A beekeeper, a bricklayer and a homeless man: the civilian victims of Putin’s invasion

His older brother Andriy Mulyar, who roasts coffee for a living, was standing next to him when it happened.

“A shell hit the – so-called – liberators. I was at his side,” said Andriy, 48. “We tried to take him to the hospital, but he died on the way. He left three children behind.”

Now Andriy must inform Dmitry’s children, aged 7, 9 and 15, of their father’s death.

“I wish that all those responsible for this war, who attack our weak, a country that has never harmed anyone, (they should) be forever cursed,” Andriy said. “They’re not people. They’re not even animals.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on civilian life, with Russian bombs destroying villages and residences, schools and hospitals.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists his troops only target military installations.

But the steady stream of victims arriving at Brovary Central Hospital in Kyiv told a different story. It is the only hospital near the recent heavy fighting east of the capital.

Brovary Central Hospital in eastern Kyiv.

“Every day brings new trauma patients,” said Dr Jaroslav Zraitel, 37, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital. “We did not expect this and there is nothing we can do about it. All we can do is try to sleep and eat between operations. Every day we live here, day and night we are here .”

Zraitel’s team has now become accustomed to performing the surgery despite the thunder of nearby explosions.

“(In) the first week, we were hiding for several hours when we heard the explosions,” Zratiel said. “Now we just wait to hear the siren, and if there are no explosions, we just continue our work.”

Dr. Jaroslav Zraitel, 37, orthopedic surgeon at Brovary Central Hospital.

While he lives and works in the hospital, Zratiel’s wife and children were evacuated to a town called Rivne, in the relative safety of western Ukraine.

“It’s still difficult when there are a lot of injuries, especially children,” he said. “The morality of it all is starting to take a toll, not to mention the fact that we’re physically exhausted.”

Today, evacuations of civilians began from villages east of Kyiv, but by the time they arrive at hospitals, many have suffered serious injuries for days without treatment.

“There are people who were injured for a day, two days or even a week,” Zratiel said. “We’ve even had people sit in the basement for 10 days with such injuries and bandage their legs themselves.”

The children in the hospital create images about the war.

Vasyl Khilko, a bricklayer, had to hide in a basement in his village in eastern Kyiv for two days after having his right leg ripped off by a drunk Russian soldier with a stolen shotgun, said his family.

“We started stopping the blood flow and giving first aid,” said his wife Zina, 62, adding that they were lucky because she is a trained midwife and their neighbor is a nurse. “We applied a splint, injected antibiotics, (and) punctured the wound.”

Russian troops occupied their village on March 8, Zina said, and seeing them up close showed the chaos and desperation in the ranks. They looted their homes for clothes, food, and alcohol, and often got drunk and abused the residents.

Zina Khilko says her husband Vasyl lost his leg after being shot by a Russian soldier.

“They wore my women’s coat, my hat, my boots. They wore our clothes. They took our bedding,” she said. They also stole their money and her laptop where she kept precious photos of her grandchildren, Zina said.

There was a disagreement between the soldiers, Zina said, with three of them eventually taking pity on the Khilkos and helping evacuate them for medical treatment.

Now, as her husband suffers in his hospital bed, Zina regrets their decision to stay home.

“It’s just… awful,” she said. “Why didn’t I leave sooner? It would have been better if I had nothing, but my husband would have been fine.”

The decision to stay or go is one that keeps families awake at night across Ukraine. But for the most vulnerable in society, they often don’t have the resources or the opportunity to leave.

Igor Rubtsov, who has been homeless for more than a decade, said he was hit by shelling while feeding stray cats and dogs on the street where he lives in eastern Kyiv. Originally from Russia, he came to Ukraine in 1993.

“In the morning there was a sudden noise,” the 48-year-old said. “They started shooting at the Ukrainian positions. I just had time to run.”

Igor Rubtsov says he was hit by shelling while feeding animals on the street where he lives.

He was hit in the legs by shelling, he said, and fell to the ground as fighting continued around him. “Thank God I fell, otherwise my head would have fallen off,” he said.

Rubtsov said he had to walk about 1.5 kilometers with his injury before he found help. “It was so quick,” he said. “I was falling, it was hard, I was dizzy. But I had to get to the ambulance somehow. I didn’t want to die.”

As those with life-altering wounds begin their journey of healing, the Mulyar family has only grief ahead of them. They must also decide whether to stay in their village with the bees they keep or evacuate to a safer location.

Andriy Mulyar, whose beekeeper brother Dmitry died in a bombardment in eastern kyiv on Thursday, leaving a wife and three children.

“I will speak to [my brother’s] woman, and if she wants, I will take them out,” said the brother, Andriy Mulyar.

He said the world should use their family’s story as a warning to act. “I call on all of Europe to help Ukrainian citizens,” he added. “Help as much as possible. The (Russians) are not going to stop there, God help us.”

About Justin Howze

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