Ukraine: Mourners remember 8 men killed in Bucha

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BUCHA, Ukraine – Gathering flowers and wiping away tears, relatives, neighbors and friends of eight men who were executed by Russian forces while living in the Ukrainian town of Bucha gathered on Saturday to to mark the first anniversary of the deaths.

The eight had set up a roadblock in an attempt to prevent Russian troops from advancing as they swept towards the Ukrainian capital Kyiv at the start of the attack . But the men were caught, Ukrainian authorities say, and executed.

Their bodies lay outside a building on Yablunska Street for a month, and relatives were only able to collect them in April after Russian soldiers pulled them out of Bucha.

After the Russians left, Ukrainian authorities found mass graves and bodies scattered in the city’s streets, buildings and homes. The incidents there are being investigated as war crimes.

“My heart is torn apart and my soul is in so much pain for everyone who died here,” said Oleksandr Turovskyi, whose 35-year-old son Sviatoslav was among the eight. .

Pictures of the men now hang on the wall of the building where they were found, between two blue and yellow Ukrainian flags. A wreath of red plastic roses and bouquets of blue and yellow flowers lean against the wall below the pictures.

As relatives gathered for an anniversary memorial, Halyna Stakhova, 67, gently touched the portrait of Sviatoslav Turovskyi, her son-in-law. Her lips quivered and she wiped away tears.

She lived in a basement in Bucha while she was in office, she said, and relatives told her that Svietoslav had been executed. At first, Stakhova refused to believe them, but eventually she had to accept that her husband was dead.

“We were trying to get the body back,” she said. “But the Russians said: ‘Do you want to lie next to him?’ Okay, let’s go.’ So we waited for a month to collect the body.”

Nataliia Matviichuk, whose 37-year-old brother Andrii was among the eight, said the murders brought the families of the missing together.

“In the history of Ukraine, the city and all Ukrainian families, and indeed our families, this was the hardest and most terrifying year,” she said. “I can’t bear the pain or express this sorrow with any words, and the amount of tears would be less than enough.”

At the age of 81, Anna Levchenko braved the icy wind and pain after leg surgery to attend the ceremony. Great-grandmother of Nataliia and Andrii Matviichuk, she said they both thought she was their grandmother.

“One year has passed, but all these images are still in my head,” said Levchenko. “My father had told me after World War II that there would be no war for another 200-300 years. But look at what happened. Nobody expected this.”

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