Six months on, Ukraine fights battle, faces painful aftermath

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CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Danyk Rak enjoys driving his bike, enjoying 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 minimize quick. His household’s dwelling was destroyed and his mom significantly 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, coated 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 considered 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 bit 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.”

“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 mentioned.

Earlier than faculties 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 best way, 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 delicate 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 willpower. “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 town’s airport have been pounded by rockets, artillery hearth and aerial bombardment in an effort to interrupt the Ukrainian defenses.

Complete 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 day by day.

A number 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.

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 cling over the river. Clothes and footwear 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 mentioned. “People were really scared because many lost their children, members of their family, their brothers and sisters.”

Crosses comprised of building wooden are nonetheless nailed to the railings of the bridge to honor these misplaced and the hassle to avoid wasting 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 mentioned. “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 biggest mass grave in Bucha — a city outdoors Kyiv that has grow to be synonymous with the brutality of the Russian assault — is behind the church.

“This grave contained 116 people, including 30 women, and two children,” mentioned 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.

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

“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,” mentioned 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 mentioned, has left individuals 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 mentioned.

“Before the war, it was another life.”

“For now we are surviving on adrenaline,” he mentioned. “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.”

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

AP staffers Vasilisa Stepanenko and Roman Hrytsyna contributed.

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