Historian Timothy Snyder meets Ukrainian soldier who was photographed reading his book in a trench

·2 min read

Famous historian and Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder has met Oleksandr Shyrshyn, a Ukrainian soldier who was photographed reading Snyder’s book, The Road to Unfreedom, in a trench.

Shyrshyn posted on Facebook about meeting Snyder at his alma mater, the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.

"An unlikely but not accidental meeting," Shyrshyn captioned the photo he posted of himself and Snyder.

On 2 January 2023, Timothy Snyder tweeted a photo of Oleksandr reading The Road to Unfreedom in a trench.


"For an author, the greatest honour is a reader," Snyder wrote in Ukrainian when posting this picture of Oleksandr reading Snyder’s book

"For an author, the greatest honour is a reader," Snyder wrote in Ukrainian.

Although the photo has been widely circulated in global media, Oleksandr does not think much of his newfound celebrity.

"I was very surprised when Timothy Snyder reposted my photo, and that it gained so much traction. It’s just a photo, nothing special. [I thought] a week would pass and everyone would forget about it. Though the book is really interesting," Oleksandr says.


Oleksandr Shyrshyn and Timothy Snyder at the Ukrainian Catholic University

Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom is a book of contemporary history. Snyder recounts Russia’s attempts to undermine Western democracies by supporting far-right movements in Europe and describes Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its cyber campaign to meddle with the US presidential election in 2016.

Oleksandr Shyrshyn graduated with a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Leadership and Management Institute.

Shyrshyn signed a contract to join the reserve forces of the 80th Air Assault Brigade several days before the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

He was seriously injured in June 2022, and it was a miracle that he survived.

Shyrshyn was awarded the Order for Courage, 3rd class, in summer 2022.

He is a platoon commander, having risen through the ranks from the position of UAV operator. He had no military experience prior to joining the army, so he learned on the job, when the full-scale war was already underway.

Shyrshyn says that he has faced many difficulties and survived several tragedies, including the death of a brother-in-arms. He also finds it hard to be apart from his wife and children.

Journalists fight on their own frontline. Support Ukrainska Pravda or become our patron!