“I visit the cemetery five times per day. Five crosses with photographs on them. That’s all,” says Volodymyr Obodzinskyi. His entire family from the village of Yuriivka (Zhytomyr oblast) was killed by two Russian bombs.
Volodymyr is showing the last family photoshoot, dating back to January 11. That was the first birthday of his little grandchildren, Denys and Nicole. In the picture there is a happy family: his 40-year-old wife Natalia, a teacher of the Ukrainian language, his 14-year-old son Volodymyr, a ninth-grader, and his 19-year-old daughter Ivanna with twins. Everyone is smiling cheerfully.
On March 8, two air bombs hit directly the two-story house of the Obodzinskyi family and demolished it completely. Demolished everything and everyone inside. There are no military objects in the vicinity. Volodymyr survived because he was at work.
Volodymyr recalls: "I remember our last talk on Viber. On the morning of March 8, I video called and congratulated them on Women’s Day. My Natalia said that it was the one and only time I did not give them flowers that day. Little Nicole touched the telephone with the words "Grandpa, grandpa", and Denys loved to "do a hedgehog", so I asked him to do an angry hedgehog for me. My son said hi to me as well. My daughter said: "Dad, please come back." My wife’s words will stay forever in my memory: "If you’d been here, we would’ve thought about leaving the town and would be probably gone by now."
The neighbor was the first one to tell Volodymyr about the tragedy. Later on, Volodymyr’s parents came to his house and told him everything.
"The kids were found 60 meters away, almost in the end of the garden. My wife along with my son and my daughter were found on the other side of the house.
Only the son’s body could be identified. They were all buried in closed coffins.
We could not even find some shoes for the kids, nothing was open.
So I bought the shoes later, dug a little hole, and put them next to the coffins," says Volodymyr with tears in his eyes.
The family had been building the house for 10 years. Now there is only a pile of bricks and kids' stuff, books, clothes, and toys scattered around.
“We’d been building the house with our bare hands. We made ourselves a yard and a garden. Natalia had planted strawberries for the grandkids. We were planning to celebrate anniversaries: the 15th birthday of our son and the 20th birthday of our daughter. My wife was good at celebrating, always cheerful and smiling. And so beautiful. She did not celebrate her 40th birthday, just bought herself a memorable ring.”
Volodymyr Obodzinskyi still has the keys to his house that no longer exists. The building can not be repaired. The man is addressing to any establishment there is to punish those who are guilty in the murder of his family. He wants the entire world to know how Russians are brutally killing Ukrainians and destroying their lives.
Ukrainian Text by Iryna Kyrylovych and Volodymyr Obodzinskyi, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — May 9, 2022