A year ago, Russian forces left this city. The Scars Still Exist.

Alla Kotliarova laid her to rest for the third time, and she hopes the last time, more than a year after her mother passed away.

No priest, no sobbing neighbors, and no formal procession to the cemetery at the edge of town were there. But Ms. Kotliarova, 62, was able to bury her mother, Tamara Kotliarova, in the family plot, bringing her at least some sense of closure.

Although her mother had long struggled with diabetes, there was no official cause of death given, but Ms. Kotliarova is persuaded that the strain of the Russian invasion and occupation accelerated her death.

As Ms. Kotliarova wiped tears from her eyes with a little handkerchief and whispered, “If it weren’t for this war, she wouldn’t have died,”

The front of a damaged building. One of its doors is open, bricks can be seen through some of the fallen areas and part of the steps have collapsed.

The older Ms. Kotliarova was originally laid to rest in her courtyard by her kin before being reinterred during the Russian occupation at a makeshift cemetery on the outskirts of a woodland. After Izium was retaken, the Ukrainian authorities dug up the forest graveyard and the 440 bodies buried there, including hers, for DNA testing and autopsies, which in some cases took months.

The final funeral was symbolic of the numerous ways the residents of Izium, in northeastern Ukraine, are still fighting to recover from the destruction of the Russian occupation, which lasted from March to September 2022. The aftermath of Russian cruelty still remains fresh in Izium, despite the Ukrainian authorities’ pledge to reconstruct destroyed cities.

Izium is one of the most bombed cities in Ukraine, according to deputy mayor Volodymyr Matsokin, who cited information from the National Security and Defense Council of the nation. Although City Hall is still in ruins, the flowers on the square outside were well-kept, so he was seated in a temporary office.
He claimed that 30% of privately owned structures and 80% of multistory and nonresidential buildings had suffered damage.

Izium was of enormous military significance since it served as a gateway to the Donbas region. Even before Russian forces occupied it, it had been severely damaged, leaving people without access to food, water, electricity, or the internet for months. The difficulties grew worse during the occupation’s months.

Numerous homes in the city were reduced to rubble, while nearby villages were left deserted. Many of the ones that are still livable lack essential amenities. Schools are in poor condition. The majority of the market’s stalls are still closed.

The population also became more distrustful as a result of the numerous signs that had messages urging people to phone the Ukrainian security services, or S.B.U., with any information regarding collaborators.

Polina Zolotarova in a building with rubble and partly collapsed structures.


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