Activists painted several murals on the house at 2 Pamyati Street in de-occupied Izium. On March 9, 2022, Russian troops dropped a bomb on the building. There is no exact number of deaths yet; according to official figures, 50 people died.

Gwara Media journalists talked to the project’s initiator Vadym Spivak and artist Iryna Vodolazhchenko.

Iryna depicted two murals on the house – a candle and hands holding poppies.

Mural depicting poppies in hands on a house at 2 Pamyati Street in Izyum / Photo: Daria Kotelnikova, Gwara Media

“Many cars passing by the house stop and look at the mural. Some people pray. Others take pictures,” the artist notes.

For the project initiators, it was essential to show the relatives of the victims and the citizens of Izyum that all citizens remember all the victims and respect them.

“The initiative was made to show the city’s residents that life is slowly improving; everything is being restored. And culture, as one of its integral parts, shows this,” says Vadym.

In addition, the project plans to make a temporary memorial plaque with the victims’ names to honor their memory and record historical events that are being written now.

Symbolism of the murals

“The first one depicts a candle, you can see it from the roadway when you enter Izyum. Below the image is the words ‘remember’. The second mural depicts two hands reaching out and “holding” poppies, about 50 in number. To the mural’s left is the word ‘we miss you’. The poppy in the traditional Ukrainian wreath depicts grief, memory, and respect for the fallen soldiers. Each flower is dedicated to a tragically killed Ukrainian,” the artist notes.

The sketch took a long time to create, the activists say. Together with Vadym, Iryna thought and searched for an image that would be honorable to the relatives of the victims and, at the same time ethically, emphasize that Ukrainians grieve and sincerely mourn the victims. All plans were coordinated with the local authorities and the people of Izyum.

The first sketch with a candle was completed on Izyum City Day, but it was finished last week. The poppies are about 80% complete, says Iryna.

Five-storey building on Pershotravneva Street

The house at 2 Pershotravneva (now – Pamyati) Street symbolizes the horrors Russia left behind in Izium. After the shelling, the two middle blocks of this five-storey building are missing. There are none at all. Emptiness instead of 40 flats.

Izyum has been shelled intensively since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. On the night of 24 February, there was the first hit near 2 Pershotravneva Street. On 24 February and in the following days, massive shelling began: mortar, artillery, aircraft and helicopter attacks.

House in Izium on Pershotravneva Street, destroyed by a Russian bomb / Photo: Denys Glushko for Gwara Media

The locals can only guess why the house was shelled so intensively. The house is on the outskirts of the city, and the Russians were shelling Izyum right through it.

Flowers on the ruins of a house destroyed by a Russian air strike in Izyum / Photo: Daria Kotelnikova, Gwara Media

On 9 March, after the sixth or seventh hit, the house at 2 Pershotravneva Street collapsed. The second and third porches were folded like a house of cards. Many people lost their chances of survival in the fire, which burned for almost 10 hours because of the phosphorus shells.

It was under the second and third entrances that collapsed that the warmest basement was located. Most people went down there. On the day of the tragedy, people from the street also ran in to escape the shelling.

Izium mass graves in Kharkiv Oblast, January 2023 / Photo: Denys Glushko for Gwara Media

The people who died in this house stayed under the rubble for a month. Only then did the occupiers allow us to start clearing the ruins.

For most of the people who died in this house, DNA testing is the only way to identify them. Some were identified by the data in their phones, by jewellery or, if it was possible to see them, by their clothes. Thanks to these features, some graves in the Izium forest were given not only numbers but also surnames.

See also

  • Izium mass grave: 66 bodies still unidentified. The identification of all the bodies found in the mass grave near Izium in Kharkiv region on September 15, 2022, after the liberation of most of the region from Russian forces, has not yet been completed.
  • Izyum said goodbye to the family that perished due to Russian air strike on their home. Stolpakov and Zhykhariev families were killed by a Russian air attack and buried at Izyum city cemetery. On 9 March 2022, the Russians destroyed a house where civilians hid in the basement. At least 50 people died under the ruins.