From civilian to military: Ukrainian army volunteer buried

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ZORYA TRUDA, Ukraine (AP) — The countryside was in full bloom when Iuliia Loseva buried her husband in the village cemetery near her home. On her knees on the grass, she lowered her head over the open coffin and gave her one last goodbye kiss before lowering her into the tomb.

There was a military band and six gun salutes. Pale and dazed, their young son, dressed in camouflage uniform, walked behind their father’s coffin with framed photographs.

But this was not a military funeral for a career soldier. Volodymyr Losev’s entry into the army was as sudden as it was brief.

A little over three months ago, the 38-year-old was an ordinary civilian driving trucks and cranes to care for his family in a small village near the port city of Odesa in southwestern Ukraine.

Then war came and everything changed.

“He had never enlisted in the army, but enlisted on the first day of the war,” Losev’s brother-in-law, Viktor Chesolin, said after the funeral.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Like many other Ukrainian men, Losev decided he wanted to help defend his country. He had no previous military experience. However, Chesolin said he knows how to fire an air rifle and has special driving skills because of his job.

So, in February, when a letter came from the army collection center, Losev appeared and asked to be enlisted. Qualified drivers were requested, and the military accepted his offer.

He left his wife and sons – 13-year-old Hrehorii and 15-year-old Denys – at home and went to western Ukraine for two or three weeks of training. Chesolin turned out to be a good marksman and said that the military made him a sniper.

He soon became the front line fighting Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. His family didn’t know much about his whereabouts – they didn’t discuss the locations.

Then came that awful phone call. One of Losev’s fellow soldiers, a friend named Iuliia. Her husband was dead.

His family was told that Losev died on May 7 near the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine. Chesolin said that when the military vehicle he was driving passed over, a mine on the road exploded and other soldiers in the vehicle were injured and Losev died. As far as they know, he died at the scene.

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Fighting in the area was fierce, and getting his body was complicated. It took days for the military to take him out and take him home.

On May 16, Iuliia, whose nails were painted alternately in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, waited in front of their house when the funeral van arrived with her coffin. The mourners knelt down the street and bowed respectfully as the van passed.

He held his son’s hand as the funeral procession made its way towards the small cemetery on the outskirts of the village, as the national flags flew in the breeze.

The tomb was open and waiting, the group standing on one side. Leaving the mourners behind, his wife walked ahead with the coffin and asked the coffin-bearers to lower her onto the grass.

He fell to his knees, ragged sobs escaping with painful breaths. She caressed his chest one last time and bent over him. For the last few minutes, she could be alone with her husband, who went from civilian to military so fast and then left.