Roman Hrybov, a Ukrainian Snake Island guard, was honored by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense on Tuesday and awarded a medal for his bravery. After an assault on Snake Island, a small, rocky base south of Odesa, the border guard was taken prisoner by Russia and recently recovered as part of a prisoner exchange.

The base on Snake Island came under bombardment from Russian sea vessels on the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where initial reports suggested that 13 border guards were allegedly killed. When soldiers told guard Roman Hrybov to lay down his weapons and surrender, the soldier allegedly radioed back to the Russian warship telling them to “go f**k yourself.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded Roman Hrybov with a medal of honor for his courage in standing up to his invaders and announced that the fallen guards would be receiving “Hero of Ukraine” posthumous titles, as well.

Many of the soldiers originally reported as killed in action were later revealed to have survived, however, and were reunited with their country as part of the first major prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. Hrybov was also included in the P.O.W. swap.

“All those who were taken prisoner were exchanged. Russia came up with this proposal. We exchanged them without hesitation,” Zelenskyy stated. “Some of the soldiers died, some were taken prisoner. Those who died, they are heroes.”

According to the Ukrainian government, Roman Hrybov is now back home in the city of Cherkasy, roughly 115 miles southeast of Kyiv, the country’s capitol. Local authorities celebrated the Snake Island guard when he arrived with a warm welcome.

“Zmiiny [Snake] Island heroes are back! 🇺🇦” the Ukrainian Embassy announced on Twitter. “Ukrainian serviceman Roman Hrybov, who entered history for his iconic quote about the Russian warship returned from Russian captivity to his native Cherkasy region. Glory to the hero!”

The guard’s brave, declarative radio statement to Russian warships has since been disseminated and shared as a rallying cry for the Ukrainian front, where audio recordings of the event went viral on social media.

The phrase was also commemorated on a Ukrainian postal stamp, featuring an illustration of Roman Hrybov standing and facing a Russian warship.

The Ukrainian medal given to Roman Hrybov for his bravery
The Ukrainian medal given to Roman Hrybov for his bravery. Photo Credit: YouTube

In an interview with a local Ukrainian news outlet, Roman Hrybov’s mother Tetyana Rudolfivna, told reporters that her son “never bowed to anyone.”

“It’s hard for me, but I’ll tell you. I talked to Roma the same day, the morning of February 24. I noticed anxiety in his voice – my son spoke to me more gently than usual,” she recalled about the day Snake Island was bombarded. “Although he said that the war had begun, I replied ‘I don’t believe it…’ My son insisted.”

“This was a call to fight against the accursed occupier around the world,” she said of her son’s now immortalized, “invincible” words to the Russian warship. “It encouraged the whole world!”

Roman Hrybov’s mother also joked that she had never heard her son curse before. She and many people in her city were inspired by his words and joined in the fight against Russia. She said that if she were younger, she too would “shoot” and “would be next to my son.”

“People cried when they heard this,” she continued. “For ordinary people, my son is a hero.”