Now, she said, he is cold and restrained, never wanting to show his exhaustion and trying to shield her from grisly details. When there have been numerous deaths in a single day, when a nearby hospital was bombed and many of his friends died, she said, “even then, he didn’t show any tears.”
Ms. Prokopenko said that she had spoken to her husband shortly before being interviewed over the weekend, and what he has described to her about the soldiers’ daily routine is grim.
They are now lucky to get one meal a day eaten “in dirty rooms, in basements or sitting on rubble, or sitting in bunkers,” she said, and to step outside is to risk being shot by a sniper or blown up by a bomb. “So you have to be inside all the time in the dungeon,” Ms. Prokopenko said. “There is mold hidden on clothes. Even your weapon is already all in the mold.”
Sometimes, she said, he tries to escape the horrors around him by talking about her life.
“He says warm words to me and asks about ordinary things that many of them have forgotten: what is it like to live in an apartment, eat ice cream, potatoes, some hot dishes, eat fresh bread,” she said. “All soldiers dream of warm fresh bread, because they eat moldy bread. They dream of clean drinking water.”
But after such conversations, her sadness deepens.
“I am ashamed that I live a normal life: I have a bed, a pillow, drinking water, pills,” Ms. Prokopenko said. “He and his comrades do not have it, and I am ashamed and sad about it.”
She said she had thought about joining the many Ukrainian women who have picked up arms and joined the fight. But for the moment, she said, her mission is to tell the story of her husband and the other soldiers in the hopes that they can be saved.
“They must not be allowed to die,” she said. “We are shouting about it. We cry over it. We tear our souls to save them.”