VINNYTSIA, Ukraine (AP) — Beautiful and serene in a crown of white flowers, 4-year-old Liza who was killed by a Russian missile strike, was buried Sunday in central Ukraine as an Orthodox priest burst into tears and told weeping relatives that “evil cannot win.”
Liza, who had Down syndrome, was en route to see a speech therapist with her mother when Russian missiles struck the city of Vinnytsia on Thursday, far from the front lines. At least 24 people were killed, including Liza and two boys aged 7 and 8, and more than 200 were wounded, including Liza’s mother.
“Look, my flower! Look how many people came to you,” Liza’s grandmother, Larysa Dmytryshyna, said, caressing Liza as she lay in an open coffin with flowers and teddy bears in Vinnytsia’s 18th-century Transfiguration Cathedral.
Liza’s father, Artem Dmytriev, stood silent, tears flowing down his face.
Liza’s mother, 33-year-old Iryna Dmytrieva, remained in an intensive care unit in grave condition. The family didn’t tell her that Liza was being buried Sunday, fearing it could affect her condition.
“Your mommy didn’t even see how beautiful you are today,” Dmytryshyna said, weeping.
Helena Sydorenko, a longtime family friend, said Liza’s mother “invested a lot of effort in socializing Liza.”
”She wanted her kid to have a full life,” Sydorenko added.
When the war started, Dmytrieva and her family fled Kyiv, the capital, for Vinnytsia, a city 270 kilometers (167 miles) to the southwest which until Thursday was considered relatively safe.
Shortly before the explosion, Dmytrieva had posted a video on social media showing her daughter straining to reach the handlebars to push her own stroller, happily walking through Vinnytsia, wearing a denim jacket and white pants, her hair decorated with a barrette.
After the Russian missile strike, Ukraine’s emergency services shared photos showing her lifeless body on the ground next to her blood-stained stroller. Ukraine’s first lady remembered how cheerful and happy the little girl was when she met her. The videos and photos have gone viral, the latest images from the brutal war in Ukraine to horrify the world.
Liza’s closest relatives sat on both sides of the coffin, and many more crowded Vinnytsia’s Orthodox cathedral to pay their last tributes to the girl.
“I didn’t know Liza, but no person can go through this with calm,” Orthodox priest Vitalii Holoskevych said, bursting into tears. ‘’Because every burial is grief for each of us. We are losing our brothers and sisters.”
He paused and continued in a trembling voice: ‘’We know that evil cannot win.’’
Later at a wind-swept cemetery, relatives and friends bid farewell to Liza under gray skies.
“You loved this song very much, you danced every day. This song sounds for you now,” Dmytrushyna, Liza’s grandmother, said.
The song was “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow,” which has become a symbol of resistance in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.
“It’s suffering and despair. There is no forgiveness for them,” said Ilona, another family friend.
A 7-year-old boy killed in the same Russian airstrike was also buried Sunday along with his mother in a village near Vinnytsia. They were at a medical center when the missiles hit the building. Another young boy slain in the same airstrike is to be buried in Vinnytsia on Monday.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine