(HRNW) – When Russia invaded Ukraine, Vadym Khlupianets, a 26-year-old ballet dancer at Kyiv’s National Operetta Theatre, joined the army. Nine months later, he was killed by a sniper on the eastern front.
At his funeral, the theatre’s creative director Bohdan Strutnyskii said the young ballet dancer deserved a very different honour: “Applause at the end of a performance, with people asking for an encore.”
Olga Kucher, director of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Children’s Shelter, also found herself in an unexpected role. In March she led 215 orphaned children in woolly hats and puffer coats on a 24-hour train ride, fleeing for their lives.
“My heart is being torn apart,” she said. “And I feel so sorry for these children. They’re so young.”
Ukrainians astonished the world – and themselves – in 2022, withstanding an all-out military assault by a superpower meant to crush them within days.
Millions fled to safety. Millions endured bombardment in basements and bomb shelters. Tens of thousands perished in cities laid to waste by the invaders.