Life pauses for funeral of soldier
People dropped to their knees in silence, clasping their hands and muttering prayers from the sidewalk, as a van carried the remains of a fallen soldier through the streets of Lviv on Tuesday.
In front of one of the hospitals, doctors wearing white lab coats gathered to kneel for a solemn vigil as the cortege passed.
Everyday life momentarily came to a halt to acknowledge another battlefield death.
Funeral processions have become a common sight in this western Ukrainian city that has so far been largely unscathed by the war, but has seen no shortage of its fallout, as local soldiers fighting in the east of the country are brought home to be laid to rest.
On Tuesday, the funeral was held for Yurii Brukhal, 41, who was killed in combat in the eastern region of Luhansk last week. Brukhal, the father of two young girls, had volunteered for the local territorial defense unit covering western Ukraine, his family said.
Despite his lack of experience, though, Brukhal was sent to the front lines in the east, where outgunned Ukrainian forces are trying to turn back a large Russian offensive.
In the relative safety of the west, Brukhal had volunteered mostly as a driver for the defence forces, but he agreed to be sent to the east and take on more frontline responsibilities, and, as a result, more risk. He was killed on Friday, and his body was transported to Lviv the next day.
Serhii Sokolov, his friend of 25 years and former boss, said Brukhal had been a dedicated father and trusted colleague who worked as an electrician and chose to join the territorial defence when the war began.
“He had a real humanity,” Sokolov said. “You cannot say that about everyone, but you can truly say that about him.”
In many ways, the western city of Lviv seems worlds away from the chaos, destruction and death on the eastern front. Air-raid sirens still ring out every few days, but it has been months since missile strikes or bombs caused any real alarm for the residents of this city.
Still, the graveyard is a constant reminder of the war’s toll.
Dozens of new grave sites have been dug outside the original perimeter of the cemetery. Freshly dug dirt is piled in rows of new mounds, each topped with simple wooden crosses.
Many crosses have framed photos of the dead leaning against them along with flower arrangements beginning to wilt.
As Brukal’s coffin was carried towards the burial site, the sound of a military band playing patriotic music was drowned out by a air-raid siren that suddenly pierced the peace of the afternoon.
No one seemed to notice.
Russia’s Gazprom on Wednesday announced a further cut in the amount of gas it can pump through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe, a move Germany’s economy minister said was aimed at sowing uncertainty.
New York Times News Service