Remembering Roman Kupchinsky on Memorial Day

Of all the stories that I’ve written about Ukraine, none has provoked and continues to provoke choruses of thank yous than this piece I wrote three years ago about the life and legacy of Roman Kupchinsky. Each time I go to Kyiv, I meet another young journalist who Roman quietly mentored.

On Monday, as the United States celebrates Memorial Day, my family and I will visit Arlington Cemetery to remember Roman.

Four years after Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas, Roman’s voice and vision are sorely missed and needed now more than ever before.

Вічна Йому пам’ять!

Remembering Roman

By Melinda Haring

Every Memorial Day, friends leave small bottles of Jack Daniel’s and an American flag on Roman Kupchinsky’s gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery.

Kupchinsky was a warrior, both on and off the battlefield. A man of passion who fought for his ideals with a singular determination, he devoted his life to seeing Ukraine become free. He came of age on the battlefields of Vietnam, but most of his fighting was done not with violence, but with words.

Born on November 1, 1944, in Vienna, Austria, to Ukrainian refugees, he lost his father in the wave of bombings that hit the city toward the end of World War II. He lived in a displaced persons camp until 1949 when he and his mother emigrated to the United States. Kupchinsky’s mother was active in the Ukrainian-American community in New York and instilled in him a love for Ukraine and the hope that it would some day be liberated from the Soviets.

Kupchinsky’s life was defined by service: At first in the US military in Vietnam, and then with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to fight the Soviets. While he studied political science at Long Island University, he worked part-time for Prolog Research Corp., a Ukraine-focused propaganda effort that was funded by the CIA, which Kupchinsky did not know at the time. The war interrupted his studies. Even in Vietnam, his political education continued, as Mykola Lebed, President of Prolog, would send him books and articles that Kupchinksy would read while hunkered down in the humid jungle. He served two tours of duty, rising to the rank of Lieutenant and earning a Purple Heart, two Bronze Service Stars, and an Air Medal.

Read the full story here.

Melinda Haring is the editor of the UkraineAlert blog at the Atlantic Council and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She tweets @melindaharing.

Image: Roman Kupchinsky in an undated photo. Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty