My daughter died in Ukraine’s 'land of the dead' – she was going to conquer the world but was buried by Putin’s bombs | The Sun

A UKRAINIAN mum has told how her gymnast daughter was buried alive by Russian bombs as Putin turned a Ukrainian city into the "land of the dead".

Kateryna Diachenko, 10, died alongside her father on March 12 last year after her home was blasted by an airstrike in the early days of Putin's invasion.

The youngster's mum, Marina Diachenko, and her injured brother, Artem, were pulled out of the rubble by heroic neighbours.

But Kateryna and her dad, Aleksandr, couldn't be saved.

In a heartbreaking interview with The Sun, Marina Diachenko said her young daughter was "supposed to conquer the world, but died in rubble".

The talented young girl dreamed of competing at the Olympics.

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Marina told The Sun: "Kateryna was a kind, helpful girl. The kind of girl every mum would want to see.

"She saw only good in people, was full of life and gave everyone a smile. She was a modest child with big dreams.

"Her passion was rhythmic gymnastics, she adored this sport and always enjoyed participating in competitions with her friends and coach.

"When you lose your husband and daughter in such a tragedy, it is the worst thing that can happen to you. It's very painful.

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"The world stands still. Nothing can ever be the same again.

"The question of 'why' is unanswerable. But no matter how hard it is, I must continue be strong for the sake of my wonderful son Artem."

Since the war began, Russian troops have been pounding Ukrainian cities – but Mariupol was one of the places that faced the very worst of the war.

Hundreds of thousands were left trapped inside buildings with no access to food, water, power or heat.

Russian shells, bombs and missiles struck a theatre, an art school and other public buildings – burying hundreds of women and children sheltering in cellars.

The city council said the relentless airstrikes turned Mariupol into the "land of the dead".

But Marina said she's ready to return to the city as her son recovers from his injuries.

"Time does not heal all wounds, it only teaches us to live with the incomprehensible," she said.

"I miss Kateryna every day. It can be that the pain comes up unexpectedly in everyday situations when I see or hear something that reminds me of Kateryna.

"Even if death separates us, she remains a part of me for the rest of my life."

Swiss Rhythmic Gymnastics, based in Bern, Switzerland, helped raise funds to buy a headstone for Kateryna and Aleksandr's graves.

"Thanks to generous people it has been possible to purchase such a beautiful headstone for Kateryna and Aleksandr's final resting place, which will always preserve their fondest memories," Marina said.

Kateryna's coach Anastasia Meshchanenkova paid tribute to the talented youngster.

She told The Sun: "Kateryna was incredibly positive and smiling. She was a friend for all the girls.

"She rejoiced in everything, never envied anyone, was able to sincerely rejoice in other people's victories and never gave up."

Anastasia, from Mariupol, recalled the harrowing days of relentless bombing in her home city – and the moment she learned of little Kateryna's death.

"We, like all people in Mariupol, spent those days in the basement, prayed for our loved ones, for everyone we knew, that they would be alive," she said.

"Miraculously, the neighbours pulled Kateryna's mother and brother out of the rubble, but unfortunately Kateryna and her father could not be saved.

"People were buried alive in their homes, no one could help them."

At the time of Kateryna's death, tributes poured in for the little girl from gymnastics organisations around the world.

Bulgarian gymnast Iliana Raeva, president of the country's Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, said: "I can't believe it… our colleague from Ukraine shared this terrible tragedy.

"This wonderfully tender creature is already an angel."

She added: "I can't believe we live in such a cruel world."

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Throughout Mariupol, Russian workers are tearing down bombed-out buildings – hauling away shattered bodies with the debris.

More than 10,000 new graves now scar Mariupol – and the death toll from Russia's onslaught might be three times higher than an early estimate of at least 25,000.

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