‘The best of the best is dying’: Ukraine’s year of war, air sirens and loss – National

Lviv, Ukraine — Mourners gathered outside Lviv’s military church to see Roman Skalski off, carrying blue and yellow flowers.

Skalski was an entrepreneur with big dreams. When Russia invaded Ukraine, he started a business in Lviv selling air conditioning systems for offices.

On January 5, a mortar fire claimed a life in a trench near Kreminna, a city in eastern Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin wants for Russia.

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The Lviv military cemetery reached capacity long ago, so Skalsky’s cemetery was allocated a cemetery on a nearby grassy slope.

It is also filling up.

Lviv entrepreneur Roman Skalski died in a trench in eastern Ukraine on January 5, 2023.


“The best of the best is dying,” said his cousin Tatiana O’Donori, standing on the cobblestone outside the church, waiting for his coffin to arrive.

With blonde hair wrapped in a black mourning scarf, she swiped her phone until she found a picture of Skalski in his winter uniform.

His eyes were pale and his cheeks were red with cold. His blood type, Rh+, was velcroed to his camouflage. he was 26 years old.

“Victory depends on us,” she said.

A military band for three soldiers killed in action in Lviv, Ukraine, January 16, 2023.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Military funerals are held almost daily at this church in western Ukraine. They are so frequent that several services are often held at once.

On this cloudy day in mid-January, the three fallen soldiers received their final rites together as their coffins were carried on the shoulders of their compatriots.

flag and cross. Uniforms and candles. A brass band played Requiem in a minor key. Outside, the hearse is spinning and the door is open.

“Glory to Ukraine,” said the priest.

“Glory to the heroes,” answered the mourners.

damage, movement, death

A year after Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, beginning Europe’s most important war since 1945, the losses were devastating.

Ukraine has been hit hard by Russian attacks on civilian, government and industrial buildings. The country has not even started cleaning up and rebuilding.

A woman rides a bicycle past a war-damaged building in Posad Pokrovske, Ukraine, January 21, 2023.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Electricity grids are Russia’s favorite target, causing widespread blackouts in winter and making the hum of generators part of the soundscape.

according to world health organizationnearly 700 Ukrainian medical facilities and 98 ambulances were attacked, killing 101 people.

Over 100 churches, 19 monuments, 18 museums and 12 libraries were damaged. According to UNESCO.

14 million people were displaced from their homes, 8 million of them. fled, now a refugee.

The economic impact was enormous. Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by a third of his and the poverty rate has jumped from 5.5% in 2021 to 25% in 2022.

Supply chain disruptions are driving up the cost of food around the world. OECDwar could cost the global economy $2.3 trillion by the end of this year.

Funeral of fallen soldiers near Lviv, Ukraine, March 9, 2022.

Stewart Bell/Global News

Meanwhile, Russians have seen their country become increasingly isolated, paranoid and intolerant, with more than 2,400 people arrested in protest of Putin’s war.

After passing the Ukrainian cemetery, you will find a new grave. Ukraine and Russia each have an estimated 100,000 military casualties, according to the US.

But for many Ukrainians the war was very personal. The grief of losing loved ones in incomprehensible acts of violence committed for reasons that Russia cannot even coherently explain.

at least 8,006 Ukrainian civilians are killed mainly by artillery, multiple rocket systems, missiles and airstrikes. According to the United NationsA further 13,287 were injured. About 500 of the dead are children.

Standing in front of a gap in Dnipro’s skyline that was once an apartment building, an Orthodox priest listed the dead: a doctor, a boxer, and a teacher.

“It’s a big loss for each of us,” the priest told mourners gathered at the site a week after the Jan. 14 missile attack that killed 46 people in the home.

“They didn’t die in battle, but this rocket took their lives,” he said. “May they rest in peace.”

An Orthodox priest at the scene of the January 14 missile attack on an apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine.

Stewart Bell/Global News

The couple cried on the pavement while the violinist played the Adagio in G minor. Their son was in his fifth-floor apartment when his Russian Kh-22 anti-ship missile hit the building around 3:30 p.m.

“They haven’t found him yet. There was no body or anything,” the father said.

“We have no words.”

“He was always smiling,” added his mother. “Golden Child”

His wife joined them. Her parents also died in the attack, she said.

“It’s inhumane. It’s like crazy people,” she said. “I hate them, all of them.”

“They want to scare us, but we are strong and we cannot achieve this.”

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Russia, which has made disinformation a key part of the war, has denied attacking an apartment building.

The garrison church across from Lviv’s monument to nationalist poet Taras Shevchenko is a memorial to Ukraine’s losses and a reminder of what began long before 2022.

Inside, there are photographs of hundreds of soldiers killed in the war with Russia in eastern Ukraine. Many died in 2014 when Putin took advantage of a moment of political turmoil in Kiev to occupy Donetsk and Crimea.

A display of photographs of fallen soldiers and war debris at the Garrison Church in Lviv, Ukraine, January 16, 2023.

Stewart Bell/Global News

The full-scale Russian invasion that began a year ago did not go as planned, forcing Russia to withdraw from Kiev, Kharkov and Kherson, but the cost is high and it is not over yet.

Yury Tsiupka, chaplain of the Garrison Church in Lviv, said he and his colleagues held services for the dead “often, very often”.

“People are fed up, fed up with all sorts of things,” he said, evaluating his admirers after a year of ground fighting, air sirens and uncertainty.

The invasion put life on hold. No one can make plans. The future is too unpredictable. They can’t rest and put everything on the back burner.

They are exhausted by the disastrous cycle of news and habitually check their phones to find out what the Russians have just done, he said.

To illustrate Ukraine’s predicament, he asked you to imagine that someone came into your house and hijacked room after room.

They will keep going unless you confront them. So you have to stand up to them or they’ll get the whole house before long.

“We are tired of funerals, but we understand that it is impossible to do otherwise during war,” he said. I believe in

Burial at Overflow Cemetery

Outside the church, Mikhail Zinenko waited for soldiers to carry Skalski’s coffin through the wooden doors for worship. He said:

‘Too many funerals in a year’

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They met on the front line, he said. Skalskyi will talk about his small business plans, he added.

Roman Skarski and Lesia Skarska at their wedding in June 2022.

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Zinenko is from Melitopol, a southern city occupied by Russian forces. A year ago, he was working at an American IT company.

He loved to travel and was a fan of history.he was reading All Quiet on the Western Frontnever imagined that he would live it.

His parents fled to Kiev when Russia attacked. His grandfather was ill and unable to get the medical care he needed. Jinenko could not be there when he died. he was too dangerous.

Now that the shock has subsided, the war has become “part of our lives”.Ukrainians are mentally exhausted.

Enough of his friends, he said.

“They are so sick of this.”

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January 5th was a “normal day,” he said. He was then told that Skarski was killed by a mortar that landed in his trench at Luhansk.

Jinenko was disgusted. Skarski had just been promoted to leader of his army. “It sucks,” he said. “He is very young.”

Mourners stand over Roman Skalski’s grave in Lviv, Ukraine, January 16, 2023.

Stewart Bell/Global News

The sky was gray. The soldiers gathered by the church. One had lost a leg. Down the block, a yellow streetcar passed and life continued.

They carried the coffin inside, and the priest said that Skalski was born in Lviv, attended the 63rd school, and then the Lviv Polytechnic Institute.

“He loved Ukrainian music,” said the priest.

Skalski said he enlisted in the Civil Defense Corps in March because he thought it was wrong to let someone else take his land in Ukraine.

Women in uniforms with ponytails and men with short hair bowed. They knelt as the coffin was carried outside and lifted into a waiting vehicle.

Roman Skarski and Lesia Skarska at their wedding in June 2022.

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In a makeshift cemetery, soldiers hung a Ukrainian flag over the coffin while an elderly man dug three rectangular pits.

Flags, flowers and crosses stretched from the hills to the forest line. This is just one of many cemeteries in the big country.

A woman played a video on her mobile phone. It was recorded before Christmas and showed Skalski congratulating Ukrainians on the New Year.

“We, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, try to give you the best gift,” he said. “But I want to say thank you for your support and without you we couldn’t have done it. Happy holidays everyone.”

His wife Lesia Skarska is 24 years old. I met her on a dating app. “I’m the first person he texted,” she said. “We got married last June.”

The slightly 24-year-old arrived at the ceremony in a dress that left her shoulders bare. He wore khaki pants, a white shirt, and a black belt. I took it.

Roman Skarski and Lesia Skarska at their wedding in June 2022.

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They told themselves that when the war was over they would have a big wedding party.

Skalski was sent to the Donbass front in August. The last time he saw his wife was on vacation in November.

Before the war, she used to take walks in this park. Later it became an adjunct to the war cemetery, where she had to bury her husband.

She said she just wanted it to end.

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