Amsterdam native killed fighting in Ukraine, State Department confirms; Second American killed in conflict

Stephen D. “Steve” Zabielski (Credit: Obituary) Right: A building destroyed in Russian shelling outside Kyiv (Associated Press)

Stephen D. “Steve” Zabielski (Credit: Obituary) Right: A building destroyed in Russian shelling outside Kyiv (Associated Press)

CRANESVILLE – A 52-year-old Amsterdam native died last month while fighting in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State confirmed Tuesday, making Stephen D. Zabielski the second U.S. citizen believed to have been killed in the conflict.

Stephen D. “Steve” Zabielski, of Hernando, FL, and formerly of Cranesville, NY, died on Sunday, May 15, 2022, while fighting in the war in Ukraine in the Village of Dorozhniank, according to his obituary, published in The Recorder.

Zabielski, an Amsterdam High School graduate, was a lifelong resident of the Amsterdam area until 2018, according to the obituary. He worked in construction for more than 30 years and enjoyed hunting, fishing and riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The Gazette was not able to reach members of his family.

A state department spokesman confirmed Zabielski died in Ukraine and declined further comment out of respect for the family.

“We have been in touch with the family and have provided all possible consular assistance,” the spokesperson said. “We once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.”

Zabielski is the second U.S. citizen believed to have been killed fighting in Ukraine. Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, reportedly died in late April. Cancel, living in Tennessee, grew up in Orange County, New York.

Zabielski was part of the Wolverines, a group of western volunteers that were connected to the Ukrainian army, Tristan Nettles, a Marine Corps veteran who said he was with Zabielski the night he died, told Rolling Stone magazine.

The Wolverines were on a mission to clear enemy mines near the village of Dorozhniank, Nettles told Rolling Stone. Their mission was to create a safe path for their unit’s vehicles ahead of a Ukrainian assault planned for the following morning, Nettles told the magazine.

After being tasked with watching the Russian line for many hours, “Stephen apparently triggered a trip wire, which detonated a mine that killed him,” while he was changing positions, Nettles told the magazine.

Born on July 1, 1969, in Amsterdam, Zabielski was the son of the late Edward S. Zabielski and Joan K. (Vitus) Zabielski, according to the obituary. He is survived by his wife, Fran A. (Fulci) Zabielski; five stepchildren: Cody Pine, Austin Pine, Heather Hartenfels, Christina Hartenfels, and Francesa Hartenfels, and seven siblings: Theresa A. Zabielski, Edward J. Zabielski, Carrielynn (Zabielski) Soodol, Sandra M. (Zabielski) Spagnola, Robert F. Zabielski, Tami R. (Zabielski) Beaudette, and Pamela J. Zabielski, the obit states.

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.


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