CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — Danyk Rak enjoys using his bike, taking part in soccer and quiet moments with the household’s short-legged canine and two white cats, Pushuna and Lizun.

However at age 12, his childhood has been abruptly lower quick. His household’s dwelling was destroyed and his mom severely wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding cities in a failed effort to grab the capital.

Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and with no finish to the battle in sight, The Related Press revisited Danyk in addition to a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by conflict.


Tears come to Danyk’s eyes as his mom, Luda, remembers being pulled from the rubble, coated in blood, after shrapnel tore by means of her physique and smashed her proper foot.

Twenty-two weeks after she was wounded, she’s nonetheless ready to have her foot amputated and to be fitted with a prosthetic. She retains the piece of shrapnel surgeons eliminated throughout one in every of her many operations.

Danyk lives together with his mom and grandmother in a home close to Chernihiv, a city 140 kilometers (practically 90 miles) north of Kyiv, the place a chunk of tarp covers the damaged bed room home windows. He sells milk from the household’s cow that grazes within the close by fields. A handwritten signal wrapped in clear plastic on the entrance gate reads: “Please purchase milk to assist my mom who’s injured.”

Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the particles of his home destroyed by Russian forces’ shelling within the village of Novoselivka, close to Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk’s household dwelling was destroyed and his mom severely wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding cities in a failed effort to grab the capital.

AP Picture/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

“My mom wants surgical procedure and that’s why I’ve to assist her. I’ve to assist my grandmother too as a result of she has coronary heart issues,” Danyk stated.

Earlier than faculties reopen on Sept. 1, Danyk and his grandmother have been becoming a member of volunteers a number of days per week clearing the particles from buildings broken and destroyed within the Russian bombardment outdoors Chernihiv. On the best way, he stops at his outdated home, most of it smashed to the foundations.

“This was my bed room,” he says, standing subsequent to scorched mattress springs that protrude from the rubble of bricks and plaster.

Well mannered and delicate spoken, Danyk says his father and stepfather are each preventing within the Ukrainian military.

“My father is a soldier, my uncles are troopers and my grandfather was a soldier, too. My stepfather is a soldier and I can be a soldier,” he says with a glance of willpower. “I wish to be an air pressure pilot.”


Earlier than the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and surrounding areas on April 2, suburbs and cities close to town’s airport had been pounded by rockets, artillery fireplace and aerial bombardment in an effort to interrupt the Ukrainian defenses.

Complete metropolis blocks of residences had been blackened by the shelling in Irpin, simply 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the capital, alongside a route the place police Lt. Ruslan Huseinov patrolled every day.

A number of the most dramatic scenes from the early phases of the conflict had been of the evacuation from Irpin beneath a destroyed freeway bridge, the place hundreds escaped the relentless assaults.

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 mom Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand within the village of Voznesenske, close to Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.

AP Picture/Evgeniy Maloletka

Huseinov was there for 16 days, organizing crossings the place the aged had been carried alongside muddy pathways in wheelbarrows.

Reconstruction work has begun on the bridge, the place mangled concrete and iron bars hold over the river. Clothes and footwear from those that fled can nonetheless be seen tangled within the particles.

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

“We acquired individuals out of (Irpin) as a result of circumstances had been horrible — with bombing and shelling,” he stated. “Folks had been actually scared as a result of many misplaced their youngsters, members of their household, their brothers and sisters.”

Crosses created from development wooden are nonetheless nailed to the railings of the bridge to honor these misplaced and the trouble to avoid wasting civilians.

“The entire world witnessed our solidarity,” says Huseinov, who grew up in Germany and says he would by no means once more take the great issues in life without any consideration.

“In my thoughts, every thing has modified: My values in life,” he stated. “Now I perceive what we have now to lose.”


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

The biggest mass grave in Bucha — a city outdoors Kyiv that has grow to be synonymous with the brutality of the Russian assault — is behind the church.

“This grave contained 116 individuals, together with 30 ladies, and two youngsters,” stated Father Andriy, who has carried out a number of burial companies for civilians discovered shot useless or killed by shelling, some nonetheless solely recognized as a quantity whereas the trouble to call all of Bucha’s 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 police officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, together with his colleague assist a lady fleeing because the artillery echoes close by in Irpin, within the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022.

AP Picture/Emilio Morenatti, File

Lots of the our bodies had been discovered earlier than the Russians pulled out of the Kyiv area, Father Andriy stated.

“We couldn’t bury individuals within the cemetery as a result of it’s on the outskirts of town. They left individuals, useless individuals, mendacity on the street. Lifeless individuals had been discovered nonetheless of their vehicles. They had been attempting to depart however the Russians shelled them,” stated Father Andriy, carrying a big cross round his neck and a darkish purple cassock.

“That scenario lasted two weeks, and the native authorities started arising with options (to assist) family and family members. It was unhealthy climate and wild animals had been discovering the our bodies. So one thing needed to be accomplished.”

He determined to hold out burial companies within the church yard, many subsequent to the place the our bodies had been found.

The expertise , he stated, has left individuals within the city badly shaken.

“I feel that, neither myself or anybody who lives in Ukraine, who witnessed the conflict, can perceive why this occurred,” he stated.

“Earlier than the conflict, it was one other life.”

“For now we’re surviving on adrenaline,” he stated. “However I’m fearful that the aftermath will final a long time. It is going to be arduous to get previous this and switch the web page. Saying the phrase ‘forgive’ isn’t troublesome. However to say it out of your coronary heart — for now , that’s not potential.”

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 throughout Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2022.

AP Picture/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Full protection of the conflict in Ukraine:

AP staffers Vasilisa Stepanenko and Roman Hrytsyna contributed.

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