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six months On, Ukraine Fights War, Faces Painful Aftermath

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) Danyk Rak enjoys riding his bike, playing soccer and quiet moments with the familys short-legged dog and two white cats, Pushuna and Lizun.

But at age 12, his childhood has been abruptly cut short. His familys home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyivs suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the administrative centre.

Half a year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, sufficient reason for no end to the conflict around the corner, The Associated Press revisited Danyk in addition to a officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have already been upended by war.

I WISH TO BE AN AIR FORCE PILOT

Tears arrived at Danyks eyes as his mother, Luda, recalls being pulled from the rubble, covered in blood, after shrapnel tore through her body and smashed her right foot.

Twenty-two weeks after she was wounded, shes still waiting to possess her foot amputated also to be fitted with a prosthetic. She keeps the little bit of shrapnel surgeons removed during among her many operations.

Danyk lives along with his mother and grandmother in a residence near Chernihiv, a town 140 kilometers (nearly 90 miles) north of Kyiv, in which a little bit of tarp covers the broken bedroom windows. He sells milk from the familys cow that grazes in the nearby fields. A handwritten sign wrapped in clear plastic on leading gate reads: Please buy milk to greatly help my mother who’s injured.

Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces' shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat sitting on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk’s house was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyivs suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the administrative centre.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

My mother needs surgery and thats why I must help her. I must help my grandmother too because she’s heart disease, Danyk said.

Before schools reopen on Sept. 1, Danyk and his grandmother have already been joining volunteers several days weekly clearing the debris from buildings damaged and destroyed in the Russian bombardment outside Chernihiv. Along the way, he stops at his old house, the majority of it smashed to the foundations.

This is my bedroom, he says, standing close to scorched mattress springs that protrude from the rubble of bricks and plaster.

Polite and soft spoken, Danyk says his father and stepfather are both fighting in the Ukrainian army.

My dad is really a soldier, my uncles are soldiers and my grandfather was a soldier, too. My stepfather is really a soldier and I am a soldier, he says with a look of determination. I would like to be an air force pilot.

THIS BRIDGE WAS THE STREET FROM HELL

Prior to the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and surrounding areas on April 2, suburbs and towns close to the citys airport were pounded by rockets, artillery fire and aerial bombardment in order to break the Ukrainian defenses.

Entire city blocks of apartments were blackened by the shelling in Irpin, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the administrative centre, along a route where police Lt. Ruslan Huseinov patrolled daily.

Many of the most dramatic scenes from the first stages of the war were of the evacuation from Irpin underneath a destroyed highway bridge, where thousands escaped the relentless attacks.

Danyk Rak, 12, his mother Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.
Danyk Rak, 12, his mother Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

Huseinov was there for 16 days, organizing crossings where in fact the elderly were carried along muddy pathways in wheelbarrows.

Reconstruction work has begun on the bridge, where mangled concrete and iron bars hangover the river. Clothing and shoes from those that fled can be seen tangled in the debris.

This bridge was the street from hell, says Huseinov, 34, standing close to an overturned white van still lodged right into a slab of smashed concrete.

We got people out of (Irpin) because conditions were terrible with bombing and shelling, he said. Individuals were really scared because many lost their children, members of these family, their siblings.

Crosses created from construction wood remain nailed to the railings of the bridge to honor those lost and your time and effort to save lots of civilians.

Depends upon witnessed our solidarity, says Huseinov, who was raised in Germany and says he’d never again take the nice things in life for granted.

In my own mind, everything has changed: My values in life, he said. Now I am aware what we need to lose.

PRIOR TO THE WAR, IT HAD BEEN ANOTHER LIFE

The ground of the Church of Andrew the Apostle has been re-tiled and bullet holes in the walls plastered over and repainted however the horror of what happened in March lies just a few yards away.

The biggest mass grave in Bucha a town outside Kyiv that has been synonymous with the brutality of the Russian attack is behind the church.

This grave contained 116 people, including 30 women, and two children, said Father Andriy, who has conducted multiple burial services for civilians found shot dead or killed by shelling, some still only defined as a number as the effort to mention most of Buchas victims continues.

FILE - Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, with his colleague help a woman fleeing as the artillery echoes nearby in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022.
FILE – Ukrainian officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, along with his colleague help a female fleeing because the artillery echoes nearby in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File

Most of the bodies were found prior to the Russians pulled from the Kyiv region, Father Andriy said.

We couldnt bury people in the cemetery because its on the outskirts of the town. They left people, dead people, lying in the pub. Dead individuals were found still within their cars. These were attempting to leave however the Russians shelled them, said Father Andriy, wearing a big cross around his neck and a dark purple cassock.

That situation lasted fourteen days, and the neighborhood authorities began discovering solutions (to greatly help) relatives and family members. It was inclement weather and wildlife were discovering the bodies. So something needed to be done.

He made a decision to perform burial services in the church yard, many close to where in fact the bodies have been discovered.

The knowledge , he said, has left people in the city badly shaken.

I believe that, neither myself or anyone who lives in Ukraine, who witnessed the war, can realize why this happened, he said.

Prior to the war, it had been another life.

For the present time we have been surviving on adrenaline, he said. But Im worried that the aftermath can last decades. It’ll be hard to obtain past this and turn the page. Saying the term forgive isnt difficult. But to say this from your own heart for the present time , thats extremely hard.

Orthodox priest Father Andriy prays for unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops during Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2022.
Orthodox priest Father Andriy prays for unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops during Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2022.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

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Full dental coverage plans of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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AP staffers Vasilisa Stepanenko and Roman Hrytsyna contributed.

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