ELENA BECATORAS and EMILIA MARENATZI – Associated Press
IRPIN, Ukraine (AP) – No more walls. Wide wooden roof beams lie split and scattered, and random pieces of clothing hang from damaged water pipes. But among the ruins of her house, a house built by her grandparents, Anna Shevchenko sees a glimmer of hope.
There, among the twisted metal and broken bricks of her former life in Irpen, stood the slender stalk of one of her favorite lilies. Some roses have survived a little further. A small bunch of daffodils and a tiny peony poked through the destruction, broken but not broken. And she begins to bloom tulips.
“I saw a photo of this house,” said Shevchenko, who fled the city on the outskirts of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, almost two weeks before the bombs fell. “I was trying to prepare to see it with my own eyes. And the next moment – I looked and saw the flowers.
“It was a new life,” she said. “So I tried to save my flowers.”
A piece of concrete pipe now serves as protection for the peony, which has grown new leaves. She pushed a giant piece of hard plastic out of her tenderly flowering peach tree and gently smoked one lily shoot that peeked out from under the concrete slab. The orchids in her house had long since died, but outside her bright red tulips remained intact.
When the harsh Ukrainian winter began to turn into spring, the Shevchenko family had already paid a high price in Russia’s war against Ukraine. On the same day, they lost their home, and Shevchenko’s father lost his leg in an explosion while trying to escape from Irpen. An active man in his 60s, who loved to ride a bike, now hardly leaves the apartment where Shevchenko’s friends are letting go of his family since he was released from hospital.
When the family fled Irpen around March 10, Shevchenko said her father stayed, hoping to save his home.
“This house was built by my grandparents, brick by brick,” explained the 35-year-old literature teacher.
As the shelling intensified and Russian troops, who had once occupied parts of Irpen in an unsuccessful attempt to attack Kyiv, came closer and closer to their neighborhood, Shevchenko’s father realized he needed to leave.
According to her, he has not yet described to his daughter how he was injured, but knows that he was hit by an explosion while he was sitting in the car trying to evacuate. He lost his right leg above the knee. The part rescued by doctors was badly broken and is still held by an outer metal rod screwed into his thigh.
He had not yet seen what had happened to his house – or to the bicycle lying broken under the piles of bricks in what had formerly been his garden.
Grandmother and grandfather built one part of the house for her mother, then finished the other for her uncle, where Shevchenko lived. While this part was damaged, the main house was completely destroyed. Looking around the site on a sunny May afternoon, she wondered if anything could be saved, if the whole house needed to be demolished and rebuilt.
However, despite her father’s horrific trauma, at least they were all alive, she said.
Gardening was Shevchenko’s favorite pastime, her way of recreation. Now that she is watching a new life emerge from the earth amid so much destruction, it gives her hope for the future.
“We have another chance,” she said. “Live.”
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