Maryna Berlizova sits on her low bed with a photo of her youngest child taped to the wardrobe. In the corner is a pram, which is stuffed full of baby clothes.
She stares out of the window of her mother in law’s tiny three-bedroom house, which she shares with her children.
In just a few weeks, the mother-of-9 will become a mother of-10. Her baby girl will be born to a large family, but without a father. Yurii, her husband, was killed in Kharkiv on the first day after the Russian invasion.
She said, “My husband was a soldier.”
“We always went to the river for barbecues whenever we had free time, everywhere with the kids – to the Zoo, everywhere.
We lived well as a family. There is nothing. There is no family right now.
She is numb and uncontrollable in her grief. She screams between sentences, glances at photos of her husband in uniform, and sobs as if he were there to comfort and support.
He was kind, responsible, and a good man.
“He was a sports teacher in the brigade. They went to competitions.
“He loved to sing, and to play the guitar.
“And that’s it, my life is over. We had plans for us both, but now we are all alone.
“We are proud of him, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
“Who needs this war?” How many children died? Families are just destroyed.
Only recently did she learn that her husband had died. They didn’t hear from him for 77 more days as the Russian invasion advanced, claiming more lives every day.
“Ofcourse we are proud. They protected others and didn’t allow the column to reach Kharkiv.
He didn’t have the time to get us out of the city. He replied, “I’ll take your out, then I will go to war.”
“He said during our last conversation that he would be back once the war is over.” We’re still waiting …”
Her eldest son, who was also her husband’s death victim, is now fighting on that frontline.
She said that although he is only twenty-years-old, he doesn’t know much, he is still an infant.
“I am extremely afraid for him, and I am terribly afraid.
“I tried to get him out of the Army because of this situation to help us at home, but it was impossible.
“The war. Impossible.
“And now, he doesn’t have a mobile connection. You have to accept it. To see his true nature, I cannot even call him.
“How is this possible?” It’s difficult. It’s hard to believe it will end soon.
The bedroom door is closed and the children are elsewhere. The private part of grieving is reserved.
“Everyone is afraid of crying, in order to not upset others.” We don’t cry because we are afraid to. Although we can cry all by ourselves, we don’t cry together. You can’t cry. It is difficult, it is true.
I asked her about her husband’s death by the Russians and the soldiers she was killed by.
These are not people. She said, “These are not people at all.”
“They came to our land in order to destroy our plans for our future and to destroy families.
“I don’t know why they are here, and how many must die to stop this war.”
Three months without sleep. It is hard to not sleep for three months.
“You are concerned about the children.
“Where will they go next if they suddenly appear here?” How long will it take? Where do we go next?”
The southern frontline has barely moved for weeks
“My child has died… but he died as a hero, and I’m proud to have him for that.”
Ukrainians are using weapons to fight Russian forces. They also want arms.
This is the terrifying dilemma that many families face.
Yurii, who is buried in the same spot, was laid to rest in his childhood village, in a quiet corner of rural Ukraine.
Maryna says, “You’ll discover his grave, and you’ll know which one is he,” as we say our goodbyes.
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She’s right. It is located in a small cemetery just across from the village church.
The final resting place for Senior Sargent Yurii Berlizov, a soldier, husband and father, is overflowing with flowers.