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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

‘How do I live?’ A 10-year-old Ukrainian orphan remembers the brutal destruction of his family

By Vaseline May27,2024

CNN

By Nick Paton Walsh, Mick Krever, Kosta Gak and Brice Laine, CNN

Eastern Ukraine (CNN) — Mykola thought it was a dream at first. The windows of his house were blown out. The whistle of a grenade landing. An explosion.

But when the ten-year-old youngest son of Larisa and Mykola Glushko stumbled to his mother’s room in the dark, he realized that he was awake and that his mother lay in front of him, crushed under a collapsed concrete baton.

“Something fell,” he remembered. “My mother said: ‘Kolya, Kolya.’ I shouted, ‘Mom, I’m still alive.’”

He said he frantically scraped the dust from his face and eyes. “I saw my mother crushed by the ceiling. I tried to pull it away, but I couldn’t. Mother groaned and shook her legs. And I screamed, ‘Mother, mother, it’s just a dream, a terrible dream.’” Mykola had had a similar nightmare a few days earlier and felt like it might repeat itself again. “It was dark then.”

His mother died before his eyes. His father was killed by the first explosion. Hours earlier, the family had a barbecue, and Mykola Sr. drank one too many beers and talked passionately about enlistment. His son clambered outside in the pitch dark. The front of their comfortable family home was unrecognizable and the gates were torn open.

Mykola said: “I screamed, ‘God, why did you do this to me?’ I ran in my underwear and asked for help.”

For Mykola, the act of survival goes beyond what can be expected of a ten-year-old. His loss is part of the patina of suffering during Ukraine’s two-year war, in which Russian missiles inexplicably crashed into civilian targets, claiming lives that don’t make the headlines, and unraveling childhoods in ways that will remain in Ukraine for decades to come. will resonate.

Mykola was given an injection of medicine at the hospital to calm him down, and his brother came to explain what had happened. “He told me that now it’s just me and him left. He repeated it four times. I tried to calm myself down, but I also hated myself. Because I couldn’t save my mother.”

He has spoken to his new guardian, his godmother, who lives nearby, and it is understood he will remain in the military city of Pokrovsk to tend to their graves. “I will visit them,” he said. “(I will) apologize for not being able to save them. I will apologize to my father for not being able to save my mother, his wife.

He said his dream is different now: to ask his parents important questions. “What should I do now? How do I live? Another dream is to take revenge on the one who launched the rocket.”

On the eastern frontline, especially around Pokrovsk, the pace of Russian advance appears to be accelerating, and with it the unspeakable loss of families like that of Mykola. At the ruins of his house, neighbors said there was no military target nearby. Workers sifted through the dust. The smell of the rotting family dog ​​lingered. On a nearby radio, the Russians, so close that their transmitters could be heard, explained to their audience how the West refuses to give Ukraine modern equipment and so “the ordinary guys of the Ukrainian armed forces will be the ones to suck it up.”

A short drive away, at a stabilization point in an eastern city, the life-altering horror of even minor injuries became clear. Sunset means frontline units can begin evacuating their wounded, safe from the Russian attack drones that haunt the day.

The medical station waited in complete darkness and a car sped out of the night. Two wounded soldiers from Klishchiivka – a city where Moscow has recently claimed success, in part because Ukraine had to move troops from there to defend against the attack in the Kharkov region – emerged from the car. One has his head completely bandaged and is talking, his arms outstretched, feeling his way forward. The other was placed flat on a stretcher.

They were taken care of quickly. Clothes were carefully cut away. One had damage to his eyes, was swollen shut, but otherwise seemed less seriously injured. The other had shrapnel in his leg, flesh wounds on his arm and was peppered with shrapnel on his back. His face was covered in dirt and his eyes were also struggling to open.

A mortar landed about 4 feet from their dugout. It is a matter of luck and a few meters that they are still physically intact. The staff quickly tried to clean their eyes.

“If I open the eye like this, will you see the light?” a doctor asked. “What about people?” The patient could only see light. A nurse noticed damage to his right hand. They examined his back and saw a swamp of small wounds. Suddenly the patient became worse. “Something on my side,” he shouted.

It is possible that the force of the blast caused internal injuries. The doctors sprang into action to intervene quickly. Anesthetic was injected into his lung and a tube was inserted. “Cough, and it will get better,” a doctor told the patient.

Four empty beds surrounded the couple. A year ago, a doctor named Ivan told us that they could get 250 patients a day, when the Russian attack on Bakhmut was at its height. Yet the decline in the number of patients does not herald an improvement in the war in Ukraine. The 93rd Mechanized Brigade has no infantry, and is finding it difficult to supply and position them on the front lines due to the threat of Russian drones, an official told us, which is why this stabilization unit has no patients. It is a chilling reminder of the labor shortage Kiev is facing after two years of war.

The patients were led to a waiting ambulance, which left in pitch darkness, with its headlights turned off. Russia has targeted medical facilities before.

The CNN Wire
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