It was Uncle Hena’s body that was the last to be removed, his wife watching with wet, gray eyes.
At the same time that rescue crews were combing through the rubble, thousands of people were lining up at places throughout the city, waiting for water. Mykolaiv, home to half a million people before the war and now maybe half that, has no drinkable tap water because in April the Russian army blew up all of the freshwater pipes supplying the city. That has left the people here dependent on handouts.
In one shopping-center parking lot, a huge crowd gathered after two truckloads of bottled water had arrived. The crowd was dressed in heavy coats. Their puffs of breath were visible in the thin, wintry air. They trudged forward as one.
“Don’t panic!” a soldier yelled from a megaphone, standing by the trucks. “There is enough for everyone. But don’t circle back in the line to take more.”
Ms. Bas waited with two children.
“It’s all misery. The schools are closed, and learning is online, but we have no internet at home,” she said. “My husband works at a carwash, but business is bad, so each day he brings home only 200 hryvnias,” or about 5 dollars.
The temperature is falling. And she wasn’t sure when she would get heat.
“It’s not like we were rich before the war,” she said. “But never did I have to ask for handouts.”
“I am trying to be strong” she said. “I am pretending to be strong.”
She turned to leave. Her 10-year-old daughter followed, walking briskly. In her hand, she clutched a pack of chocolate cookies that she had just been given. But in her eyes, she looked as if she were almost lost in the growing crowd.
Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.