‘Ghost of Kyiv’ killed in battle, identity revealed

By Lee Brown April 29, 2022 New York Post

The mysterious Ukrainian fighter pilot hailed as the “Ghost of Kyiv” after reportedly shooting down dozens of Russian aircraft has been killed in battle, an outlet said Friday.

The death of the much-celebrated enigmatic pilot was reported by The Times of London, which for the first time also publicly identified Major Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old father of one, as the war hero.

Tarabalka was credited with taking out as many as 40 Russian aircraft until he was himself shot down March 13 while battling an “overwhelming” number of enemy forces, the UK paper said.

Tarabalka was posthumously awarded Ukraine’s top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title Hero of Ukraine, according to his family.

His helmet and goggles — all that was seen of him when Ukrainian officials promoted his heroism — are now set to be auctioned in London, sources told the UK Times while confirming Tarabalka’s identity.

The "Ghost of Kyiv" has been identified as Major Stepan Tarabalka.
The “Ghost of Kyiv” has been identified as Major Stepan Tarabalka.

Tarabalka became a mysterious legend when the Ukrainian government credited the then-anonymous pilot with shooting down six Russian jets on the first day of the war.

“People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. And rightly so,” the official tweet said, saying he had “already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft.”

Ukraine’s General Staff later tweeted another picture of the ace fighter pilot in the cockpit of his MiG-29 jet with his face covered, captioned, “Hello, occupier, I’m coming for your soul!”

Many people questioned whether the “Ghost” was real, as his identity remained a mystery — seemingly even to his grieving family when told of their loved one’s death last month.

His parents, Nahtalia and Evon Tarabalka, were interviewed by NPR soon after his death — and they gave no mention of his secret status nor any hint they knew what missions he had been on.

“We know he was flying on a mission. And he completed the mission, his task. Then he didn’t return. That’s all the information we have,” his dad told the outlet.

"Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky," his mother told NPR.
“Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky,” his mother told NPR.
"We know he was flying on a mission," his parents said of his death.
“We know he was flying on a mission,” his parents said of his death.

Tarabalka’s parents detailed how their son’s lifelong dream was to become a fighter pilot while growing up next to a military airfield in the village of Korolivka.

“Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, about flying higher than the clouds,” his mother told NPR through a translator.

Tarabalka leaves behind a wife and young son.
Tarabalka leaves behind a wife and young son.

“He would always watch the paratroopers in their air exercises. And he would run in their direction to try to see where they landed,” Nahtalia said.

His parents said said they were amazed when he made his dream come true, despite having no military connections.

“Becoming a pilot, it was his own effort. He did it all himself. I just helped with prayers,” his mother said.

They confirmed that Tarabalka — who leaves behind a wife, Olenia, and 8-year-old son, Yarik — was awarded the Order of the Golden Star, with the title Hero of Ukraine.

“Of course, he’d already earned this award when he was with us,” his father told NPR.

“But we wish he could get the honor after the war. We just wish he was still alive.”

Heroyam Slava!!


  1. Its a terrible, dark day in Ukraine but this one patriotic man gave untold courage and strength to his country and was an inspiration for all his fellow fighters in Ukraine. His memory will live forever. I feel terrible for his family and for all Ukrainians and I hope their transition from the feeling of loss to hero will be swift.
    Slava Ukraini~~!!
    Heroyam slava~~!!
    Slava Major Tarabalka~~!!

  2. My God. I’m so horribly upset that a hero of such a caliber is gone. He will be sorely missed by not only his fellow countrymen but his family and friends. His heroism will live forever. May God receive him as the hero that he is. His achievements go beyond Hero of Ukraine. He’s a hero of the entire world.

    Слава Україні!
    Героям слава! 

    • That’s true. He shot down 40 russian kindergarten bombers in 18 days. Perhaps someone can correct me but I think pilots can only fight every other day too. He was from Ivano-Frankivsk so no doubt he will be missed there.

  3. I went back to look at events from March 13th and on that day the ruSSo-fascists sent missiles both into L’viv and Ivano-Frankivsk. The missiles hit the airport at Ivano-Frankivsk and I don’t know but it is possible the Ghost was hit there.


  4. As General George Patton said “Don’t weep for such men. Give thanks to God that such men lived.” Any country producing su7ch men is blessed beyond measure.

  5. He is indeed a hero. It’s too bad for such men or for anyone having to die to keep the country from being turned into a slave state.
    Слава Україні!!!
    Героям слава!!!

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