This week, I was informed about the passing of Roman Ratushnyi (1997-2022), one the two sons from journalist and writer Svitlana Povalyaeva.
She spoke of her worries, but also her determination to not succumb to fatalism when I met her in Kyiv in April last year. To remain dignified no matter what, and to be present for all occasions.
Roman had the strength of his mother. Roman was 15 years old when he began protesting injustice in Independence Square. He raised his fist to denounce the authoritarian excesses of the government and the decline of democracy. He was subject to beatings by truncheons, and he responded with media blows during a student protest. He had saved a natural area by standing on the sidelines during the protests against Yanukovych.
Roman was a young charismatic activist. Roman had an angelic smile and a Gene Kelly smile. He loved photography and read the poems of Mykhail Semenko. He had a brotherly spirit, a deep desire to be fair. With ardor, a natural sense of communication, he embodied the Ukrainian ideal of youth and freedom.
He would have turned 25 on July 5.
These words are written as I look at Svitlana's image, her hand resting on the coffin of her son. There are many cameras, broken faces and grieving eyes alongside him. Roman's funeral had a remarkable impact. Vitali Klitschko and dissident director Oleg Sentsov were present, gathered in front of the Saint-Michel-au-Dome-d'Or monastery among a compact crowd. The symbol of a young, exhausted generation that, instead of building independence and falling into the trenches, vanishes behind the heroic soldier is what lies behind the disappearance.
Vasily, Svitlana’s second child, is one-year-old and three months younger than his brother. Since the Russian invasion of 2015, he has been fighting for his freedom. According to the latest news, his position was at the "Zero Point", which is where clashes are most intense. Svitlana is worried because it is an area where even the bones and heroes cannot return.