The man who refused to flee battle

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the village of Bohorodychne within the japanese area of Donetsk was residence to about 800 folks.

When it got here underneath assault from invading Russian forces in June 2022, all of its residents fled as their city was decreased to rubble – all apart from Mykola Honchar, who selected to remain behind in his hometown to look after his ailing, aged mom.

“It’s my motherland. My mother is Russian but I was born here… where can I go?,” says the 58-year-old.

Mykola walks on the road in Bohorodychne village


Mykola smokes a cigarette close to his home


“It makes no sense to go, and where can I go from here? She is 91 [his mother], you can see she is sick. What will I do with her there?”

He additionally rejected the concept of evacuating to Russia. “What will I do there? Mine for gold?”, he asks.

It’s my motherland. My mom is Russian however I used to be born right here… the place can I am going?

Struggling to outlive

As Mykola watched all of his neighbors flee, he hunkered down together with his mom and his canine Putin, a reputation that Ukrainian troopers got here up with “because he is evil, trying to bite everyone”.

Mykola braved the summer season of 2022, counting on meals rations delivered by Russian troopers to maintain him and his mom alive.

Mykola’s mom, Nina, sits on a chair amid the stays of her home


Mykola speaks in his mom’s broken home


“They gave us cigarettes, dry rations including canned meat,” he says. “The main thing was to have something for Mother.”

If the scenario have been regular, Mykola says, he would have introduced her for remedy within the hospital for medical screenings and checks.

He used to have the ability to depend on assist from his brother Vasyl, who alongside together with his spouse was killed by mortar hearth in July 2022 as Russian and Ukrainian forces vied for management of the realm.

Walking by way of the cemetery to his brother’s grave – Vasyl was killed as Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed in July final 12 months


“Before the war, with my brother, we took her to the hospital in Semenivka [about an hour’s drive north]. Now, who would visit her? [She’s] better [off] here, at home, with food and care.”

Some of the residents of Bohorodychne have now began to return after the Russians’ westward advance stalled they usually have been pushed again by Ukrainian forces final September.

By the top of May 2023, a mere 18 folks had returned to attempt to rebuild their houses and their lives.

Mykola stands in his mom’s yard


Mykola walks in his mom’s yard



The space was retaken in mid-September by Ukraine’s armed forces, who discovered within the Russians’ wake a path of destruction and dying, the city pillaged and deserted, save for Mykola, his mom and a number of other homeless cats and canines.

Even although the Russians have pulled out of the village, “there is no work because the bridge was destroyed”. The nearest city is Sviatohirsk, three kilometres away on the opposite aspect of the Siverskyi Donets river.

Nina cuts wooden whereas sitting on a chair amid the stays of her home


Mykola, 58, feeds geese in Bohorodychne village


“The only thing you can do is walk among the ruins. [There is] nothing good,” Mykola says.

He now faces a summer season of scraping collectively sufficient materials to restore his home which was virtually razed by the shelling final 12 months.

“I need building materials and tools, [but] I don’t want to collect [them] from someone’s destroyed home,” he says.

Mykola is mirrored in a mirror in his home


Mykola had been instructed that timber and pellets for stoves can be supplied, however “they are only promises”.

Despite the destruction and disappointment, Mykola remains to be set on repairing his residence to supply shelter for his mom, attempting to stay optimistic by clinging to the truth that a minimum of his residence nonetheless has “a corner” standing.

Mykola subsequent to native residents carrying packing containers with scorching meals, introduced by volunteers


Mykola and his canine sit in entrance of his home


“Some people have had their houses totally destroyed – that’s grief. We will [survive]”, he says, decided to not spend the following winter as he did the final one.

“We plant potatoes and tomatoes. They will grow – as long as there is no more shelling.”


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