The war that will never end for the mothers of Ukrainian soldiers

The war that will never end for the mothers of Ukrainian soldiers

KuyevThe charming village of Sosnytsia in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine is popular among Ukrainians for two reasons. First, because it is the birthplace of film director Oleksandr Dovzhenko, the creator of the famous film in the 1930s, the earth, Which narrates the rebellion of a farmer community against the brutal expropriation of landowners Kulaks. The village of Sosnitsia is also known thanks to the novel Desna is pleasedalso written by Dovzhenko, who recalls his childhood in Sosnitsia, where he learned to “look at the stars through puddles.”

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Decades later, in the village of Sosnitsia, represented by Dovzhenko's cinema and literature, Private Vladek was born.

Private Vladek's mother describes him as a “very good boy” who “loved animals very much and discovered the world around him with joy as a child.” To reiterate her son's kindness, the fifty-four-year-old recalls an anecdote from her childhood: One day, he hit one of Vladek's neighbors with a wooden stick. The mother was very surprised when she saw that her son did not react. When asked why she did not defend herself, the boy replied that she had taught him that it was not okay to hit people.

But life had other plans for Vladek. For exactly two years, the young man had to get used to looking at the stars from the cold trenches of Chernihiv, where at the beginning of the war he was sent to defend his native region. Or from shelters in the Kharkiv region, which he will release with his comrades. He will only return to his hometown once, thanks to a short leave granted to him by the army. Four days after that visit, he died at the front.

Private Vladislav Grishchenko, an artilleryman in the Ukrainian Army, was 25 years old.

Before the war, Ukrainian mothers, like many mothers in the world, often complained that their children did not value them. But in difficult times, Ukrainian children think primarily of their mothers. “I don't want to go to the hospital, let me go with my mother,” said a seriously wounded Ukrainian soldier in a basement in the city of Bakhmut, which fell to the Russians in May. A few kilometers away, a doctor from the Kiev army said a few months ago that she did not allow interviews so as not to worry her mother, who was waiting for her at home. “Tell her I'm in Dnipro. If you put me on TV, she'll know where I really am.”

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Today marks two years since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For many Ukrainian mothers, it has been two years of tears, two years of waiting for their children fighting on the front. They have been waiting for their return for a long time, some even waiting for them after hearing about their death. More than a year has passed since the death of Private Vladek. His mother, Valentina, is still waiting for him: “I live as if I am in a fairy tale. I always hope that he will come back, even though I know he will not come back.”

But his life is not a fairy tale. She lives alone, her only son Vladek died. Immediately after his death, she decided to live with her sister because she was “scared for herself,” but then returned home so as not to forget her son. He received government compensation of 15 million hryvnia, or about 400 thousand euros. Huge quantity in Ukraine. But, several times during our conversation, he repeated to me that this money is condemnation. “I always cry because of this money,” Valentina says. With part of this money, he repaired a street in his city and named it after his son. He decided to do so after seeing how the coffin of a neighbour's son, who was also killed in the fighting, was wobbly and could not be moved, due to the poor condition of the road.

Valentina now distributes money to those in need, although she says people sometimes try to take advantage of her kindness. He dreams of building a children's park where children can play. Thus, the child's memory will live on. “Sometimes I dream that a girl comes home and tells me that she has a child with Vladek,” he says. “I will give all my love to this child.”

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Joint pain

About three hundred kilometers away there is another village, Margalivka, which was heavily bombed by the Russians at the beginning of the war. There lives Titiana, who does not know Valentina. However, they both share a common pain.

A month ago, this fifty-year-old teacher lost her son Evgen, also a Ukrainian soldier. Now the whole village is trying to console her in some way. During the first days, Titiana had to boil water to make tea three times a day, due to constant visits from people.

Yevhen Zakharchenko, who was 26 when he died, is no longer there, but his mother has memories and tears. According to his mother, the boy grew up surrounded by love with his sister Alina, father and grandmother. He was a creative child: he drew, danced, loved animals… But Evgen, his mother says, found his true vocation at the age of 37. Before the war, he took a military training course in Azov, although he was then working as an electrician. When the war broke out, he was one of the first to take up arms and join the defense of the lands despite his mother's concerns.

Tetiana suffered while her son was fighting at the front. Especially when she learned that he was headed to the combat zone and would not be in contact with her for several days. She always tried to keep busy. Now, since his death, the days pass between working from home and talking to his son. When he admits that he is still talking to his dead son, the woman begins to cry.

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In Kiev's Maidan Square, the number of flags erected in memory of fallen soldiers increases every day. Numerous cemeteries in the capital – and in the rest of Ukrainian cities – have been painted blue and yellow, in memory of the heroes who fell defending their country against Vladimir Putin's army.

Report a death

For many mothers, the most frightening moment is when they come to be informed that their child has died.

On July 15, 2022, people in military uniform showed up at Valentina's door. Now he is looking for signs warning him of an impending tragedy, he says. He explains that a few days ago, a flock of birds, which in Ukrainian mythology symbolize omen, arrived in the courtyard of his house in Sosnytsia. Then there were two birds. The day Vladek died, there was only one left. “Do you understand that? There were two of us in this world, and then I was left alone,” the woman explains.

About three hundred kilometers away, on January 24, 2024, a month ago, Private Evgen's comrade-in-arms ran to the family home. At that time, only Evgen's mother and grandmother were at home. The soldier did not dare to tell them the news. Search for the father to report his son's death. A few minutes later, Mother Tetiana's terrifying screams were heard.

Despite everything, Valentina and Titiana still believe in victory. For them, it is important to know that their children did not die in vain. Cursing the Russians, Tetyana asks herself “how many more centuries will they torture and punish us” and hopes no mother will go through the same thing. Valentina realizes that the young people are moving on with their lives, but she is paralyzed by grief.

One day the battles will dissipate and the records of the war will disappear from the pages of newspapers. Only for the mothers who lost their children, this war will never end.

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