Communities in Ukraine recently liberated from Russian troops deal with atrocities of war as investigators exhume civilian bodies from makeshift graves during war crimes investigations in the spring of 2022. ‘I don’t want to live with hate in my heart,’ said Svetlana Kostyantyn about the Russian soldiers that killed her husband as police exhume his body from their backyard in Irpin. Kostrya, father of her child, love of her life. Taken away in an instant by a sniper’s bullet.
‘I don’t want to live with hate in my heart,’ said Svetlana Kostyantyn about the Russian soldiers that killed her husband as police exhume his body from a makeshift grave in their backyard during war crimes investigations in the liberated town of Irpin, Ukraine on April 19, 2022. Kostrya, father of her child, love of her life. Taken away in an instant by a Russian sniper’s bullet as he was walking through a park to deliver food to an elderly neighbor. When his brother rushed to help, he too was gunned down.
Two weeks later Svetlana and her son Sergii 31, sat for a lengthy interview with police. Bodies littered towns in the suburbs of Kyiv after the Russian invasion and occupation began and were later painstakingly pulled from mass graves and family homes as forensic evidence was collected.
Svetlana wistfully spoke about her husband who wooed her. She did not immediately respond to his courtship and was not impressed with a huge bouquet of roses. He danced beautifully and always had a lot of women around him. But Kostya was resolute that she was the one, and a week later he proposed. They married in 1989.
Svetlana had problems with her retina and was frightened she could lose her eyesight, but Kostya repeated ‘Do not be afraid, I will be your eyes.’
Kostya loved animals and rescued them. One of his dogs poignantly walked in circles around the empty grave after his body was taken away in a wheelbarrow.
To date there are 24,425 civilian casualties: 8,983 killed and 15,442 injured as reported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
They were finally able to give him a proper burial at Irpin Cemetery and have some peace knowing he is now at a final resting place. They chose a blue coffin (one of the colors of the Ukrainian flag) because it was free.
‘He’s in the sky,’ said Svetlana looking up with a tender bittersweet smile.