A loving dad and his injured son pay war’s costs in Ukraine

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — In a Ukrainian hospital ward for wounded troopers, the place daylight barely penetrates, a father talks to his injured son for hours. Serhii Shumei, 64, by no means scolded Vitalii for selecting to go to warfare. Even now, regardless of the harm finished to his son’s mind by an exploding artillery shell, Serhii feels delight, not pity.

“I’ve been consistently with him within the final 5 months, beside him, beside him, beside him,” says Serhii, a retired former soldier himself. “I’m not going anyplace. … apart from a smoke.”

Vitalii, a 34-year-old long-range anti-aircraft missile commander, was wounded within the Donbas area of japanese Ukraine that has turn out to be synonymous with horrific losses in ongoing combating for each Ukraine and Russia. Fairly how lethal is not identified — as a result of neither facet is saying. From the stream of wounded troopers which can be coming off frontlines to hospitals just like the one the place Vitalii lies, it is evident the prices are extreme.

Either side have poured troops and assets to seize or defend Donbas strongholds, combating over months of grinding, attritional fight to what has largely turn out to be a bloody stalemate. After setbacks elsewhere in Ukraine for President Vladimir Putin’s practically 11-month invasion, Russia is in search of some type of localized success within the Donbas, even when that simply means taking management of a city or two pounded into rubble. Ukraine desires to make Russia’s advances as expensive as potential.

The Donbas cities of Bakhmut and Soledar have been became hellscapes consequently. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described them as “fully destroyed,” strewn with corpses and craters, and with “virtually no life left.”

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“That is what insanity appears to be like like,” Zelenskyy says.

Vitalii was wounded Aug. 25 on one other part of the Donbas frontline, in Adviivka, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Bakhmut. The shell that struck his dugout set off different explosives. The blast tore a crater in Vitalii’s cranium that’s as deep and broad as half a melon. His mind accidents have been so extreme that docs doubted he’d present indicators of consciousness once more.

Now, Vitalii generally appears conscious of his environment. He blinks. He can swallow. However he’s largely motionless.

Serhii refuses to surrender on him.

“We’re seeing some progress, getting again on our ft. That is my opinion,” he says.

He spends hours at Vitalii’s bedside, sharing information from the battlefields, reciting from books, and studying out messages of assist.

They’re despatched by grateful Ukrainians who urge Vitalii to “Maintain on to life! We actually want you!” and say “You might be sturdy! You’ll handle!”

Serhii says tears roll down Vitalii’s cheeks when he reads them to him. Different indicators of enchancment appeared in late December, when Vitalii began wiggling his toes, Serhii says. Vitalii additionally has began to frown, which Serhii interprets as that means that his son is keen on what he is studying to him.

And just lately, Serhii says, one other breakthrough: audible responses from Vitalii.

“I’ve began asking him ‘Are you aware who I’m?’ And he answered ‘Dad’.”

One other of Vitalii’s frequent guests is Iryna Timofeyeva, a volunteer whose brainchild it was to gather messages of assist.

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“The love of the household, the eye of different individuals, fairly often helps the constructive dynamics of the affected person,” she says. “It is extremely vital for the wounded that he’s not alone. That’s how he understands that he has to battle.”

Vitalii is, for now, alone in his ward, after different sufferers have been transferred for rehabilitation elsewhere. However the beds round him are unlikely to remain empty for lengthy, given the ferocity of the combating within the Donbas. Vitalii’s hospital in Chernihiv, north of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, is amongst these the place troopers get long-term follow-up care after their wounds have been stabilized nearer to the fronts.

Serhii feels that caring for his son is his contribution to the warfare effort.

“I’ll put him again on his ft. That is my dream,” he says.

Inclining to his son’s ear, he asks: “Ukraine will win, we are going to win, proper?”

The reply is silence.

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Efrem Lukatsky in Chernihiv and John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.

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Observe AP’s protection of the warfare at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine