‘All the pieces modified’: Ukrainians look again on 12 months of Russian invasion

The primary went from civilian to army life. The second fully modified languages. The third bravely helped hold the nation transferring alongside its rail community lifeline.

Not a single Ukrainian was left untouched by the Russian invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.

Three of them spoke to AFP about what they lived by means of, and the way the struggle modified them.

Sergiy Osachuk, governor-turned-fighter

On the night time of the invasion, then-governor Sergiy Osachuk, who had been briefed about an imminent assault, slept with one eye open.

“I used to be woken up by explosions and messages on my telephone that Russia’s full-scale assault on Ukraine had begun.”

The governor of the western Chernivtsi area traded his sensible enterprise go well with for army fatigues.

Osachuk grew to become lieutenant colonel of the State Border Guard Service, which in peacetime patrols Ukraine’s borders.

There, the 50-year-old coordinates work with different branches of the army — and places himself within the line of fireplace.

“In the intervening time I am happier right here than if I might needed to keep as a governor. It is a large accountability.”

Osachuk was a Ukrainian reservist when the struggle began and annoyed that he couldn’t enroll right away.

“Within the first half of the 12 months, I organised the mobilisation… in Chernivtsi. Each day I urged folks to affix the armed forces,” he says.

“When my time period of workplace got here to an finish on July 14, I instantly joined up. It is a large honour for me to be among the many Border Guards working to get again Ukraine’s borders.”

Osachuk says he plans to remain within the army for so long as it takes, viewing it as his and each citizen’s obligation to defend Ukraine till victory is received.

Rushing by means of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have tried to seize since final 12 months, he says: “That is the place the place the destiny of each Ukraine and the free nations of the world is being determined.”

Kateryna Musienko, reconnecting by means of language

Earlier than the struggle, Odesa resident Kateryna Musienko spoke solely Russian and even seemed down on these utilizing Ukrainian or “Surzhyk” — a mixture of the 2 languages.

However “every thing modified” when the struggle began, the 24-year-old says.

In March, her grandfather was killed in a Russian assault in Odesa.

“I used to be so overwhelmed. I did not really feel grief… solely disgust and hatred for every thing Russian associated.”

“As a lot as I used to be an aggressive Russian speaker, I grew to become an aggressive Ukrainian speaker, with out compromises, and irrevocably.”

Her dad and mom and boyfriend additionally transitioned to Ukrainian — and so did various compatriots.

Musienko advocates for the destruction of monuments to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and altering avenue names linked to Russia.

She has additionally created an NGO for the safety of the Ukrainian language.

“Language lives and develops solely when it lives in on a regular basis life,” she explains.

“If our youngsters don’t communicate Ukrainian, the language will die.”

She desires her organisation to organise “video games, debates, lectures, programs, dialog golf equipment, festivals” and hopes that there shall be a “mass motion” of individuals changing to Ukrainian.

“Not by power, in fact, however by asking questions, reasoning,” she says.

Andriy Yeryomenko, on Ukraine’s lifeline

The struggle left its mark on prepare conductor Andriy Yeryomenko.

“My beard turned gray,” jokes the 53-year-old, sitting in a prepare carriage in his blue uniform.

Coming from a protracted line of railway staff, Yeryomenko remembers the primary moments of the invasion, when his group — together with his spouse — evacuated hundreds of compatriots.

“Folks had been afraid, they had been all in a state of shock: youngsters, canines, cats, adults, outdated folks,” he tells AFP.

“We took on anybody we may. There could be 10 or 12 folks in compartments meant for 4.”

His prepare would cross the huge nation, generally with headlights switched off, carrying traumatised folks to relative security.

Ukrzaliznytsia, the nationwide rail system, stored working even beneath shelling, sustaining the nation afloat.

Many Ukrainians have praised “hero” rail staff on social media.

However Yeryomenko, whose two sons are on the battlefield, sweeps that apart.

“We merely did our job,” he says, “none of us burned any tank, took down a airplane or shot a Russian.”



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