Three members of the Ukrainian military — Senior Soldier Andrii Stefanyshyn, 39, Senior Lt. Taras Didukh, 25, and Sgt. Dmytro Kabakov, 58 — were laid to rest in a service at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in the city of Lviv.
Even in this sacred space, the sounds of war intruded: an air raid siren audible under the sound of prayer and weeping. Yet no one stirred. Residents are now inured to the near daily warnings of an air attack. Everyone is asked to stay inside for safety. Mourners held captive to their grief.
The mother of Didukh collapsed on his coffin, weeping. A soldier approached to gently lift her up as three others removed the coffin’s cover revealing her son inside, a purple bruise visible on his temple.
As the coffins were opened, the crowd of mourners surged forward for a final goodbye, caressing the cheeks of the departed.
In this war, the Ukrainian military has proven itself resilient, outmaneuvering the might of Russia’s war machine. But the cost has been high.
The Ukrainian military will not give out the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed — though officials insist that civilian casualties far outweigh the military’s.
“As of March 10th, the number of Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian interventionists is bigger than the number of our military personnel from all our defense corps killed in action,” said Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, “I want this to be heard not only in Ukraine, but in the whole world.”
Details of how and where these soldiers died are kept secret. All their families know is that they were killed in the opening days of the war.
Though Lviv is far from the fighting in eastern and central Ukraine, military units based here have been on the frontline. Now those killed are coming home. This church in Lviv has nearly three funerals a dayAs the funeral procession moved towards the military cemetery, Myroslava Stefanyshyn held a framed photo of her son Andrii.
“Two days into the war. And my kid was gone,” she said breaking into tears. “Unspeakable regret. Longing. Heartache. I cannot bear it. I feel so awful that I cannot find the words to explain it to you.”
Dabbing at tears with a handkerchief, Maria Solohun watched the funeral procession pass by. She is a stranger to these families in mourning, but she still grieves for them.
“They all are ours. They all are our children. They are our rescuers, forging our victory,” Solohun said, “Even if it is impossible to bear, impossible to bear this blood flowing as a river.”