By Casey Neill
Vladimir Nagorny has a lot more in common with Australia’s young war veterans than his Ukrainian name and accent would lead people to think.
The Dandenong Cranbourne RSL Sub-Branch welfare advocate and co-ordinator served his homeland in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“It was very difficult to go back to civilian life after what I had seen in Afghanistan,” he said.
“I had lost a lot of friends and my best friend was killed in action. I named my oldest son after him.
“Probably like a lot of others, I couldn’t find myself.”
Mr Nagorny lost friends to suicide.
“I said to myself ‘this is not my life, I don’t want to live this life’,” he said.
He went to university and became a lawyer, and started his own organisation to help veterans.
“I had support from my friends, who were in Afghanistan with me as well,” he said.
Mr Nagorny came to Australia in 1995.
He was initially refused RSL membership, but persisted and in 2011 took on the welfare role in Dandenong.
On Saturday 18 November he was recognised for his efforts with an RSL achievement award.
“I was absolutely shocked, I didn’t expect it,” he said.
Mr Nagorny said his role spanned the Dandenong and Cranbourne offices and the ex-service people who sought his assistance came from far and wide.
He is a qualified hypnotherapist and offers free sessions, and he takes phone calls whenever people need a chat – day or night.
One Saturday morning at 3am he received a call from a veteran who told him he was about to commit suicide.
“He didn’t,” Mr Nagorny said.
He also visits psychiatric hospitals, where many patients tell him that their doctors don’t understand because they’re not ex-service.
“That’s why they call me to come and talk,” he said.
“They understand me, I understand them.”
He led a Soviet Army special forces intelligence squad.
“Some people come just to talk,” he said.
“They never ask for help but we identify what they need.
“To get our help they don’t need to be a member of the RSL.
“They just need to know that we’re available to them.
“We deeply understand veteran’s needs. We’re here to hear them and we’re here to help them and support. Who can better understand a veteran? Only a veteran!
“We won’t judge them.
“Come and talk to us and we will pick up what you need.”
Mr Nagorny welcomed Army, Navy and Air Force veterans to call him on 9792 1535.