Iuliia Loseva buried her husband in the village cemetery near her home
ZORYA TRUDA, Ukraine — The countryside was in full bloom when Iuliia Loseva buried her husband in the village cemetery near her home. Kneeling in the grass, she lowered her head over the open coffin and kissed it one last goodbye before they lowered it to its grave.
There was a military band and a six-gun salute. His teenage sons, pale and stunned, walked behind their father’s coffin holding framed photos of him in his camouflage uniform.
But it was no military funeral for a career soldier. Volodymyr Losev’s foray into the army was as sudden as it was brief.
Just over three months ago, the 38-year-old was just another civilian, driving trucks and operating cranes, working to care for his family in a small village near the port city of ‘Odessa, in southwestern Ukraine.
Then the war came and everything changed.
“He had never been in the army, but he 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 so many other Ukrainians, Losev decided he wanted to help defend his country. He had no prior military experience. But he knew how to shoot an air rifle and he had specialized driving skills because of his job, Chesolin said.
So when a letter arrived from the army recruiting center in February, Losev showed up and asked to be drafted. Qualified drivers were wanted and the army accepted his offer.
He left his wife and sons – Hrehorii, 13, and Denys, 15 – at home and headed off to western Ukraine for two or three weeks of training. He turned out to be a good marksman, and the military made him a sniper, Chesolin said.
Soon he was on the front lines in eastern Ukraine, fighting Russian forces. His family weren’t sure where he was – he didn’t discuss the location.
Then the dreaded call came. One of Losev’s comrades-in-arms, a friend, called Iuliia. Her husband was dead.
Losev died on May 7 near the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, his family said. A mine on the road exploded as the military vehicle he was driving ran over it, injuring other soldiers in the vehicle and killing Losev, Chesolin said. As far as they know, he died at the scene.
The fighting in the area was fierce and the recovery of his body complicated. It took days for the army to successfully extract him and bring him home.
On May 16, Iuliia, her fingernails painted alternately in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, waited outside their house for the arrival of the funeral van with her coffin. Mourners lined the street, kneeling respectfully as the van passed.
She shook hands with her son as the funeral procession made its way to the small cemetery on the outskirts of the village, national flags waving in the wind.
The grave was open and waiting, the group standing to one side. Leaving the mourners behind, his wife came forward with the coffin and asked the pallbearers to place it on the grass.
She fell to her knees, hoarse sobs escaping in agonized breaths. One last time, she caressed his chest and leaned over him. For the last few moments she could be alone with her husband, the man who had gone so quickly from civilian to soldier – then gone.