Six months on, Ukraine fights war, faces painful aftermath

Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_02597 FILE - Danyk Rak, 12, holds a cat standing on the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces' shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_03423 FILE - Danyk Rak, 12, stands with his grandmother Nina on the debris of their house destroyed by Russian forces' shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_28553 FILE - Houses destroyed by Russian forces' shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 13, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_65324 Danyk Rak, 12, stands amongst the debris of his house destroyed by Russian forces' shelling in the village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. His family's home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_65939 Danyk Rak, 12, and his mother Liudmila Koval in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_60748 Danyk Rak, 12, his mother Liudmila Koval, centre, and grandmother Nina stand in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_79088 Ukrainian Liudmila Koval shows shrapnel that disfigured her right foot during Russian forces' shelling in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_21887 Danyk Rak, 12, clears rubbish on the second floor of Zhanna and Serhiy Dynaeva's house which was destroyed by Russian bombardment in a residential area in Novoselivka village near Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_66721 Danyk Rak, 12, herds a cow from pasture in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_25451 Danyk Rak, 12, grazes a cow in pasture in the village of Voznesenske, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Danyk's family home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.
Russia_Ukraine_War_06541 Ukrainian MSLR "Verba" shoots toward Russian positions at the frontline in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_98553 FILE - Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov, left, with his colleague help a woman fleeing as the artillery echoes nearby in Irpin, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_44977 FILE - Ukrainian soldiers help a man in a wheelchair as people try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_47429 FILE - Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_50472 Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov patrols in his car in the city of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_59395 Ukrainian police officer Ruslan Huseinov stands on a destroyed bridge in the city of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. The destroyed bridge to Irpin served as a crossing point for local residents who fled from the cities captured by the Russian troops in March and February.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_03418 FILE - EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - Lifeless bodies of men, some with their hands tied behind their backs, lie on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_04252 FILE - The hand of a corpse emerges from a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 4, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_37862 FILE - Plastic bags with corpses exhumed from a mass grave are lined up in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_39450 FILE - The body of a man who was killed with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_56468 FILE - Cemetery workers work at a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, to identify civilians killed during the war against Russia, April 10, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_89051 FILE - A woman stands next to three people killed in the courtyard of a house in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 5, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_13944 FILE - Orthodox priest Father Andriy, left, attends a funeral of local resident Anatoliy Kosyanchuk, 56, who was captured by Russian soldiers on March 29, and found dead with heavy head injuries in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 15, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_18417 FILE - Orthodox priest Father Andriy prays for unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops during Russian occupation in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 11, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_16872 Orthodox priest Father Andriy blesses the coffins of unidentified civilians killed by Russian troops during Russian occupation in Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
Russia_Ukraine_War_Kyiv's_Aftermath_14871 Orthodox priest Father Andriy stands inside of the Church of Andrew the Apostle in Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk Rak, a 12-year-old looking after his wounded mother, as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.
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CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — Danyk Rak enjoys riding his bike, playing soccer and quiet moments with the family’s short-legged dog and two white cats, Pushuna and Lizun.

But at age 12, his childhood has been abruptly cut short. His family’s home was destroyed and his mother seriously wounded as Russian forces bombarded Kyiv’s suburbs and surrounding towns in a failed effort to seize the capital.

Six months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and with no end to the conflict in sight, The Associated Press revisited Danyk as well as a police officer and an Orthodox priest whose lives have been upended by war.

“I WANT TO BE AN AIR FORCE PILOT”

Tears come to Danyk’s eyes as his mother, Luda, recalls being pulled from the rubble, covered in blood, after shrapnel tore through her body and smashed her right foot.

Twenty-two weeks after she was wounded, she’s still waiting to have her foot amputated and to be fitted with a prosthetic. She keeps the piece of shrapnel surgeons removed during one of her many operations.

Danyk lives with his mother and grandmother in a house near Chernihiv, a town 140 kilometers (nearly 90 miles) north of Kyiv, where a piece of tarp covers the broken bedroom windows. He sells milk from the family’s cow that grazes in the nearby fields. A handwritten sign wrapped in clear plastic on the front gate reads: “Please buy milk to help my mother who is injured.”

“My mother needs surgery and that’s why I have to help her. I have to help my grandmother too because she has heart problems,” Danyk said.

Before schools reopen on Sept. 1, Danyk and his grandmother have been joining volunteers several days a week clearing the debris from buildings damaged and destroyed in the Russian bombardment outside Chernihiv. On the way, he stops at his old house, most of it smashed to the foundations.

“This was my bedroom,” he says, standing next to scorched mattress springs that protrude from the rubble of bricks and plaster.

Polite and soft spoken, Danyk says his father and stepfather are both fighting in the Ukrainian army.

“My father is a soldier, my uncles are soldiers and my grandfather was a soldier, too. My stepfather is a soldier and I will be a soldier,” he says with a look of determination. “I want to be an air force pilot.”

“THIS BRIDGE WAS THE ROAD FROM HELL”

Before the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and surrounding areas on April 2, suburbs and towns near the city’s airport were pounded by rockets, artillery fire and aerial bombardment in an effort to break the Ukrainian defenses.

Entire city blocks of apartments were blackened by the shelling in Irpin, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the capital, along a route where police Lt. Ruslan Huseinov patrolled daily.

Some of the most dramatic scenes from the early stages of the war were of the evacuation from Irpin underneath a destroyed highway bridge, where thousands escaped the relentless attacks.

Huseinov was there for 16 days, organizing crossings where the elderly were carried along muddy pathways in wheelbarrows.

Reconstruction work has begun on the bridge, where mangled concrete and iron bars hang over the river. Clothing and shoes from those who fled can still be seen tangled in the debris.

“This bridge was the road from hell,” says Huseinov, 34, standing next to an overturned white van still lodged into a slab of smashed concrete.

“We got people out of (Irpin) because conditions were terrible — with bombing and shelling,” he said. “People were really scared because many lost their children, members of their family, their brothers and sisters.”

Crosses made from construction wood are still nailed to the railings of the bridge to honor those lost and the effort to save civilians.

“The whole world witnessed our solidarity,” says Huseinov, who grew up in Germany and says he would never again take the good things in life for granted.

“In my mind, everything has changed: My values in life,” he said. “Now I understand what we have to lose.”

“BEFORE THE WAR, IT WAS ANOTHER LIFE”

The floor of the Church of Andrew the Apostle has been re-tiled and bullet holes in the walls plastered over and repainted — but the horror of what happened in March lies only a few yards away.

The largest mass grave in Bucha — a town outside Kyiv that has become synonymous with the brutality of the Russian attack — is behind the church.

“This grave contained 116 people, including 30 women, and two children,” said Father Andriy, who has conducted multiple burial services for civilians found shot dead or killed by shelling, some still only identified as a number while the effort to name all of Bucha’s victims continues.

Many of the bodies were found before the Russians pulled out of the Kyiv region, Father Andriy said.

“We couldn’t bury people in the cemetery because it’s on the outskirts of the city. They left people, dead people, lying in the street. Dead people were found still in their cars. They were trying to leave but the Russians shelled them,” said Father Andriy, wearing a large cross around his neck and a dark purple cassock.

“That situation lasted two weeks, and the local authorities began coming up with solutions (to help) relatives and loved ones. It was bad weather and wild animals were discovering the bodies. So something had to be done.”

He decided to carry out burial services in the church yard, many next to where the bodies had been discovered.

The experience , he said, has left people in the town badly shaken.

“I think that, neither myself or anyone who lives in Ukraine, who witnessed the war, can understand why this happened,” he said.

“Before the war, it was another life.”

“For now we are surviving on adrenaline,” he said. “But I’m worried that the aftermath will last decades. It will be hard to get past this and turn the page. Saying the word ‘forgive’ isn’t difficult. But to say it from your heart — for now , that’s not possible.”

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Full coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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AP staffers Vasilisa Stepanenko and Roman Hrytsyna contributed.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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