This is one of an occasional series about life in the midst of war in Ukraine.
PREOBRAZHENKA, Ukraine – This small village in southeastern Ukraine seems peaceful at first glance, a typical Ukrainian village with lots of fields and lovingly tended yards. But it was not spared by the war.
“It’s quiet at night, so we hear the distant sounds of shelling,” said one resident, Tamara, 59, who asked to be identified only by her first name to avoid unwanted attention. “During the day, we plant as many vegetables as possible – no one knows what winter will bring.”
When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February of last year, she and the three granddaughters she was raising went into the basement of her home because it was “loud and scary outside.” But after a few days, they realized that they could not live there in the extreme cold.
“Many villagers left when it all started, but eventually most of them returned,” Tamara said on a recent afternoon. “Here we have a house, a garden and our own vegetables, but what do you do from here without money and a house? So we stayed.
A few days later, according to local authorities, shelling left three people in Pripyatsenka with critical injuries.
But the lotus was silent as if speaking. Her granddaughters were helping in the garden and playing with their little dog, Javelin. They were well aware that two funerals had already taken place in the village for soldiers killed fighting the invaders, and a third was coming. “We don’t know if we’ll go to the funeral tomorrow, but you know where it’s going to be, everyone’s going to be there,” said the youngest, Yana, 9.
Another villager, Yuriy, 69, who asked to be identified only by his first name, laughed and joked until he started talking about his family. One of his sons is in the front row.
On the day of the third funeral, the village was crowded with people from early morning. People lined the main street carrying flowers and flags, waiting for the funeral procession so they could say goodbye to Ruslan Cherenkov, 37, a machine gunner who died during a combat operation near Pakmut on June 5.
His widow, Nadia Cherenkova, 34, is now faced with raising their two children, Sophia, 8, and Ilya, 12.
“I can’t talk about him right now,” she said of her husband. “I can’t imagine my life without him.”
The Cherenkov family is no stranger to misfortune. His mother, Asia, 81, is from Kazakhstan, and his father, Petro, 72, is from Belarus. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster sent radiation into Belarus in 1986, they left their home in the town of Homal and started a new life in Prebrazhenka.
Asia Cherenkov said her son likes the military. Shortly before his death, he told her: “Mother, you cannot imagine how many good people there are. I should have joined the army much earlier.