A picture made by a US photojournalist in Bucha helps a priest’s son find and bury his father

Journalists from all over the world flocked to Bucha after the city was liberated from the Russian occupation. Christopher Occhicone was among the first to arrive. Also, he later snapped a horrible picture of a man shot in the head lying in a car repair shop pit for The Wall Street Journal. Occhicone recounted how his picture helped the killed man’s son identify and give a proper burial to his father, priest Myron Zvarychuk. The photographer’s story was published by Mediazona.Belarus.

Occhicone and his colleagues arrived in Bucha in early April. By that time, he had seen the videos showing bodies in the city’s streets and “heard things” about the acts of violence against civilians committed during the evacuation from Irpin. In Bucha, Occhicone and other reporters wanted to visit Yablunska Street, where the world-famous pictures of killed people were made. “So, we were looking, and some guys saw us and were like, ‘Hey, you need to come look at this’. And we went into this industrial zone, with different mechanic shops etc. And they showed us in the inspection pit for the car, there was this man who was clearly executed. You don’t know what happened, you can see kind of from the scene of the crime,” the photographer said. He saw a bullet case on the ground near the body. The killed man reminded the photographer of his father, also a mechanic.

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Christopher shared the picture on his Instagram on the 11th of April. “This man was nobody in the grand scheme of the war, but to his family and friends, I am sure he was everything,” he wrote in the photo caption.

Sometime later, Occhicone went to Romania with his girlfriend to rest after working non-stop since early January. One evening, he was contacted by Kateryna Ukraintseva, a Bucha City Council deputy who helped identify missing people. She told him that the alleged son of the man in Occhicone’s photo approached her and invited the photographer to participate in the body identification process in Kyiv. The very next morning, the photographer arrived in the Ukrainian capital.

The morgue was packed, and there were another two lorries with bagged bodies near it. People who came to find their relatives sometimes could not identify them, Occhicone recounts. He spent the entire day with Myron Zvarychuk’s family looking for the man’s body. Eventually, they identified the man by his tattoo and jacket because there were no documents or personal items on him.

Then they went from the morgue to Bucha, where Occhicone learned that Myron Zvarychuk was a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and worked in a church there. Zvarychuk also lived in Bucha, where he rented a room from Mrs Kateryna, an old woman who lived on Hrushevskoho Street, which runs parallel to Yablunska Street.

After that, the photographer accompanied Myron’s body to Kyiv with the Zvarychuk family and visited his funeral in Rossilna, Ivano-Frankivsk Region. “I have never really seen anything like this. A village funeral. It was two hours in his sister’s house, then an hour outside the house, then we moved to the church, stopping every hundred metres, like the whole village in the procession. It was powerful. And then to the church, and another two hours in the church, and then the procession moving, and every hundred metres stopping for prayer. It was, I don’t know, eight hours of funeral,” Occhicone recounts.

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According to Kateryna Ukraintseva , the identification of Myron Zvarychuk was the first search her team completed. She was approached to find the man by his son Volodymyr. The latter recognized his father in the photos from morgues, where the bodies found in the Bucha District were brought, on the eve of Easter, the 24th of April. The same day, someone sent her a link to Christopher Occhicone’s car repair shop photo, which prompted her to contact the photographer.

Myron Zvarychuk was last seen alive on the 3rd of March. That day, the Ukrainian flag was raised near the city council building, and the Bucha City Council released a video about it. Ukraintseva thinks it led some locals to believe it was safe to move about the city. Still, the Russian military occupied the city the very same evening, she said. “A colleague called Mrs Kateryna, saying that humanitarian aid had arrived. Myron went to get some supplies. We found out that he indeed picked them up and decided to take a shortcut near the Yablunske cemetery on his way back. The second witness told us about a man that passed their house that day but encountered the Russians and had to flee,” Ukraintseva recounts.

The Russian troops entered Bucha on the 27th of February. Almost a month later, the Armed Forces of Ukraine went on a counter-offensive, surrounding Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel. The city was liberated on the 1st of April.

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