Oleh Onishchuk was born on August 12, 1961, in the village of Putryntsi, Iziaslav district, Khmelnytskyi region in the family of workers.
Oleh finished Iziaslav secondary school № 5, where he studied well, read a lot and even more was involved in sports. According to his mother Mariia, since his childhood Oleh was fond of books and films about the Second World War, about the reconnaissance men and was a fan of the army.
In 1978, he joined the famous Kiev Higher Combined Arms Command School, where he studied at the faculty of intelligence. In 1982, after graduating from this military school Oleh was sent for further service in the Special Forces units in Transbaikalia, and then to the Central Asia.
Onishchuk was writing a report with a request to forward him for service in Afghanistan for eight times. And finally he achieved his goal.
Oleh Onishchuk arrived to the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) in April 1987 and was appointed to 186th separate Special Forces detachment of 22nd separate Special Forces brigade of 40th Army at the position of the commander of the reconnaissance group. Subsequently he was appointed at the position of deputy company commander.
This 186th detachment was like a family to Oleh, because it was formed on the basis of 8th separate Special Forces brigade at Onishchuk’s home-town of Iziaslav. In DRA the task of the detachment was to overlap the caravan routes by which weapons and ammunition were supplied from Pakistan to the mujahideen through the deserts Hush and Registan.
Almost immediately after arriving in Afghanistan the young officer plunged into the hell of fighting and proved to be a determined and even-tempered officer.
From the memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union Yaroslav Horoshko, about sworn brother Onishchuk: “...Remember Oleh before his first combat exit. All the people had long been resting, but he was preparing carefully. He sat at the map not closing his eyes for the night. He was a talented reconnaissance man and a very hard-working officer... One of ou blood...”.
His first exit as a commander of the reconnaissance group was difficult. Group was spotted by the insurgents. But thanks to Oleh’s determination and ingenuity the scouts managed to complete the task and break away from the pursuit of the mujahideen.
Gradually Oleh Onishchuk’s reconnaissance group became a powerful fighting unit. One of the most successful Senior Lieutenant Onishchuk’s operations is considered the fighting exit in July 1987, during which the rebel anti-aircraft gun “Erlikon” with ammunition was captured. For capturing that gun Senior Lieutenant Onishchuk was introduced to award the Order of the Red Banner.
From the memoirs of Senior Lieutenant Nikitin, who served in Afghanistan under the command of Oleh Onishchuk: “Onishchuk was an officer of a rare competence in the field of specialized disciplines and widely knowledgeable in general military issues. Always he had his own point of view. Never imposed his point of view on the other people, but he could defend it, and argued the case by the results of fighting exits. He could spend hours in search of the right solutions… He was characterized by a healthy ambitiousness and striving. But before taking risks, he was thinking over their actions hundred times and did everything to save the life of his subordinates”.
Overall for the half-year stay in Afghanistan, 26-year-old Senior Lieutenant Onishchuk had assets of 23 combat exits, 11 of them successful.
However, the white stripe of successes was interrupted by an unfortunate disease – before the last operation Oleh fell ill with hepatitis. Although the disease itself was not a very nice thing but twice unbearable for the reconnaissance officer was waiting for returning to the ranks. Onishchuk was discharged in record time, threatening doctors with escape.
Returning to his unit, Oleh got the good news – his second daughter was born. In his last letter he wrote to wife that he wanted to see his girls, and that he longed for them, and that he was planning to come on holiday in the summer. But those plans went awry. The last combat negated everything out.
The terms of operation were postponed repeatedly. Originally the group was to leave on October 23, 1987. But some circumstances deferred that unfortunate day, as if fate was trying to alert the reconnaissance men and their commander.
On October 27, a group of 16 scouts went to perform a task. The next night, they went to the area of Duri kishlak.
The caravan appeared at night when it got dark. The group commander revealed a convoy of 3 vehicles that were forwarding on the road that was used by the insurgents for transporting weapons and ammunition from Pakistan deeper into Afghanistan. Reconnaissance group secretly took firing positions and with focused fire damaged the first truck, filled with weapons and ammunition, and destroyed a caravan guard.
Oleh Onishchuk contacted the command by radio and asked permission to stay until the morning to check, after the arrival of an inspection team, what was transporting that damaged truck. The headquarters of the detachment agreed and said that at 6 a.m. the helicopters deliver the reinforcement to Onishchuk’s group to ensure the maintenance of the truck. In anticipation of the inspection team Onishchuk’s soldiers took a position near the damaged vehicle.
The next day at 06.05 a.m. the scouts were attacked by greatly superior enemy forces.
According to the reports received later from HUMINT sources, the Onishchuk’s group fought with 3 gangs of mujahideen, total of more than 200 people. The mujahedeen were moving forward to conduct ambushes against the columns of Soviet troops along the road from Kabul to Kandahar. However, after discovering that a Special Forces group was operating in the area, the rebels decided to destroy it.
In front of the group commander fought heroically and died his subordinates one by one – Junior Sergeant Sydorenko, privates Jafarov, Muradov, Hrolenko, Moskalenko, Muradian, Ivanov and Salahiiev. Onishchuk himself and Junior Sergeant Islamov were tightly surrounded by insurgents. Having shot all the bullets, in a fierce hand-to-hand fighting Oleh Onishchuk and Yurii Islamov blew themselves up with grenades, killing 13 of the mujahideen.
On the whole, during the battle the group destroyed 63 mujahideen, including Modad – the commander of illegal armed groups in the province of Zabol and the influential field commander Nasser.
When the question arose, who is to be send to help the Onishchuk’s group, his friend Captain Horoshko was immediately elected. However, due to a fatal combination of circumstances and problems in the organization of departure the assistance could only set off at 6.40 a.m. When they arrived, scouts of Onishchuk’s group were almost gone. Their mutilated bodies, disfigured by the furious mujahideen, were lying on the hillside.
So heroic and tragic at the same time was the battle near Duri kishlak for Senior Lieutenant Onishchuk.
From the letter of the command to Oleh Onishchuk’s wife Halyna: “With deep sorrow and a heavy heart we have to inform you that your husband Oleh Onishchuk, performing a fighting task, commanding the unit, was killed heroically, carrying out to the end of his military, patriotic and international duty. He skillfully directed the actions of the group, showing the highest courage and bravery, personally destroying several bandits; your husband died a heroic death”.
By a Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, dated by 5th May 1988, Senior Lieutenant Oleh Onishchuk was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Other rewards of a glorious reconnaissance man – two orders and a medal also found their hero posthumously.
The memory of the hero is still alive. This is evidenced not only by numerous plaques, monuments, stands, but also a variety of events to commemorate the hero.
The secondary school in Iziaslav, where Oleh studied and which is currently named after him, has become a genuine spiritual center for patriotic upbringing of the young generation. Each pupil of the school knows who Oleh Onishchuk was and is proud to study in the same school where the Hero of the Soviet Union Senior Lieutenant Oleh Onishchuk had once studied.
A stand dedicated to Oleh Onishchuk was also created at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War.
A special exhibition in the museum of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine is dedicated to the feat of Senior Lieutenant Oleh Onishchuk.