‘A true warrior’: Friends reflect on Canadian volunteer medic killed in Ukraine

Friends are reflecting on the life of Grygorii ‘Greg’ Tskhmistrenko after he was laid to rest Friday. The Canadian volunteer medic died in Ukraine defending his homeland while fighting against Russian invaders.

“He was a true warrior. I mean, he was a knight in shining armour, like a European knight, you know?” childhood friend Oleh Diachok told Global News.

“And he always helped anyone around him. He was [a] really kind person and open-hearted. And he wants everyone around him to be happy, to smile. And he did everything to make everyone smile,” he added.

Diachok and Tskhmistrenko went to school together in Kyiv, Ukraine, for a few years.

According to Diachok, Tskhmistrenko lived between Canada and Ukraine throughout his childhood, and earned his Canadian citizenship in the ninth grade.

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Read more: Canadian dies in battle while fighting with Ukrainian forces, government confirms

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Tskhmistrenko lived in Saskatchewan for many years before moving to B.C. He was known for playing rugby with the Saskatoon Wild Oats Rugby Club and the Prince Albert Whisky Jacks.

Diachok said he had dreams of becoming a military personnel.

“He wanted to join some special operation of the armies in the world, like special operation of the United States or special operations of Canada,” Diachok said.

“After 2014, when first we had a conflict situation with Russia, Greg said that in case of a full war like we have today, he will for sure he will come here and do everything he can to defend his motherland, to defend the place where he was born,” Diachok added.

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Adam Thiemann was in Ukraine and befriended Tskhmistrenko when he arrived in February.

We met at the Georgian Foreign Legion and we were both helping to just prepare nonmilitary personnel and others for the war that was to come,” Thiemann told Global News.

“He was the embodiment of a light. Just a light to humility, to patriotism, love for others. His life was really just a testament to the fact that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, you’re worth something.  And Greg made you feel that way,” Thiemann reflected.

Thiemann said during the most chaotic and tragic moments, it was Tskhmistrenko’s encouragement that got them through it.

“In my four years of experience in the U.S. military serving as an Army Ranger, my two deployments in Afghanistan… nothing prepared me for this. And tactically, I knew our situation was pretty much as bad as it gets,” Thiemann explained.

“(Greg) was like, ‘Don’t say that. Like everything’s going to be okay.’ And it was just funny because he was so positive and so patriotic,” he added.

Read more: A Canadian citizen has died in Ukraine, Global Affairs Canada confirms

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Multiple media reports say Tsekhmistrenko died on Sunday near the city of Bakhmut.

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Global Affairs Canada says it’s aware of the death of a Canadian citizen after reports that a young medical student fighting with Ukrainian forces was killed in battle.

Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed, Global Affairs Canada said in an email to Global News.

Diachok wants Canadians to know that Tsekhmistrenko never advocated for violence, but was fighting for peace.

“He didn’t have [the] intention to fight to kill someone or to hate someone or just to engage in some battle situation,” Diachok explained.

“Greg was fighting for freedom, for peace, and for happiness of every Ukrainian family.”

— with files from Global’s Heidi Lee and the Canadian Press

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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