Ordinary people: ten lives snuffed out by Putin’s brutal war machine
Published by The Mail on Sunday (6th March, 2022)
Amid the carnage and chaos, it is difficult to track the death toll data, let alone obtain a true picture of the individual people among the 2,000 Ukrainians said to have been killed in this war and the unknown number government officials fear ‘are still under fire and debris’. These stories of just ten victims offer a tragic snapshot of the humanity destroyed by Putin’s barbarity…
1) NATURE WRITER PERISHED BESIDE HUSBAND IN KYIV TANK BATTLE
Iryna Tsvila, 52, a writer and mother of five children, died repelling the Russian tanks while defending Kyiv’s outskirts alongside her husband Dmytro on Day Two of the invasion.
She was the first Ukrainian woman officer killed in the war. A veteran of the Donbas fighting in 2014 against pro-Russian separatists, she was with the National Guard’s Rapid Response Brigade after declaring that she was battling for her daughters and granddaughters ‘to be born in a free Ukraine.’
A teacher by profession, she was also a keen photographer and gardener. Her books included a volume on her beloved rose garden and a collection of recollections from the front line. A friend described her as ‘incredibly brave and kind’. Another commented on social media that she ‘loved flowers and life’.
2) RESPECTED ACADEMIC VICTIM OF MERCILESS BOMBING OF KHARKIV
Oleg Amosov, 67, was an economist and professor at the Institute of Public Administration at Karazin Kharkiv National University. Last Monday, he was badly wounded during the savage bombardment of residential areas and died the following day. His university said it was ‘deeply saddened’ by the loss of such a prominent academic, who headed the department of economic theory and public finance.
‘Eternal memory to all those killed during the offensive of the Russian invaders,’ it said.
3) TALENTED SPORTSMAN CUT DOWN IN HIS PRIME
Yevhen Malyshev, 19, was an accomplished skier killed on Tuesday while battling to stop the Russian advance into Kharkiv.
A member of Ukraine’s Junior Biathlete team who participated in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, he hung up his skis two years ago to serve in the army.
Vasyl Karlenko, vice-president of the Ukrainian Biathlon Federation, recalled him as ‘open, honest, friendly and fair with lots of hopes for the future’.
His girlfriend Ruslana Tkachenko, 19, a fellow biathlete, had been planning to move in with him in two months’ time. ‘This is a very heavy loss – I can’t describe our pain,’ she said. ‘He died as a hero and will forever remain a hero for all of us in our hearts.’
4) MUM CRUSHED IN MISSILE STRIKE
Kateryna Rybak, 29, mother of a one-year-old girl called Liza, was flattened when her home in Zhytomyr, almost 100 miles west of Kyiv, was hit by a missile last Tuesday night.
‘One minute I saw her going into the bedroom – a minute later there was nothing,’ said her engineer husband Oleg, 32, who dug frantically through the rubble only to find her dead. ‘I hope she’s in heaven and all is perfect for her.’
After a second blast struck alongside the destroyed building, where they lived with her parents, Oleg used the light on his phone to find their daughter. ‘She wasn’t moving but I took her hand and she started to cry – it was the most beautiful sound I’d heard in my life,’ he said.
Friends have set up an appeal for donations as the family has been left with nothing. Kateryna was a graduate from the mining faculty at Zhytomyr Polytechnic, which said: ‘Our heart is broken with sadness and pity. Beautiful girl, bright girl, rest in peace.’
5) GOOD SAMARITAN WHO HELPED 3,500 ORPHANS
Serge Zevlever, 62, was shot dead in Kyiv – reportedly by a Chechen sniper – after stepping outside a bomb shelter near the high-rise residential building in the Ukrainian capital where he was staying with his wife and stepson.
Born in Ukraine, he had emigrated to Missouri in the United States and dedicated his life to finding adoptions among American families for Ukrainian orphans, especially those with special needs such as Down’s syndrome who might have struggled to secure good lives otherwise.
After placing more than 3,500 orphans in families, the dual national was trying to finalise more adoptions when he was killed.
His daughter, Alisa Sander, said: ‘He knew what would happen if those kids were not taken and given a good home. He fought for those kids, treating every single one as his own.’
6) FOOTBALLER KILLED WITH MUM AT HOME
Dmytro Martynenko, 25, last season’s top scorer for second-division side FC Gostomel, was killed with his mother when their block of flats near Kyiv was bombed. His father survived and his seven-year-old sister was left fighting for her life with appalling injuries.
He came from a Jewish family and had been concluding negotiations to play football in Israel. ‘I was impressed by him – he seemed a very educated, intelligent and quiet person,’ said his Israeli agent Yoav Elimelech. His death was announced on the same day that Vitalii Sapylo, 21, a talented goalkeeper, was killed in an air strike while serving as a tank commander.
7) DIED SEEKING MEDICINE FOR DISABLED BROTHER
Maryna Fenina, who lived with her daughter and brother in Kharkiv, was killed while fetching supplies during a Russian bombardment. She is thought to have left her shelter to find medicine for her brother, who is disabled.
A former hotel worker, she joined the monitoring mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – the only international body collecting information on both sides of the war – soon after its arrival in Ukraine eight years ago when the conflict with Russia started in Donbas.
‘She was a beautiful person,’ said Garik Chilingaryan, a friend and former colleague. ‘She was helpful, kind and smart. Everyone was so fond of her.’
The OSCE said her death was the result of ‘the unprovoked military operation against Ukraine’. She was its second member to be killed by Russian violence – a US paramedic died in an explosion in the Donbas in 2017.
8) MERCY DASH TO HOSPITAL ENDS IN DEATH ON ROAD
Marina Kalabina, an anaesthesiologist at the Centre for Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in Kyiv, died instantly when her car came under attack last Tuesday.
She was driving her 14-year-old nephew Arsen to hospital after he had been struck in the head by shrapnel. With awful irony, he had been sent by his family from their home in the Kyiv suburbs to a village 50 miles away for safety, but it was in the path of the invading Russian forces.
Both were killed and efforts to retrieve their bodies were frustrated by fighting.
Marina was remembered by one friend as ‘a woman with a big heart’, while another recalled her ever-present smile. Previously, she worked in a children’s hospital in Krakow, Poland, where a colleague described her as ‘an extremely nice and sympathetic person keen to expand her medical knowledge’.
‘Russian terrorists took the life of a doctor,’ said Ukraine’s Minister of Healthcare Viktor Liashko on social media. ‘We will not forgive you.’ One parent wrote in reply: ‘I can’t hold back the tears because my child needs the help of such people.’
9) ‘TOP GUN’ CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT TO FIGHT
Oleksandr Oksanchenko, 53, a world-renowned aerobatics pilot and one of Ukraine’s air force ‘top guns’, was shot down over Kyiv in his Su-27 fighter jet by a Russian missile system in the first 48 hours of the invasion.
He was awarded the posthumous title of Hero of Ukraine by the country’s president, who hailed him as ‘one of the best fighter pilots in the world’.
Known by the nom de guerre Grey Wolf, he delighted air show crowds with his stunning displays, including at RAF Fairford’s Royal International Air Tattoo in 2017, where he won the prize for best overall flying demonstration.
Married with two daughters, he had come out of retirement to defend his country but paid the ultimate price.
10) BASS GUITARIST KILLED FIGHTING AS RESERVIST
Artem Komar, 23, a translator from Kharkiv, was a graduate of the city’s university, who died fighting with the Territorial Defence Forces. ‘In the brutal war unleashed by the Russian aggressor, the warriors of light, our guardian angels, are dying,’ commented the university.
He wanted to be an actor and was a keen musician who played bass guitar in a rock band called the Airwalkers. They played their second concert in December and were preparing songs to take part in a French contest.
‘He loved bass guitar and played it really well,’ said the band’s singer Eugenia, his former girlfriend. She added that he ‘was very smart, very wise. Everyone loved him’.