Widow finds husband's makeshift grave after returning to liberated Ukraine city

Widow finds husband's makeshift grave after returning to liberated Ukraine city

September 21, 2022

This is the moment a grieving widow was finally able to visit her husband’s makeshift grave – six months after he was killed when the Russian army seized control of their hometown.

Lyudmila Trekushenko, 52, arrived at the mass burial site on her bicycle with a few roses to place by the wooden cross where lawyer and businessman Yuri now lies.

He died in the early days of Russia’s invasion during an attack on Izyum, in the far east of Ukraine.

Lyudmila is only now able to visit because Moscow’s troops held the city for six months until they were driven out as part of a stunning counter-offensive which has rocked the Kremlin.

Her husband’s is one of more than 440 graves discovered in woodland on the northern outskirts of the city.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said investigators have found evidence that some of the dead were tortured, including bodies with broken limbs and ropes around their neck.

He added that more than 440 graves have been found at the site but that the number of victims was not yet known.

Two children were said to have been among the nearly 150 removed on Monday.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said: ‘It will take many long and exhausting hours for investigators to reveal the magnitude of the genocide perpetrated by Russian murderers.’

Moscow has distanced itself from responsibility for the site.

Izyum was among the first city’s taken by Russian forces after the invasion began on February 24.

It was liberated on September 10 in a rapid counter-attack which has swept through the Kharkiv region and continues in the south near Kherson.

Around half of the city’s 40,000 residents fled when war broke out, while the rest hunkered down in basements or behind thick walls in a bid to shelter from the relentless artillery barrages.

By early March, Izyum was isolated — no phones, no heat, no power. Residents didn’t know what was going on in the war, whether their relatives were alive, or whether there was still a Ukraine.

On the southern outskirts, where the fiercest battles raged, the entire village of Kamyanka has been turned into a minefield. Only 10 people remain of the 1,200 who lived there.

Natalya Zdorovets, whose family of five accounts for half the population, said they stayed because it was home. They lost their connection to the outside world on March 5.

She said: ‘We were in a vacuum. We were cut off from all the world. We didn’t know what happened.

‘We didn’t even know what was happening in the neighbouring street.’

Around 2,000 Russian soldiers settled in the homes vacated by terrified residents. Then suddenly, a little over a week ago, the village fell silent.

The family had no idea why until the Ukrainian soldiers arrived.

Natalya added: ‘We cried and laughed at the same time. We weren’t prepared to see them. We hadn’t heard the news.’

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