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08th Apr 2022

‘Heroic’ Aldi manager who joined fight in Ukraine has been killed

Charlie Herbert

Aldi manager from Ireland dies fighting in Ukraine

Friends had tried to persuade him not to travel to Ukraine and fight

An Aldi manager from Ireland who travelled to Ukraine to fight for his country has been killed.

Ukrainian Oleksandr Zavhorodniy, affectionately known as ‘Alex’ to his friends and colleagues, had lived in Ireland for almost 20 years and worked in Sandyford, Dublin.

However, he decided to travel to Ukraine to fight when Putin’s forces invaded his homeland.

The father-of-two left on March 2, with friends believing he was a sniper in the war effort. He had completed military service when he was younger.

But he was killed on March 30 when the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine came under heavy bombardment from Russian artillery.

Long-time friend Anton Burihhin told Newstalk Breakfast that Oleksandr had died in a “very heavy shootout” when he was hit by a missile.

Another friend, Anya Neilande, said that people had tried to convince him not to travel to Ukraine, but that he was “very committed” and had “made up his mind.”

According to The Irish Times, she said: “It is quite heroic. People did try to persuade Alex to stay. But I think he was very committed and he made up his mind. He was really stubborn.

“He called me and on the 1 March and said that he had made the decision to go back. I was checking him in to the flights and booking him in to a hotel.

“I knew he would have walked to Ukraine if he had to. That is just how determined he was.”

Tributes were paid to him in the Irish parliament, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying that he “fell as a hero on the battlefield.”

RTE News reports that he was buried in his hometown which he was trying to protect.

Anya said that Oleksandr’s eldest daughter lived in St Petersburg in Russia with her mum, with his youngest child living in Ukraine when the war broke out.

She managed to make it to safety in Germany with her mum, something that Oleksandr never found out.

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne, Anya said: “He was super worried about them. He said he had to go back to Ukraine because somebody has to protect the children and elderly and women. He felt it was his duty to go back and protect and do anything he can.”

“This war is just tragic. I can’t find words to describe the whole magnitude of this situation. It is incredible.”

Anya has now set up a GoFundMe page for Oleksandr’s family. So far she has raised more than €25,000 (£20,817).

A spokesperson for Aldi described the store manager,  as a “valued and much-loved member of the Aldi team for over eight years.”

They said: “We are all shocked by this news and our thoughts are with Oleksandr’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“He was a great asset to the company and will be greatly missed.”

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