Let’s be frank: there were not many people in the church, this Wednesday of December, for the funeral of Volodymyr Vakoulenko. The censers waltzed, the candles smoked, but the mission of the Greek-Catholic church Saint-Dmitri, in the heart of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, was only half full. Was it because of the rumbling sirens? Biting cold, ice? On the balcony, a modest choir was doing its best to give a little solemnity to the farewell to this “writer” and 49-year-old martyr, as announced by the press.
At the Kharkiv cemetery, during the funeral of Volodymyr Vakoulenko, December 6, 2022. GUILLAUME HERBAUT FOR “THE WORLD”
Around the coffin of “Volodia”, the deceased’s nickname, his father and mother (divorced) and, clinging to them, their grandson, now an orphan: Vitaly, a 14-year-old autistic child who was always glued to his dad . That day, in the church, he bites his nails, hat up to his eyes, without really understanding what is happening around the wooden chest covered with the blue and yellow flag, nor understanding the words spoken by one priests. “Volodymyr died because he was Ukrainian and a patriot. May God give us the strength to resist the invader, the price of this resistance is so high…”
There are not many people either to accompany him in the cemetery Kharkiv number 2. A meager assembly follows him to his grave. A “grave” was found in the artists’ square, not far from Misko Barbara, composer and leader of a Ukrainian underground rock band who put poems to song. Of Kapytolivka, a two-hour drive away, are present: a soldier in fatigues and a khaki cap, who has hobbled since his return from Donbass, and a childhood friend of Volodymyr Vakoulenko, a white cap and a fur coat… The mother of the deceased collapses in the arms of this woman who has become a hospital administrative manager. “You know why I had him buried here, far from home. He is not worthy of this village, which gave him to the Russians. »
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In a war, there are not only artillery duels. At the rear stands another less visible front, that of petty revenge, neighborhood betrayals, where crows replace drones. On February 24, 2022, Ukraine rose en bloc against the enemy and has glorified its heroes ever since. It is more difficult to point out these anonymous people who behaved badly. Without a few gossips from his village, however, Volodymyr Vakoulenko, a local writer who only dreamed of gardening and poetry, would probably not be dead today.
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