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August 31, 2023

Tribute to Anton Harbuz: Ukrainian Hero and Project Manager at Syndicode

UA version here

5 months ago, on 31 March 2023, Anton Harbuz, 33, soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, platoon commander, combat medic, junior sergeant, loving father and husband, and Project Manager at Syndicode gave his life defending Ukraine in the Battle of Bakhmut.

In this text, we honor his memory, his personality, kindness, courage, and bravery because Anton Harbuz was one of a kind.

The Story

Anton was born and lived in Kyiv, graduated from Kyiv Aviation Technical College in 2009 and National Aerospace University in 2015. He worked as a project manager, was a person of many interests and a true patriot. On the first day of the Russian full-scale invasion into Ukraine’s territory, on February 24, 2023, he volunteered to serve the country and was mobilized to the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on March 3, 2022.

On March 31, 2023, Anton gave his life while helping his comrades to get to their battle positions in Bakhmut. He was a loving husband to his wife Iryna and the best father to their daughter Anna, 5.

He was a runner, fisherman, hiker, reader, cyclist, a man of endless talents with an incredibly bright personality.

Anton was a great many things to a great many people while he lived, he still is, and will always be. Today, his friends share the memories so you can have an impression about one of the best men we knew:

He had the spirit and energy to lead people

— from Oleksandr Subbotin, Project Management Lead at Syndicode

I was lucky to be friends with Anton for about 9 years. I can’t say that everything worked out from the first moment since it was difficult for us to find a common language for several months. Now, it’s even hard to imagine how that could be.

On the one hand, 9 years is not much, but on the other hand… During this time, we went through a lot together, and I was really lucky to get to know Anton’s best traits. I always knew that I could rely on him in any situation. There was no need to explain anything – Anton was always there in difficult moments, as well as in moments of boundless joy and fun. He never gave up and always said that there was still a little bit left. He deeply understood people and was able to find the right words for any occasion.

It’s hard to imagine Anton without a cup of “dopio” in the morning before the office. I remember how I managed to persuade him to taste the coffee. Previously, he did not like it because of bitterness. So the first time it was a cappuccino, yes, exactly cappuccino 🙂

While tasting a cup of “dopio”, he had time to find out about everyone’s mood, cheer up, encourage, and adjust to work, especially on Mondays. He was the soul of our team.

Anton had excellent eloquence skills. How many people do you know who are able to use a “harsh” word in a way that doesn’t sound vulgar, unacceptable, or offensive, but only conveys meaning? He knew how to empathize, gently nudge, or push if needed. He knew how to raise the “fighting spirit” and the mood of everyone. He easily made new acquaintances and always drew attention to himself. This was an important feature of his work. Anton gathered a team around him and knew how to negotiate with everyone. Customers were delighted! His open and kind smile was mesmerizing at first glance.

He plunged headlong into new hobbies, always eager to try something else. I remember the boundless joy when he caught his first doublet of roach. The joy of a child (191 cm tall) seeing something new for the first time. After that, he switched to fishing for predatory fish. When he first caught a zander, his joy was boundless. But he was even more pleased with the anticipation of returning home, where he could show his trophy to Iryna and Anyuta, as well as the anticipation of seeing how Iryna would cook this fish. Anton always longed for home – it was his center of strength.

Running became a new stage of achievements. Anton devoted himself to this passion to the fullest. He found a trainer and did not miss a single training session. He had a goal – a marathon. And he did it together with our friend and colleague Timofii, who was running alongside. How he rejoiced when he crossed the finish line with a decent result! Anton was like that in everything.

If he set out to do something, he always saw it through. This also applied to the time after the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of the territory of Ukraine. He told me: “Sasha, I can’t just sit in the shelter and listen to the blows from missile attacks – I have to act.” And he did… he did what many people were just talking about, he enlisted in the ranks of the Armed Forces. They did not take him immediately because he did not have some document. Then he went home, found the document, and returned a few hours later. The military man did not expect such a passion for joining the army, but Anton was persistent and knew exactly what he wanted. He was not quite happy with some things in the army, but he did not give up, he simply said – this is the army)).

He devoted every free minute to learning new information, acquiring new skills, and improving old skills. After he learned the information, he motivated his comrades and organized master classes for them. If he didn’t know something but thought it was necessary, he found a person, organized training, and pulled everyone along. Thanks to his spirit, he led his comrades with him.

He was always ready to lend a helping hand if it was needed. This happened at the time of his death as well – Anton helped the comrades get to their military positions, although he was not obliged to do so…

It was so easy with you…

We could talk all the way to the Carpathians before the hike and then be silent for hours climbing up. Sit all night by the fire, singing songs or just watching the flames. This feeling cannot be expressed in words – when it is so easy to just be with someone that you don’t even have to say anything.

My friend, I miss you so much…

True friend, from a first handshake

— from Andrey Makovenko, Ruby on Rails Developer at Syndicode

Anton was a great friend, always at the center of attention: on lunch with colleagues, on a coffee break, at office parties, on fishing adventures, everywhere. When I came to Syndicode’s office for the final hiring step, Anton came to me, shook my hand, introduced himself, and wished me good luck. It was a small detail, but I felt that friendly vibe from him, and I felt like I wanted to work in a company where people were so friendly. Imagine: You’re a project manager, you’re in the middle of the working day, you have a lot of stuff to do, a stranger is passing by for the job interview, you probably see many of them every month, and yet, you shake his hand, introduce yourself and wish him good luck. I accepted the offer, and I’ve been a Syndicoder for more than 4 years now.

On my first working day, I shared that I played football in school, so Anton invited me to play football after work. The next day, I was having the time of my life playing football with people I had known for a few days and that was great. A month after I joined Syndicode, Anton and Alex Subbotin invited me to join them on a fishing trip. We were in Poltava with about 15 colleagues; fishing, singing songs with a guitar, and living in tents. Yet again, I had the time of my life.

Anton always supported me in fishing – he was a pro – sometimes, we went fishing together before work with friends and colleagues, and he always showed me something I didn’t know.

Anton loved running. He was out running almost every day. He participated in competitions, half-marathons, and marathons. I’m a bad runner, too lazy for that, but I tracked a few runs in Strava, and under every run, Anton commented: “Nicely done!” “How did it feel?” etc. He tried to support me on that and encouraged for more!

That’s how I remember Anton. A true friend, from a first handshake.

I will always be grateful for what he did for all of us

— from Tymofii Synianskyi, WordPress / Front-end (Markup) Developer at Syndicode

I always thought and often said to Anton that I have never met a more sociable person in my life! He had a talent for finding an approach to anyone in any situation, both at work and in life. There was always so much to talk about with Anton! First, we could talk about what he did during the football fan meetings; then we discussed the book he was reading, and finally, his running records or our work! It was incredible! Add to that a wonderful sense of humor, and imagine you met Anton to a certain extent. And this is just one of so many facets of his unique personality. Anton was also a wonderful father

I know that for him, there was no more important and beloved person in the world than his daughter, Anna.

Everyone could learn a lot from him, from his attitude to others to problems, to work, to life in general.

I will always be grateful to Anton for everything he did for me. For how he supported me with projects, how he threw me over the fence in an obstacle course, how he taught me how to communicate with clients, and so much more. I will always be grateful for what he did for all of us, and I will never forget him.

Brave person with principles

— from Alexander Haiduk, Ruby on Rails Developer at Syndicode

No words can describe my attitude to Anton Harbuz, whom I used to call Toha. People like Toha get into your heart very quickly and stay forever. We met at the fishing team building in Poltava. I immediately understood that he is a very sociable person who can support any conversation, smart and clever, cheerful, but super serious and focused when needed. His philosophy of life really resonates with mine, so we became friends. I remember every our meeting, every dialogue, every sporting or fishing event with him… How we played tennis, how he loved salo from Poltava… how every time we met, he was impatiently waiting for the opportunity to have a Poltavian shisha.

I remember how we were fishing in a boat on the Dnipro. He talked a lot about his family, his daughter whom he loved immensely, his childhood, his service in the army, and, of course, about fishing. On the way to the shore, Toha found poachers’ nets in the water, and we cut them in front of the poachers and released the fish.

Everyone knew that Toha was a brave person, a person with principles. Therefore, I was not surprised that in the first days of the full-scale war, Toha was already on the Military Committee. He said that he had been preparing since 2014 and understood that the war was irreversible. On September 25, 2022, we went on our last fishing trip. Having already visited the front, in the hottest spots, he talked about this experience without emotion. Like a real fighter – a soldier who has no right to doubt, fear, and the rest of the feelings that a civilian has the luxury of feeling every day.

After heavy battles in Bakhmut and another rotation, on the way to the same hellish Bakhmut, we met for the last time just for 5-10 minutes. I was very happy to see him. Toha told me to look for the next place for fishing. We laughed and joked a bit. He rode in a convoy of 5-6 buses with his comrades in arms.

I asked him if all fighters are in a fighting spirit, he answered: “Not all are in a fighting spirit, but all are fighters.”

We shook hands, hugged. I wished him luck. Then we took a selfie, Toha said it was for a “report to the customer”.

He maintained good, friendly relations with customers. He was a person with this superpower: after just one conversation with him, people had only positive emotions. A real manager at work but a warrior by nature.

I remember Toha every day, use his catchphrases every day, and every time I am saddened by realizing we will never see each other again. I am infinitely grateful to Anton’s family, especially his wife and daughter, for the honor of having such a friend. I believe that his sacrifice was not in vain and that everyone who knew Toha would remember him and support his family. Thank you. I won’t forget, bro.

I miss our conversations

— from Oleksandr Oliinyk, Ruby/JS Developer at Syndicode

Toha was always super positive. Sometimes I wondered how it is possible to always have such a great sense of humor in any situation. We lived in different cities; he was in Kyiv, and I am in Dnipro, but over the years, we had many bright moments together. I often remember how masterfully he organized all kinds of activities for us on vacation in Egypt (A True Manager!).

One morning, after a crazy night in nature, Anton and our colleague swam on boats in the heat to fish — he was very passionate about his various hobbies. He always had a cool setup for hiking, running, or fishing. It was really exciting for me to hear about all these tools he had. With Anton, things were always so easy, interesting, and fun.

I miss our conversations in my kitchen about life plans and so many other things that are just too hard to simply describe in writing.

His last words to me were, “Everything will be fine”

— from Ruslan Kotsiuruba, Ruby on Rails Developer at Syndicode, soldier of the Armed forces of Ukraine

I met Anton, strangely enough, in Syndicode’s office. At that time, I was already a part of the company, while Anton was just starting. He entered the office as a director, like a business partner of our boss, walked through the corridor, greeted everyone, and locked himself in the office with our CEO. “Pffff, what a cool pepper,” I thought. That was my first impression, and it remained unchanged forever. Anton was a really cool, self-confident, and fearless man. It is interesting that he deeply knew and understood many things from different subject areas:

  • need an advice on cycling? – here you go.
  • have a question about running? – I have something to tell you.
  • you’re a fisherman? – Oh brother, you’ve come to the right place.
  • buying tourist equipment? – I bought this tent, it’s really the best
  • shall we talk about hookah? there are soooo many stuff here!
  • gadgets? – my friend, don’t take that, but this one is really top!
  • apple technology? – I will help you buy, sell, pick up, find.
  • wanna coffee? – a new coffee shop has opened there, they have a coffee you can’t find anywhere.

In all these things, Anton knew so many little things and nuances. I even asked him – “Friend, where do you find the time to understand all this?” I never got a concrete answer, he just easily mastered everything he did.

I would like to mention him separately as a family man. The fire of love for his wife and daughter in his eyes could be seen a kilometer away on the darkest and most difficult days.

Neither fatigue, nor a bad mood, nor any worries or problems could shake him from being the golden head of his family. He was an example for us, that’s what he did best.

And it was so easy for him to be a good friend. When Toha is in the company, you know it will be good fun, never boring, and noisy. I loved spending time with him, always happy when we planned trips or vacations together. During one trip, we were in the Carpathians and he finally started skiing. He got super excited! It was difficult for him for several days, and finally he skied. I was lucky to share that moment of his happiness. Unfortunately, it was the last day of the trip, and ahead, there was a year of conversations, plans and dreams, which were destroyed by covid and diseases… and then the war. Which destroyed everything and forever.

The war changed Anton. Already after a few months of service, he added an extensive knowledge in tactical medicine, weapons, fighting in different conditions and in different areas to the list of skills that I listed above. As usual, he, as a lover of all kinds of gadgets, staff and various kinds of equipment, provided himself with all this at the highest level. He looked like a cool fighter and constantly developed himself in this direction.

Unfortunately, after seeing a lot of grief in the war, experiencing difficult events and battles, he himself changed a little. His circle of communication expanded, the eyes became sadder, the topics of conversation shifted to a bit different direction. I was lucky enough to spend the first days of 2023 with him, when he and his family came to visit me. It was a few days full of laughter, children’s noise, conversations and hugs. And when he left my soul was empty and joyless for a long time. The last hug was warm and sad, but as always with a smile on his face. That weekend he often listened to a song called “Cassette”, which now I can’t listen to without tears in my eyes. Let it evoke memories of Anton and others.

His last words to me were “Everything will be fine”, and in a week he was gone… Memories with Anton are enough to write a book. It is impossible to describe his loss in dry words.

I love you my friend, forever in my heart.

We want the best for his family

— from Alena Riaboshapko, Head of Finance at Syndicode

It has been 5 months since Anton was gone. Every time I want to believe in a fairy tale and that this news was a hoax, a dream or someone’s joke. I was asked at on my birthday if there was anyone who did not congratulate me, and I was waiting for it. And, of course, I would really like to read or hear Anton’s greetings. Last year they were already from Bakhmut, and it was so valuable.

I learned a lot from Anton: how not to let yourself be offended, how to defend your boundaries, how to believe in yourself when faith disappears, how not to get upset over little things.

Anton was sincere, reliable and selfless. At work, he was a leader, defender, mentor and real manager. Always helped in all matters. He supported me, lifted my spirits, taught me to enjoy everything. Very few people are so sincere and always ready to help. Anton was always in the office. When you arrive, he is already in the office, practicing English before the working day. When you leave the office, he is still there, finishing work calls, arranging documents and going for a run.

One Friday evening, when the office was already empty, Anton was leaving something on my desk and saw that my cup was cracked. He wrote to me about it, I replied that I saw nothing terrible. He said it shouldn’t be cracked, so he went and bought the same one. On Monday morning, I had a new cup. It is not customary to do so, it is not really an important thing. Anton was just a person to genuinely care about everything.

Toha gave me a love for running. He always motivated me not to give up, told me what to read, what to check out, what shoes to choose. He motivated me so much that he visited my amateur yoga several times after work, just to support my desire and initiative to conduct yoga classes. It was never sad with him – he could solve literally any problem.

I want to write and tell a lot about Toha. Almost every day in every routine, there is a moment or a thought about what Toha would have done in such a case. These moments cause a smile and tears at the same time.

We want Anton’s memory to live on, to always be with us. We want the best for his family. He is truly a Hero and an example of a warrior, manager, friend, father, and husband.

Anton is forever a Hero for us, true friend, great Project Manager, a person with a big heart and an indomitable warrior. He said:

“If something happens to me, remember that Ukraine will definitely win, and never give up.”

And he never gave up as a true Hero of Ukraine.

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes! Heroes never die! ??