'I feel so lost': the elderly in Ukraine, left behind, cry

‘I feel so lost’: the elderly in Ukraine, left behind, cry

‘I feel so lost’: the elderly in Ukraine, left behind, cry

MYKULYCHI, Ukraine (AP) – This wasn’t where Nadiya Trubchaninova thought she would find herself at 70, hitchhiking every day from her village to the destroyed Ukrainian city of Bucha, trying to take his son’s body home for burial.

The questions wore her down, heavy as the winter coat and boots she still wears against the cold. Why had 48-year-old Vadym gone to Bucha, where the Russians were much stricter than those occupying their village? Who shot him while he was driving down Yablunska Street, where so many bodies have been found? And why did he lose his son just one day before the Russians withdrew?

After she got word that Vadym had been found and buried by strangers in a courtyard in Bucha, she spent more than a week trying to take him home to a suitable grave. But it was only one body in hundreds, part of a war crimes investigation that has become of global significance.

Trubchaninova is among the many elderly people left behind or who chose to stay while millions of Ukrainians fled across borders or to other parts of the country. They were the first to be seen on empty streets after Russian troops withdrew from communities around the capital, Kiev, peeking through wooden gates or carrying bags of donated food to frozen homes.

Some, like Trubchaninova, survived the first weeks of the war only to find that she had taken their children.

He had last seen his son on March 30th. He thought he was taking a walk as part of his long recovery from a stroke. “It would be crazy to go further,” she said. She wondered if he had gone in the car to look for a cell phone connection to call his son and wish him a happy birthday.

He wondered if Vadym thought the Russians in Bucha were like those who occupied their village, who told them they wouldn’t be harmed if they didn’t react.

More than a week later, she found her makeshift grave with the help of a stranger with the same name and age as her son. The next day, she located the body bag containing Vadym in a cemetery in Bucha. He has always stood out for his height and his foot protruded from a hole in the corner. Eager not to lose it, she found a scarf and tied it there. It was her marker.

He believed he knew where his son’s body had been kept for days, in a refrigerated truck outside Bucha’s morgue. He was desperate for an official to rush the process of inspecting his son and issuing the necessary documents to release him.

“I worry, where it would go and whether I would be able to find it,” he said.

Once her body was collected, she would need a coffin, which is equivalent to a month’s pension, about $ 90. She, like other Ukrainian elders, has not received a pension since the beginning of the war. She makes money by selling the vegetables she grows, but the potatoes she planned to plant in March have wilted as she hid in her house.

Your old cell phone keeps losing battery life. He forgets his phone number. The other son, two years younger than Vadym, is unemployed and troubled. Nothing is easy.

“I would like to get out of this place because I feel it’s so hard to be here,” said Trubchaninova, sitting at home under a colored black-and-white photo of herself at 32, full of determination.

He recalled watching his television, when it was still working, in the early days of the war, while the broadcasts showed many Ukrainians fleeing. He worried about them. Where are they going? Where will they sleep? What will they eat? How will they make their lives again?

“I felt so sorry for them,” he said. “And now, I’m in that situation. I feel so lost inside. I don’t even know how to describe how lost I am. I’m not even sure I’ll put my head on this pillow tonight and wake up tomorrow. “

Like many Ukrainian elders, she worked without taking time for herself, determined to give her children a better education and life than hers.

“Those were my plans,” she said flustered. “What plans do you want me to have now? How can I make new plans if one of my children is lying in Bucha? “

On Thursday, he waited outside Bucha’s morgue again. After another long day with no progress, he sat down on a bench in the sun. “I just wanted to sit in good weather,” she said. “I go home. Tomorrow I will come again. “

Across town that day was the kind of closure that Trubchaninova so desired. In a cemetery, two 82-year-old women got up from a bench and crossed themselves when the now familiar white van arrived carrying another coffin.

The women, Neonyla and Helena, sing at the funeral. They performed 10 years after the Russians withdrew. “The greatest pain for a mother is to lose her child,” Neonyla said. “There isn’t a word to describe it.”

They joined the priest at the foot of the tomb. Two men were present with handfuls of tulips, along with a man with a cap in his hand. “That’s it,” said an undertaker when he finished the exhausted-looking priest.

Another man with a gold ink pen wrote the basic details on a temporary cross. It was for a woman who was killed in bombing while she was cooking outside. She was 69 years old.

A row of empty graves awaited.

Finally, on Saturday, Trubchaninova was reunited with her son. In a small cemetery in a field in her village, under a sky of cast iron, she clung to a donated coffin. She knelt down and wept. And Vadym was buried.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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