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our 10 favourite longreads from 2023

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Bohdana’s first battle. How a Ukrainian Self-Propelled Howitzer forced the Russians to make a “gesture of goodwill” at Zmiinyi Island

 

The article describes the pivotal role of Ukraine’s Bohdana Self-Propelled Howitzer in liberating Zmiinyi (Snake) Island in June 2022. Despite logistical and technological challenges, Ukrainian forces demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness in successfully carrying out a coordinated operation that rendered the Russian garrison on the island ineffective. Bohdana’s victory has piqued the interest of top Ukrainian authorities, implying its possible relevance in future military endeavours.

“I’ll shut the windows and draw the curtains. And then I’ll go to war…”: Excerpts from the diary of Kyiv historian and writer Serhii Myronov

 

Serhii Myronov, a historian and writer from Kyiv, documented his transformative journey from cultural preservationist to frontline platoon commander. Published as a series of Instagram posts, Myronov’s reflections provide a candid and intimate account of the emotional and physical toll of war. The collection captures the complexities of military life, from the camaraderie among soldiers to the impact on civilians and animals. Myronov’s narrative, characterised by a blend of patriotism and raw introspection, stands as a compelling war diary, shedding light on the human side of the war and the profound personal changes experienced by those on the front lines.

A wedding dress was placed in her coffin: The story of a family wiped out in Izium and the year-long wait to rebury their bodies

 

This heart-wrenching story delves into the aftermath of a Russian airstrike in Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, where the Perehon family loses seven members. The narrative follows Vitalii Perehon’s struggles, from grappling with fragmented remains to navigating bureaucratic hurdles for a proper burial. Beyond the personal tragedy, the story emphasises the broader human cost of war and advocates for remembrance. It encapsulates the emotional journey of a grieving father, shedding light on the devastating impact on Ukrainian families entangled in the war.

“We heard only one word from him on the phone – “water”. The stories of the eight people who died as a result of the explosion at the Kakhovka HPP

 

In this emotive piece prepared by the Memorial Memory Platform exclusively for Ukrainska Pravda, the deliberate obliteration of the Kakhovka HPP dam in Kherson Oblast by Russian military forces on 6 June 2023, takes centre stage. Through individual chronicles, the article portrays the devastating human impact of the ensuing flood, highlighting personal challenges, resilience, and premature loss of life. The stories emphasise a stark contrast with the formally declared death toll, suggesting a far-reaching tragedy beyond what has been formally recognised. These personal accounts make a poignant appeal for recognition amid broader geopolitical tensions.

Kramatorsk: Life in Ukraine’s romantic capital, 25 kilometres from the front

 

Dive into the heart of Kramatorsk, a resilient Ukrainian city situated on the frontline, as depicted in this gripping article. Amidst the frequent air-raid sirens and the looming presence of military operations, the residents of Kramatorsk defy adversity with an unyielding thirst for life. Meet compelling characters like Zhenia and Artur, each with their unique tales intertwined with the city’s essence. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of the Ria Pizza restaurant, destroyed by a Russian missile in June 2023. Through vivid storytelling, the article captures the city’s struggles and reveals the indomitable human spirit that persists, carving moments of normalcy amidst the chaos of war.

Thirst for life. Story of a special ops soldier who fell from a boat and spent 14 hours floating in the open sea

 

Embark on an extraordinary journey with Conan, a legendary figure not only within his unit but echoing through the corridors of the Special Operations Forces. This riveting account, unveiled in an exclusive interview with Major Viktor Torkotiuk, unveils the incredible saga of Conan’s 14-hour ordeal in the Black Sea, where he floated alone, vulnerable to Russian eyes. Conan’s resilience, marked by self-sacrifice, the unbreakable bonds of military brotherhood, and the sheer strength of the human spirit, emerges as an inspirational lesson in unwavering determination.

Plane-spotting in the weeds, unwanted fame, and the Ghost of Kyiv made out of Lego. Andrii Pilshchykov’s mother tells the story of her son’s life

 

Explore the inspiring journey of Andrii Pilshchykov, known as “Juice,” a devoted Ukrainian military pilot. This concise narrative encapsulates his passion for aviation, advocacy for F-16s, and the indomitable spirit that defined his life. Despite encountering challenges and choosing not to renew his contract, Andrii’s legacy remains a testament to the bravery, resilience, and enduring heroism of the Ukrainian people.

“There’s a child in the morgue. We don’t know if it’s ours.” How the village of Hroza is coping after the mass killing, as it prepares for the victims’ funerals

 

The text recounts the harrowing aftermath of a Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian village of Hroza, resulting in the loss of 52 innocent lives during a wake. As the community grapples with the tragedy, questions arise about Russia’s silence and potential motives. The UN deems it the deadliest attack of the year, emphasising the pressing need for accountability amid the heartbreaking stories of families torn apart.

Coming home: why Ukrainian refugees are coming back from Germany

 

In this narrative by Iryna Fingerova, readers are immersed in the intricate tapestry of human experience woven through the stories of Ukrainian refugees, focusing on the elderly in Germany. The text unravels the complex decisions, heart-rending struggles, and unyielding resilience of those caught between returning to a war-ravaged homeland or crafting new lives in a foreign land. Fingerova’s storytelling masterfully depicts the core of these personal sagas, illustrating the human spirit’s response to loss, fear, and the enduring pursuit of home. An engaging exploration of universal themes such as choice, identity, and the unwavering determination to find comfort amidst adversity.

The story of a Ukrainian reconnaissance officer who crawled for three days and two nights

 

This riveting account unfolds the remarkable saga of Khokhol, a Ukrainian special unit Artan member, thrust into a life-or-death situation during a mission in Kupiansk. Separated from his comrades, Khokhol’s indomitable spirit takes centre stage as he undertakes a gruelling three-day, two-night crawl through hostile territory, facing unimaginable challenges. Beyond the tale of military prowess, this narrative interweaves themes of love, survival, and the relentless human spirit. Khokhol’s story, a fusion of suspense and unwavering courage, stands as a testament to the unyielding will to survive even in the bleakest moments, offering readers an intense and deeply human exploration of resilience amid adversity.

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