The tragic week in Ukraine shows that there is no safe place in war

A particularly tragic week in Ukraine has reminded many in the country that not many places are safe from the violence of the war against Russia.

A barrage of Russian rockets hit a residential building in the southeastern city of Dnipro last Saturday, and the death toll from the attack rose steadily in the days that followed. At least 45 civilians were killed, including six children.

Then on Wednesday a government helicopter carrying the interior minister and other officials crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a Kyiv suburb. That killed 14, including a child on the ground.

Brovary resident Olga Prenzilevich said she was “still in shock” as she cleared the debris next to a cordoned-off mound of charred vehicles and misshapen debris on which the helicopter fell.

The 62-year-old said she will never get rid of the memory of how the government helicopter crashed through the fog and crashed into the kindergarten building. Or the frantic rush afterwards to rescue the children.

Nearby, Oksana Yuriy, 33, watches as investigators photograph the scene to find out how the crash happened.

“I thought this was a safe place,” she said. “Now I understand that there is no such thing.”

This is the harsh lesson Ukrainians have learned in a week of mourning for at least 59 people killed in places many considered safe.

Since February, they have seen people killed by missile attacks and fighting on battlefields, and civilians dying in schools, theaters, hospitals and homes. They have suffered irretrievable losses: a loved one, a place to call home and, for some, any hope for the future.

But this past week seemed to have a special cruelty.

The missile attack on Dnipro was the deadliest for civilians since the spring – in an area once considered safe for many fleeing frontline areas further east.

Then on Wednesday the helicopter crashed. Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, other members of his ministry and the crew of the plane were killed. A child on the ground also died and 25 people were injured, including 11 children.

Mr Monastyrskyi, 42, had traveled to the front lines when the Super Puma helicopter crashed in the fog, although no official cause has yet been determined.

Flowers are piling up on the fence in front of the nursery. A 73-year-old woman hung up a plastic bag full of aloe vera plants after reading they could help heal burn victims.

But not all the grief was in Brovary or Dnipro.

In a cemetery in the city of Bucha near the capital, Oleksy Zavadskyi was buried after he died in battle in Bakhmut, where fierce fighting had been going on for months.

His fiancée, Anya Korostenstka, dropped dirt on his coffin after it was lowered into the grave. Then she burst into tears.

“The courage of our military and the motivation of the Ukrainian people are not enough,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday at a press conference in the Mariinskyi Palace in Kyiv.

He had appeared a day earlier in a video link to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he urged his star-studded audience to stand still to honor those killed in the helicopter crash.

His wife Olena Zelenska, who came to the conference to personally campaign for Ukraine, wiped tears from her eyes upon learning of the crash.

At an event Thursday at the lavish Fairmont Hotel in Kyiv, US Ambassador Bridget Brink told attendees that some embassy staff had died in fighting on the front lines.

“I know that many Ukrainians are in a bad way, both inside and outside of government,” she said, urging her audience of diplomats, businessmen and journalists not to lose faith.

“If you look at it every day, it’s almost too hard,” she said. “In the broader range of things, it’s a different story.”

In Dnipro, too, the survivors of the rocket attack are not ready to give up.

Olha Botvinova, 40, celebrated with balloons and birthday cards in the hospital. It wasn’t her actual birthday, she said, but she believes she was born a second time just by surviving.

“We intend to live on,” she added. The tragic week in Ukraine shows that there is no safe place in war

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