6 Months On, Ukraine Fights War, Faces Painful Aftermath

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — Danyk Rak enjoys driving his bike, taking part in soccer and quiet moments with the household’s short-legged canine and two white cats, Pushuna and Lizun.

However at age 12, his childhood has been abruptly reduce brief. His household’s dwelling was destroyed and his mom severely wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding cities in a failed effort to grab the capital.

Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and with no finish to the battle in sight, The Related Press revisited Danyk in addition to a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by battle.

“I WANT TO BE AN AIR FORCE PILOT”

Tears come to Danyk’s eyes as his mom, Luda, recollects being pulled from the rubble, lined in blood, after shrapnel tore by means of her physique and smashed her proper foot.

Twenty-two weeks after she was wounded, she’s nonetheless ready to have her foot amputated and to be fitted with a prosthetic. She retains the piece of shrapnel surgeons eliminated throughout certainly one of her many operations.

Danyk lives together with his mom and grandmother in a home close to Chernihiv, a city 140 kilometers (practically 90 miles) north of Kyiv, the place a chunk of tarp covers the damaged bed room home windows. He sells milk from the household’s cow that grazes within the close by fields. A handwritten signal wrapped in clear plastic on the entrance gate reads: “Please buy milk to help my mother who is injured.”

Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the particles of his home destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling within the village of Novoselivka, close to Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk’s household dwelling was destroyed and his mom severely wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding cities in a failed effort to grab the capital.

AP Picture/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

“My mother needs surgery and that’s why I have to help her. I have to help my grandmother too because she has heart problems,” Danyk stated.

Earlier than colleges reopen on Sept. 1, Danyk and his grandmother have been becoming a member of volunteers a number of days every week clearing the particles from buildings broken and destroyed within the Russian bombardment outdoors Chernihiv. On the way in which, he stops at his previous home, most of it smashed to the foundations.

“This was my bedroom,” he says, standing subsequent to scorched mattress springs that protrude from the rubble of bricks and plaster.

Well mannered and tender spoken, Danyk says his father and stepfather are each combating within the Ukrainian military.

“My father is a soldier, my uncles are soldiers and my grandfather was a soldier, too. My stepfather is a soldier and I will be a soldier,” he says with a glance of dedication. “I want to be an air force pilot.”

“THIS BRIDGE WAS THE ROAD FROM HELL”

Earlier than the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and surrounding areas on April 2, suburbs and cities close to the town’s airport have been pounded by rockets, artillery fireplace and aerial bombardment in an effort to interrupt the Ukrainian defenses.

Whole metropolis blocks of flats have been blackened by the shelling in Irpin, simply 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the capital, alongside a route the place police Lt. Ruslan Huseinov patrolled each day.

A few of the most dramatic scenes from the early phases of the battle have been of the evacuation from Irpin beneath a destroyed freeway bridge, the place 1000’s escaped the relentless assaults.

Danyk Rak, 12, his mother Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.
Danyk Rak, 12, his mom Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand within the village of Voznesenske, close to Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.

AP Picture/Evgeniy Maloletka

Huseinov was there for 16 days, organizing crossings the place the aged have been carried alongside muddy pathways in wheelbarrows.

Reconstruction work has begun on the bridge, the place mangled concrete and iron bars grasp over the river. Clothes and sneakers from those that fled can nonetheless be seen tangled within the particles.

“This bridge was the road from hell,” says Huseinov, 34, standing subsequent to an overturned white van nonetheless lodged right into a slab of smashed concrete.

“We got people out of (Irpin) because conditions were terrible — with bombing and shelling,” he stated. “People were really scared because many lost their children, members of their family, their brothers and sisters.”

Crosses constructed from building wooden are nonetheless nailed to the railings of the bridge to honor these misplaced and the hassle to save lots of civilians.

“The whole world witnessed our solidarity,” says Huseinov, who grew up in Germany and says he would by no means once more take the great issues in life without any consideration.

“In my mind, everything has changed: My values in life,” he stated. “Now I understand what we have to lose.”

“BEFORE THE WAR, IT WAS ANOTHER LIFE”

The ground of the Church of Andrew the Apostle has been re-tiled and bullet holes within the partitions plastered over and repainted — however the horror of what occurred in March lies just a few yards away.

The most important mass grave in Bucha — a city outdoors Kyiv that has develop into synonymous with the brutality of the Russian assault — is behind the church.

“This grave contained 116 people, including 30 women, and two children,” stated Father Andriy, who has performed a number of burial companies for civilians discovered shot useless or killed by shelling, some nonetheless solely recognized as a quantity whereas the hassle to call all of Bucha’s victims continues.

FILE - Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, with his colleague help a woman fleeing as the artillery echoes nearby in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022.
FILE – Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, together with his colleague assist a girl fleeing because the artillery echoes close by in Irpin, within the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022.

AP Picture/Emilio Morenatti, File

Lots of the our bodies have been discovered earlier than the Russians pulled out of the Kyiv area, Father Andriy stated.

“We couldn’t bury people in the cemetery because it’s on the outskirts of the city. They left people, dead people, lying in the street. Dead people were found still in their cars. They were trying to leave but the Russians shelled them,” stated Father Andriy, carrying a big cross round his neck and a darkish purple cassock.

“That situation lasted two weeks, and the local authorities began coming up with solutions (to help) relatives and loved ones. It was bad weather and wild animals were discovering the bodies. So something had to be done.”

He determined to hold out burial companies within the church yard, many subsequent to the place the our bodies had been found.

The expertise , he stated, has left folks within the city badly shaken.

“I think that, neither myself or anyone who lives in Ukraine, who witnessed the war, can understand why this happened,” he stated.

“Before the war, it was another life.”

“For now we are surviving on adrenaline,” he stated. “But I’m worried that the aftermath will last decades. It will be hard to get past this and turn the page. Saying the word ‘forgive’ isn’t difficult. But to say it from your heart — for now , that’s not possible.”

Orthodox priest Father Andriy prays for unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops during Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2022.
Orthodox priest Father Andriy prays for unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops throughout Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2022.

AP Picture/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Full protection of the battle in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

AP staffers Vasilisa Stepanenko and Roman Hrytsyna contributed.