The first time Oleksandr Havriluk returned to his farm after it had been stormed and occupied by Russian troops, tears rolled down his face when he saw what they had left behind.
His farm buildings were almost completely destroyed, millions of dollars worth of heavy machinery had been left in ruins, and last year’s wheat harvest had been incinerated.
But the most pressing problem for Havriluk were the land mines which had been buried across his 12 square miles of surrounding fields.
Now, the 69-year-old is digging them up by hand, in a desperate effort to clear some of his fields before planting season begins in early April.
“I was afraid,” Havriluk said. “But I have to sow.”
So far, Havriluk says he has removed around 20 mines from his fields in Valika Komyshuvaha, close to the city of Izium, using only a metal detector he purchased himself.
“You go, you find it, take a stick, tap it to determine the size, and then you dig it up,” he said. “And then you pick it up gently and take it out.”
The work is dangerous, he admits, but he adds, “I don’t have any other choice.”