The hardest part is burying acquaintances, says Oleksander in Lviv

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NOS NewsAmended
  • Kysia Hekster

    News reporter

  • Roel Peacock

    News reporter

How many Ukrainian soldiers have died since Russia entered the war almost a year ago is a well-kept secret. It is not the intention “to make the enemy wiser than he already is”, government circles in Kiev say.

At the beginning of December, an official figure was released for the last time: there would have been 13,000 deaths. A number that few in Ukraine believe. It is believed that there are many more.

At the largest cemetery in Lviv, in the west of the country, it is immediately noticeable how many fresh graves have been excavated. Hundreds of Ukrainian flags flutter in the wind. A sea of ​​flowers covers the raw reality: almost 300 soldiers are buried in the frozen soil.

Watch here the report that reporter Kysia Hekster made on the cemetery:

Lviv’s largest cemetery is overcrowded: ‘I buried 17 friends’

Taras Petrovich was killed last summer in Bachmut. “As a sergeant, he led a number of men,” says his wife Olesa. “During an artillery barrage he tried to bring his men to safety, but he himself stepped on a mine.”

‘In a better place’

Olesa visits her husband’s grave every day, this time with her four-year-old daughter Katja. They light candles, arrange the flowers, say a prayer. “Katja is still young, but she knows that her father is in a better place now. I tell her and our 12-year-old son that he died a hero and that they and their generation owe everything to men like him.”

It’s not right that you have to take so many young men to their graves. It cuts through my soul.

Funeral assistant Ruslana Hladka

The first victims of the war were buried in the cemetery, within the walls of the cemetery. There was room for 37 graves, but it was full within a month. Since then, the dead have been buried in a field next to the cemetery. There is still plenty of room there for now.

Administrator Oleksander Dmytriv can barely cope with the work. Sometimes there are as many as six funerals in one day. Then he has to call in the help of acquaintances, because there is a shortage of personnel. Many men have left for the front and so it is women who now do the heavy lifting.

With wheelbarrows they spread sand over the muddy paths between the fresh graves. Roeslana Hladka has been working at the cemetery for 17 years, but she has never experienced anything like this. “It’s not right that you have to take so many young men to their graves. It cuts my soul.”

Died in Kramatorsk

A father, his face contorted with grief, prays for his son. And for the two colleagues who died with him in Kramatorsk. And for the sons of other parents he got to know here. Everyone knows someone who died in battle.

Administrator Dmytriv himself had to bury seventeen people he knew personally. “That’s the hardest part,” he says, with tears in his eyes.

Oleksander Dmytriv is the caretaker of the cemetery in Lviv

First Lieutenant Jaroslav Fitel is now the last to be buried. he turned 28. Behind his grave are two large empty lawns. No one knows whether the war will be over before those are also full.

“Only God knows,” sighs the manager. “If we knew that our heroes’ dying would finally come to an end, maybe we could breathe a sigh of relief. But we realize that’s not the case just yet.”

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