Longtime friend reflects on Hernando man killed in Ukraine

HERNANDO, Fla. — Citrus County resident Stephen Zabielski is believed to be the second American killed while fighting in Ukraine. The U.S. State Department confirmed Zabielski died in Ukraine but didn’t provide details.

What You Need To Know

  • According to an obituary, Stephen Zabielski was killed while fighting in Ukraine
  • U.S. State Dept. confirmed Zabielski died in Ukraine but did not provide details
  • A friend called Zabielski a hero and a patriot
  • According to friend, Zabielski went to Ukraine because he was horrified at Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian citizens

According to an obituary in the Amsterdam, N.Y. newspaper “The Recorder,” Zabielski, 52, was killed fighting in a Ukrainian village. 

“I was stunned,” Miceal O’Hurley said of hearing the news.

O’Hurley said he became friends with Zabielski in the mid-1980s at Mariaville Lake in Upstate New York.

“He was an outdoor enthusiast, and I was up on my motorcycle. He came over. We had a chat. He was much more proud of his Harley than I was of my Suzuki, but it started off a conversation and a friendship that lasted off and on over the years,” O’Hurley said.

Zabielski’s obituary said he lived in the Cranesville, N.Y., area until 2018. It also said he worked in construction for more than 30 years.

O’Hurley said the two would catch up sporadically through the years when they ran into each other. The last time was unexpected. O’Hurley tells Spectrum News he was in Kyiv covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine for “Diplomacy in Ireland – European Diplomat,” of which he’s editor-in-chief.

“I hear this American voice, and someone turns around and said, ‘Boy, you’ve gotten old and fat.’ And there was Steve. We embraced and chatted, and I was surprised to see him there,” O’Hurley said. 

According to O’Hurley, Kyiv was the place where those who wanted to fight came to get processed and get equipment.

“Steve went to Ukraine because he is truly a patriotic American. A lot of people throw around the word ‘patriot’ these days and the word ‘hero’. He was the real deal. He was both of them. He believed in liberty. He believed in democracy. He was horrified at the conditions to which the Ukrainian people were being subjected by the Russians,” O’Hurley said. “I think, in the best tradition of Americanism, he wasn’t there as a conqueror, but as the helper. He was a really good man.”

Zabielski’s obituary says he lived life to the fullest and will be missed by all who knew and loved him.

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