Mariupol defender is finally laid to rest

STORY: Among this sea of fallen Ukrainian soldiers, a mother is finally able to lay her son to rest.

Ievhenii Honcharenko was just 27 when he was killed fighting with the Azov Regiment stationed in Mariupol.

The port city was the scene of fierce battles between the Russian military and Ukrainian forces defending the city.

“My heart aches. I can’t speak. He was a child of gold, of gold. Please forgive me, I just cannot speak any more.”

His mother, Natalia, was told that he had been taken as a prisoner of war at the end of May, two weeks after the last 250 of the fighters holed up in Azovstal steelworks surrendered to Russian forces.

But DNA tests proved that the remains of a body brought back to Ukraine as part of a prisoner of war exchange were his.

Ievhenii was killed in combat on April 15.

She still remembers their last conversation.

" 'Mom, everything is fine, I love you all.’ That was it.”

Ievhenii's many mourners gathered at a cemetery in Kharkiv to pay their respects.

Among them was childhood friend Oleksii Kolovorotnyi.

“When the war broke out, he was already with his unit. I called him, he calmed me down. One second please. He calmed me down, said '‘Oleksii, everything will be fine. We’re chasing them away.’’’

The somber ceremony featured a gun salute,

the Ukrainian national anthem…

and reams of beautiful flowers to adorn his grave.

For Kharkiv florist, Natalia Chyipesh, preparing for funerals like Ievhennii’s has sadly become all-too familiar.

“One customer said to me recently that I must have gotten used to all. But it is impossible to get used to something like this. For anyone who has a heart, a soul and especially a son who serves in the army making flower arrangements, baskets for funerals is something impossible to get used to. Before, people used to die of old age, that’s where the orders came from and it is a totally different thing to make wreaths for our youth.”