Filkina enrolled in a cosmetics course in early 2022 with local makeup artist Anastasia Subacheva and bought her first set of blush, eyeliner and concealer, which she planned to wear at an upcoming concert.
She even got a cherry red manicure for Valentine’s Day, drawing “a heart on her finger because she started loving herself,” Subacheva told CNN.
But his plans stalled in late February when Russia invaded Ukraine. Her daughters decided to cross the border into Poland, but Filkina stayed behind to help the people. She spent a week at Bucha’s Epicenter shopping mall, feeding people sheltering there and cooking for the Ukrainian army, according to her daughter.
On March 5, Filkina tried to get a seat in one of the cars that was evacuating people from the mall outside the city. But when there was no space, she decided to cycle home.
One of Filkina’s daughters, Olga Shchyruk, 26, said she begged her mother not to ride her black bike home that day. She asked him to take the train out of town.
“I told him it wasn’t safe there. Russia occupied the whole town, they killed people,” Shchyruk told CNN.
“Olga, don’t you know your mom? I can move mountains!” Filkina responded, according to Shchyruk, a child psychologist who was in Poland at the time helping other Ukrainian refugees.
It was the last conversation they had. Filkina never came home that day.
Chilling images shared this week appear to have captured the moment of Filkina’s death. A drone video taken before March 10 showed a person pushing a black bicycle on Yablunska street in Bucha before being shot by Russian soldiers. At least four puffs of smoke billow out from a Russian military vehicle after the cyclist rounds the corner.
A second video from the same street, posted on Twitter and geolocated by CNN, shows the body of a woman in a blue jacket and light-colored pants lying next to a black bicycle next to an uprooted utility pole. One leg is shattered. Her arm is at her side. Burnt out and abandoned cars litter the street along with ash and debris.
Other images from the scene, taken by Reuters, show a closer view of the woman in the blue jacket. A curved hand peeks out of her sleeve, cherry red nail polish and a heart motif on one finger, shining through the grime and grime.
When the image of that hand went viral on social media this week, both Shchyruk and Subacheva immediately recognized whose hand it was: Filkina’s. “How could a person not recognize her mother’s body?” Shchyruk said.
Subacheva began comparing the photos he took of Filkina with the Reuters photograph. “This photo of her body and my own (photos) of her manicure… I realized this is the same person and I started crying,” Subacheva said, adding that the last time she saw her It was a day before the invasion. she started. “We have to realize that behind this image of her hand is a great woman.”
Known as “Mama Ira” by all of her daughters’ friends, people adored Filkina’s propensity to nurture those around her. When Filkina saw the ocean for the first time in her life two years ago on a family trip to Egypt, “everyone in the hotel fell in love with her. They said, ‘Mama Ira, come back,'” Shchyruk said.
“All her life, she gave herself for others, (she) gave her life to other people’s ambitions,” Shchyruk said. It was after that trip to Egypt that her mother decided that she “wanted to follow her own passions,” she added.
That is why Shchyruk refused to believe his mother was dead, even though the Ukrainian military told the family on March 5 that she was dead. The army said it would be impossible to recover her body as a Russian tank was nearby.
CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
Shchyruk believed that his mother had just been injured. He spent all of March asking bloggers and trying to contact neighbors, despite a power outage in Bucha, if they had heard anything. “I figured she was hiding in a basement, that she saw the occupants and she stayed somewhere to wait,” she told CNN, her voice breaking.
“When I found out for the second time that my mother was killed, I had the feeling that my spine was broken. I lay down, crying helplessly,” he said.
Shchyruk said his mother wouldn’t want him to wallow. Channeling the spirit of his mother, he is now in the process of establishing a foundation in Filkina’s name to help war-affected young Ukrainians.
“I want the image of his hand to be a symbol of new beginnings,” he said. “This symbol tells the occupants that they can do anything to us, but they can’t take away the main thing: love. People’s love, which they don’t have.”
CNN’s Tara John reported and wrote from Lviv, Ukraine. Oleksandra Ochman reported from Lviv. Eoin McSweeney reported from Abu Dhabi and Gianluca Mezzofiore from London.