Wednesday, February 28

The story behind the tragic Kharkov photo

Victor Gubarev was out to buy bread when he was killed by a shell fragment that landed outside his apartment block on Monday in Kharkivto the east of Ukraineminutes before her daughter arrived to find a medical team next to her body.

Team members had to hold down Yana Bachek as her father’s body was carried away following the explosions that ripped through the Soviet-era apartment complex in which they live.

Yana Bachek, an English teacher, said she had been setting up an online class in the kitchen of her one-bedroom apartment, near her parents’ flat, when the bombing. “I just remember the explosion,” she said. “I had just come back from shopping and there were some crazy explosions, a noise.”

Immediately her mother, Lyubov, called, her voice trembling, and said that her father had gone to buy bread and was still out. Her partner, Yevgeniy, prevented her from leaving immediately in case new attacks occurred, as they did, seconds later. “I started calling him and there was no answer,” she said.

When he put on his coat and came out a few minutes later, his anguished reaction to seeing his father’s body was captured by photographers who had arrived with the ambulances shortly after the explosions. “I’m sorry. I want to forget it. The photo. The only photo I ever saw him in,” Bachek explained.

Russia denies targeting civilians and rejects what Ukraine says is evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine has staged them to undermine peace talks.

Family photos

Gubarev’s death was one of three that occurred Monday in Kharkov, which has been under almost daily bombardment since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

Former driver who started working at the age of 16 and rose to become a fleet manager for the oil company Gazpromthe 79-year-old had been reluctant to leave due to health problems suffered by him and his wife.

Sitting in her kitchen, fighting back tears from time to time, Bachek, her only daughter, shared family photos that showed her father in an Elvis-style ponytail on vacation at the Black Sea, smiling at Lyubov or swinging her granddaughter playfully in a shopping bag.

He described how he grew up in a middle-class family without much money in late Ukraine, studying hard at school with his mother, a piano teacher who enjoyed concerts and the theater, and his father, who liked to tinker with pianos. cars and joke around with your daughter.

“In his normal life, even in the war, tried to smile, joke, support us. She told us: ‘You are my girls, my heroines,'” she says. Now she hopes her father can be buried, but here too the war has imposed additional agony, as the death toll has risen and normal funerals have become impossible.

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While the family waits for news, the loaf of bread Gubarev went out to buy remains, still in its plastic wrap, on a table in the hallway, where he touches it briefly each time he goes to the door. “The bread was bloodstained,” he says. “Now I can’t hold it in my hands, but I want to because it’s a piece of my father. It was the last thing he had in his hands.”

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