in January 2023, after the UNO General Secretary dismissed the mission on investigating murder occurrences among captives of war in Olenivka. The community enrolls over 100 people. A delegation from the Olenivka Families have already visited Geneva, meeting representatives from the UNO and International Red Cross at their headquarters.

Currently we would like to receive more communication with foreign journalists, performing live for audiences abroad, since the subject of the act of terror in Olenivka is only known a little abroad. We are eager to share our witness with journalistic investigations, human rights advocacies and to have cooperation with OSINT-communities. We want to call to account the guilty ones in the international field.

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🇺🇦 Ця публікація доступна також українською мовою: Захисники Маріуполя. Історії нескорених: «Сенсей» із безмежною любов’ю до танків

🇭🇺 Ez a kiadvány magyar nyelven is elérhető: Mariupol védői. A Rendíthetetlenek történetei: «Szenszej» a tankok iránti határtalan szeretetével

🇸🇰 Text v slovenčine: Obrancovia Mariupola. Príbehy nezdolných: «Sensei» s bezhraničnou láskou k tankom