Family kitchen recalls heartbreak for Kyiv man and his son

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The ruined kitchen of his family’s Kyiv home stands at the center of a 42-year-old carpenter’s traumatic experience of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Serhii Kaharlytskyi and his 10-year-old son had a narrow escape when a Russian missile landed outside on New Year’s Eve as they watched television together. The explosion tore off the front of their house in the city's traditionally tranquil Solomianskyi district.

Kaharlytskyi’s 36-year-old wife, Iryna, was in the kitchen preparing a meal. She didn’t survive the strike.

“I maybe passed out for a second,” Kaharlytskyi recalled Tuesday. “When I opened my eyes, my kid was screaming. ... Everything had collapsed, and the kitchen was gone.”

Kaharlytskyi and his son managed to scramble their way outside.

“Then I came back to search for my wife to bring her to the medics,” Kaharlytskyi said, “but I was told that it was too late, she had no heartbeat.”

Multiple blasts rocked Ukraine's capital on the afternoon of Dec. 31, killing his wife and wounding 14 other people, as Russia's large-scale attacks gathered pace in final weeks of 2022.

At his wrecked home, Kaharlytskyi sifts through the material wreckage. There are family pictures, including a wedding photo from 16 years ago, in the damaged living room. There are also metal missile fragments.

It’s the kitchen, though, where he can fully measure the loss.

“I might be able to handle this physically, but emotionally it’s hard,” Kaharlytskyi said. "And my kid knows exactly where I found his mother: in the kitchen.”

Now, Kaharlytskyi has to decide where to rebuild a life for him and his motherless child.

“I don’t know, either I will convert the kitchen into a wardrobe or, I don’t know, more likely we might just move out from this place to be far away from the war,” he said.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Bela Szandelszky, The Associated Press