Bucha Survivor: “My husband was killed for speaking Ukrainian” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Bucha Survivor: “My husband was killed for speaking Ukrainian”

Nonfiction writer Takehide Mizutani's on-site report on the "Ukrainian War

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Irina, whose husband was killed by Russian troops
Safety pins from a grenade that Irina found in the rubble. Irina’s house was blown up by Russian troops.Bucha is a town near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Near the intersection of Yanovka and Vokzalna streets, about 1 km south of the Bucha train station in the center of the city, many bodies of civilians believed to have been massacred by the Russian military were found.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk, 49, also testified to me that he saw about 20 bodies left on the street, and the Ukrainian government is currently investigating 10 Russian soldiers who are believed to have been involved in the massacre.

When I visited the site in early May, I found that the intersection had been cleaned up, but one house on the corner was still burned and wrecked, with piles of concrete rubble.

“It was four Chechen soldiers who came to the house. I could tell by their faces and Russian accents that they were from Chechnya. They threw grenades at us, and my husband was shot dead.”

Irina Abramova, 48, who lived in the house, opened her mouth heavily, holding a safety pin from a grenade she had found in the rubble.

A week ago, I finally started to put into perspective what had happened to me,” she said.

According to Irina, the four soldiers arrived on March 5.

There were already many tanks and armored vehicles in the area, and the fighting was beginning to intensify. Sensing danger, Irina and her husband, Oleg (40), moved from her mother’s house to a remote house where her father (72) was staying. Soon after, the main house exploded. Her father coughed and tried to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. He was saved in the nick of time, but Irina was taken toward the warehouse by one of the four soldiers who had invaded the house property and pointed a gun at her.

‘It is Ukraine’s fault that people in the Donbas region are being persecuted. Are there any nationalists here?”

The Donbas region consists of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine and has a large Russian-speaking population. Russia claims that Russian speakers in the region are persecuted by Ukrainian nationalists and has used this as an excuse to justify fighting in the region.

When Irina replied, “There are no nationalists,” the soldier continued.

We are here to make them suffer, the same as those who were persecuted in the Donbas region.”

Soon after, the soldiers left the compound of the house, but Oleg was nowhere to be seen. When we headed toward the gate to look for his whereabouts, we found Oleg’s sweater and T-shirt were left in the yard. On the street just outside the gate, Oleg was lying face down with his upper body naked. The ground was covered with blood. He had been shot in the head while Irina was being questioned by the soldiers. The moment she saw her husband’s disfigured body, she said to herself, “Please kill me too!

“I want you to kill me too!”

She shouted to four soldiers who were nearby, but she left the place with her father. Since then, she has been living as an evacuee at an acquaintance’s house.

I used to converse with them in Russian, but my husband used Ukrainian.”

Ukrainian speakers were considered patriotic nationalists and may have been targeted.

Two shots with her husband, Oleg. Oleg was considered a nationalist by the Russian military because he spoke Ukrainian.
Oleg’s sweater and motorcycle left in the yard
Irina did not return to her home again until March 30, about a month later. The Russian army had already begun to withdraw. Oleg’s body was still lying on the street. She and her father put it in a bag and Ukrainian soldiers carried it to the morgue. In addition to her husband, six or seven other bodies were still lying on the street, their faces “earthy” in color. Irina recalls.During the month we were evacuated, I lived with the desire to bury my husband as soon as possible. The funeral took place in mid-April. Now that my husband has passed away, I have no purpose in life. I don’t know what I am living for.”

Irina met Oleg in October 2004. When she was working as a clerk at a hospital in Bucha City, Oleg came to repair the roof of the hospital. Irina’s expression softened a little as she talked about those memories.

I approached him,” she said. He was tall and handsome. He always took care of me. I remember he brought me apples and oranges.”

The two became fast friends and started living together three months later. They married in August 2005.

“We both usually liked to stay at home. We watched our favorite shows on TV and went to the museum in Kyiv. We also visited many places on the motorcycle my husband bought last year. We also bought two helmets so we can do a lot of driving this summer.”

That little wish did not come true.

Most of the photos of her and Oleg’s memories were burned when a grenade blew up their house. Oleg’s smartphone was also taken by Chechen soldiers. Only her motorcycle was unharmed, but it had been drained of gasoline.

“When my husband was taken out of the house, I should have saved him, even if I was forced to give my life. I never thought he would be shot with a gun.”

Irina now feels a strong sense of remorse.

A white floral scarf was laid on the ground where Oleg had fallen, and yellow flowers had been added.

The place where Oleg had fallen was covered with a scarf and flowers
  • Interview, text, and photographs Nonfiction writer, Takehide Mizutani

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