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Ukraine: In my homeland, the odor of demise on a summer time afternoon

There was a mass grave that held 300 individuals, and I used to be standing at its edge. The chalky physique baggage had been piled up within the pit, uncovered. One second earlier than, I used to be a distinct individual, somebody who by no means knew how wind smelled after it handed over the lifeless on a nice summer time afternoon.

Ukrainian troopers at their frontline place the frontline within the Mykolaiv area of southern Ukraine on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. (Daniel Berehulak/The New York Occasions)

In mid-June, these corpses had been removed from an entire rely of the civilians killed by shelling within the space across the industrial metropolis of Lysychansk over the earlier two months. They had been solely “the ones who did not have anyone to bury them in a garden or a backyard,” a soldier stated casually.

He lit a cigarette whereas we regarded on the grave.

The smoke obscured the odor.

It was uncommon to get such a second to decelerate, observe and replicate whereas reporting from Ukraine’s jap Donbas area. However that day, the Ukrainian troopers had been happy after delivering packets of meals and different items to native civilians, in order that they supplied to take reporters from The New York Occasions to a different website that they stated we must always see: the mass grave.

Ukraine, Kyiv, Russian shelling in Ukraine, An artillery unit from Ukraine’s 58th Brigade fires towards advancing Russian infantry from a frontline place close to the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine on Aug. 10, 2022. (David Guttenfelder/The New York Occasions)

After leaving the positioning, I naively thought the palpable presence of demise within the air couldn’t observe me dwelling — over all the roads and checkpoints separating the graves within the Donbas — to my family members within the western a part of Ukraine.

I used to be incorrect. (Learn extra)



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