‘My uncle vanished while fighting for Ukraine. I had to find out what happened’

Victoria Belim returned to her homeland to unearth the forgotten truth about her great-grandfather’s brother. She hit obstacle after obstacle but discovered nothing disappears without a trace, even in a nation with such a troubled past

Victoria Belim next to a picture of her grandmother Valentina and great grandmother Asya in the 1930s

Victoria Belim

A single line in my great-grandfather’s diary sent me on a journey that took me around Ukraine and into its — and my own — past. “Brother Nikodim, vanished in the 1930s fighting for a free Ukraine,” wrote my great-grandfather Sergiy and underlined it so hard that the pen punctured the paper. Who was Nikodim? What had he done? How did he vanish? I could not find any answers and my family’s silence only made the mystery more puzzling.