Hundreds Mourn 'Loss for Ukraine'

Roman Ratushnyi, 24, was an activist and soldier
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2022 4:40 PM CDT
Hundreds Mourn 'Loss for Ukraine'
People throw sand on the coffin of activist and soldier Roman Ratushnyi during his funeral Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

(Newser) – Poppies, the blood-red flowers that cover the battlefields of Europe's two world wars, were lain in mourning Saturday on the coffin of yet another dead soldier, this one killed in yet another European war, in Ukraine. The hundreds of mourners for Roman Ratushnyi, 24, included friends who had protested with him during months of demonstrations that toppled Ukraine's pro-Russia leader in 2014 and who, like him, took up arms when Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbor this February. Ratushnyi was known in Kyiv for his civic and environmental activism, the AP reports. "He was such a solid and big personality," a friend said. "It's a great loss for Ukraine."

The arc of his shortened life symbolized that of Ukraine's post-independence generations that are sacrificing their best years in the cause of freedom—first with defiance and dozens of lives against brutal riot police during Ukraine's Maidan protests of 2013-14, and now with weapons and more lives against Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops. "Heroes never die!" friends, family and admirers shouted in Ukrainian as Ratushnyi's coffin was loaded aboard a hearse on a square in the Ukrainian capital. From the square, the mourners walked in a long, silent column behind his coffin to Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square. The vast plaza in central Kyiv gave its name to the three months of protests that overthrew then-President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and that helped fuel the political and patriotic awakening of Ukrainians born after independence in 1991.

Ratushnyi had “a heart full of love for Ukraine,” said Misha Reva, who traveled overnight in his soldier's uniform from front lines in the east to say goodbye to the friend he met for the first time on Maidan during the protests. Ratushnyi was 16; Reva was in his early 20s. It was Ratushnyi who introduced Reva to the woman who is now his wife, also on the square. Ratushnyi was killed on June 9 near the town of Izyum on the eastern front, according to the environmental campaign group that he led in Kyiv. He fought for the preservation from development of a wooded park where people ski in winter, per the AP. "He was a symbol, a symbol of a new Ukraine, of freedom and a new generation that wants to fight for its rights,” said Serhli Sasyn, 21, adding that the "best people are dying now."

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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