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Ukraine is holding strong – but as war deaths mount its fortitude is to be severely tested

Low clouds drift over the large windswept cemetery near Dnipro. Mist pours down from the misty clouds.

The only sound is the flapping hundreds of Ukraine Flags, which are blue for the sky and yellow for the wheatfields in this farming country.

New graves are indicated by mounds of earth freshly excavated to prepare for more bodies from the frontlines.

Their arrival is certain now, as most of them are from Bakhmut in the east.


We can see from afar as a family gathers to lay flowers, pay their respects and grieve quietly in the dark.

These are the relatives of Alik Lychko who was killed in battle for Bakhmut. He was buried here two days before.

They wanted to talk and approached us. They may have felt it would be a good idea to talk about their brother or son and preserve his memory.

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Anna, his mother, tells me in quiet sobs that “we don’t know what to do with our grief.”

“He was only 24; we can’t just hold ourselves together.”

Image More war victims can be found in freshly dug graves in Dnipro.

The Lychko family hails from Soledar, in the east. However, they fled when Russian forces invaded.

Their land has been taken by the Russians, and their brother is buried here.

His sister Khrystyna says, “All of us come from occupied territories. All of us refugees from Donetsk, but we must bury him here.”

Anna, their mother interrupts. Anna says, “We have nothing. No home, no property. Everything is gone. It’s terrible that we are losing so many of our children at such a young age.”

He had a four-year-old daughter. She doesn’t have a father now, it’s very difficult.”

That moment made me wonder if it would ever get too much for families such as mine – if their grief becomes too overwhelming to continue.

Image Ukrainian soldier in a trench close to Bakhmut

‘We won’t break’

They clearly hate the war but they have a strong resolve.

“We will continue fighting, what can we do?” Ruslan, Ruslan’s brother, told me.

“We are here in our home, we have never invaded anyone; they have invaded us.”

“The worst of them came upon us, and now we are losing the best, best of us.

“But that doesn’t mean we will give up or that we will fall at any point. We will not crumble. We have seen this year that they will fail to break us.

Image Memorial wall for soldiers in Kyiv

Although the Ukrainian government doesn’t release any figures on the number of soldiers who died in combat, we know that it is in the thousands and mainly men.

It is easy to forget that many of the people who joined Russia after its invasion last year were young professionals like graphic designers, artists and teachers.

It is easy to forget the sheer volume of funerals that take place in Ukraine every day.

Image In the capital’s Maidan Square, mourners kneel

The symbol of defiance in Ukraine is St Michael’s monastery, located in Kyiv. It was constructed in the 12th Century and later torn down in the 1930s by the Soviets. Now, it is being rebuilt.

This holy spot offers comfort to the families of the fallen soldiers and their comrades.

It is here that we witness funeral after burial after funeral. Another soldier was killed in Bakhmut’s fierce defense of Bakhmut, hundreds of miles away.

Today, Ukraine is determined to eradicate Soviet and Russian traditions down to its funeral procedures.

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Regular services feature the trembita, which are instruments that originate from the western mountains in Ukraine.

The west has a tradition of kneeling while the dead pass by. This tradition is now practiced all over the country.

Many people gathered in the streets to remember Dmytro Koutsiubailo and all those who had died at the funeral procession. He was hailed as a national hero by President Zelenskyy.

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Image Tetyana Marinchenko says, “We’re losing our best,”

They made their way to Maidan Square, where most of this began in 2014, and the shouts of Ukraine’s glory rang out loud.

Tetyana Marinchenko was one of the many who gathered, and she was carrying a photo of her husband, who had died during this conflict.

She tells me that we are losing the best of ourselves, a phrase I have heard many times.

Maria, another mourner, said to me that the nation is still not feeling the pain of losing so many young men.

“After victory, we will need to spend a lot of time crying and grieving for everyone who lost this war.

While Ukraine appears to be holding firm, it is clear that the country is losing ground fast.

As the war drags on, it will be tested for its endurance and the strength of the families that have lost loved ones.


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