NewsWorldthose who stayed

those who stayed

When President Putin launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine, life came to a standstill for millions of people. What was disguised as a “special military operation” hid a war that has changed the life of an entire nation. One year after the conflict, ABC travels to Ukraine to hear the stories of those who decided not to escape.

We travel more than two thousand kilometers by train to listen to them, to see the places that became their personal trenches, to tell what they experienced through their own words. Five stories that help build the history of a country during the year that changed everything. This is the story of those who stayed.

Lyudmyla Serhiivna

“I want the food to remind them of home, like what their mother made before the war”

The smell of soup and fresh bread fills the entire room. “War is scary, very scary,” says Lyudmyla, a cook for soldiers in Kharkov, her voice cracking. She reminds friends that the war has robbed her by Russian bombing. Where once there was youthful life, today there is only a trail of debris and gunpowder.

Lyudmyla gets up from the table and brings a jar with several kilos of salad and another with soup, the same ones that are being prepared to take to the Bakhmut soldiers. He offers it to us so we can eat the rest of the day. “Without food a soldier cannot fight. I want the food to remind them of his home, like his mother used to make before the war,” he says. Sometimes a bowl of soup is just as necessary as a gun. This is his story

Arkadiy Dovzhenko was a marine biologist who became the leader of the Kherson riots during the first weeks of March 2022. Injuries from torture no longer allow him to continue on the front lines, but he helps the fighters by weaving nets and camouflage suits . He remembers the interrogations with a normality that only war is capable of granting: «I tried to escape from the occupied territory five times. Last time, as we were driving through the last Russian checkpoint, a group of soldiers decided that if we wanted to leave, we shouldn’t be alive anymore. They fired grenade launchers at us », he says with a serious face. «I was lucky because my car was in the middle and was not hit. That’s why I’m still alive.” This is his story

At the Mykolaiv football stadium there is a calendar with dates highlighted in orange. They are the Ukrainian league matches that were never played. Volodymyr Kosse, director of the stadium, runs his index finger through the days until he reaches today. Sighs. Every day of war is one day less of life. When Mykolaiv became a city on the war front, he did not hesitate. The Moldovan decided to stay and turn that stadium into his trench. “Everyone has the right to want to leave or stay,” he says. War does a strange thing to men, and he found his purpose in taking care of a soccer field. This is his story

Yehor Kosorukov

“We have a mission here and the captain must be the last to leave”

The Mykolaiv Post Office is more like a bunker than anything else. The pictures on the walls have been replaced with shock-absorbing wooden slats and a soldier armed with an AK47 checks passports. The war changes everything, even the postal service. Yehor Kosorukov, the director of the region’s postal service, explains that they are in charge of paying pensions and delivering such basic products as oil, toilet paper or socks to homes because there are hardly any supermarkets left. He opens the window to show us around and the room lights up. He opens it from afar and when we look out he reminds us: «Be careful, there may be snipers ahead». He then avoids the window and explains why he decided to stay in front of the post office. This is his story

“We wanted to fix up the house to accommodate her and we were expecting the birth of our second granddaughter. Her name is Melanka, she is 6 months old. The other granddaughter is 3 years old and her name is Sofia. Life was wonderful. Bucha was like a fairy tale…». The life of Natalia Masnychenko, like that of hundreds of other citizens of Bucha, turned upside down on February 24, 2022. That day, she recalls, «the Russian helicopters arrived, thirty or thirty-five, I don’t remember well… They started to shoot, a horror (…). “I will never forget that day,” she recalls to ABC, “nor March 3, when my husband was murdered.” This is his story


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