The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still far from over. There are many cities in Ukraine that have been severely damaged by the violent attacks and brutality of the Russian military. One such city is Bucha, near the capital of Kyiv, where more than 300 civilians were massacred. “Friday Digital” reported the confession of Alexei, a local resident whose home was occupied by Russian soldiers (April 22). Let us look back at what Alexei said.
I lived in an apartment, but the Russian soldiers who showed up in Bucha chased all the residents into the basement. They threatened to shoot us if we came out. In fact, those who escaped went missing. The room was inhabited by Russian soldiers instead of us. When they turned over all the objects inside, they stole the valuables and destroyed everything else.
We just renovated the room late last year, but (when we returned to the room after the Russian troops left) the walls were torn up and the furniture was scratched. It appears that several Russian soldiers lived in the room. There were about 200 liquor bottles lying around that we thought had been stolen from the store. The items stolen were diverse. Jewelry, money, laptops, TVs, clothes, shoes, climbing gear, fishing gear. We don’t have a complete picture of everything, so I’m sure there are other things that stolen.”
Alexei’s family left the devastated Bucha and took refuge in neighboring Poland. They had been living in the Czech Republic, but returned to their hometown in June after learning that Bucha had been liberated. “Friday Digital” interviewed Alexei again. The following is Alexei’s account of the recovery and challenges of the war-torn city.
My family always wanted to go back to Bucha. After the city was somewhat safe and the streets were cleaned up, we accepted their wishes and allowed them to return home. I accepted their wish and allowed them to return to the Czech Republic, but only on the condition that they would return to the Czech Republic if something happened to me. We are happy to be back together after so long.”
A Strong, Rotten Smell
Alexei and his family live in a different apartment from the one ransacked by Russian soldiers.
The apartment was also ransacked by Russian soldiers, and things were scattered all over the place, but after two days of cleaning, we managed to make it livable. The apartment I used to live in has not been cleaned yet. There is a strong, foul, moldy odor that won’t go away even after cleaning. Electricity, water, and gas have all been repaired and are now working, but the building itself was destroyed and is quite damaged. It is not in a condition to live in now.
“Since the liberation from Russian occupation in April, all roads have been cleaned and new asphalt has been laid where it was broken. Mines have been cleared for two months, and the sound of explosions can be heard as they are processed. Going into the forest is forbidden. There are still many mines left, and they are dangerous.”
Many destroyed houses and wrecked cars remain in the city, abandoned because their owners have not returned. The scars of the war have not disappeared, but reconstruction is gradually progressing. On weekends, stalls are held in the town square.
There is temporary housing in the city, set up in cooperation with Poland, where people whose homes were completely destroyed are living. Public transportation is working, with buses and trains running.
“The problem is that there are no jobs. Many citizens of Bucha are unemployed. Prices have gone up and it is hard to buy food. Roofs and broken windows on houses need to be repaired before it gets too cold. Many people commute to Kieu, but have difficulty getting gasoline, which has skyrocketed in price. Sometimes there is no gasoline for several days, and sometimes they have to stand in line for five hours to fill up 20 liters.”
Alexei has a 13-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son who is graduating.
My son will turn 18 in the fall. He will be exempt from military service because he is going to college. But after he graduates from college, he will have to join the army. I hope that in a few years there will be peace so that my son will not be sent off to war.”
Alexei’s wife, Yulia, who has returned from the Czech Republic, took over the conversation.
“My children and I were first evacuated to Poland, which was already full of people from Ukraine. Luckily, we met some Czech volunteers and ended up living in a two-story house in the middle of a beautiful natural forest. I am grateful to these very wonderful volunteers who have always been there to help Ukraine since the beginning of the war.”
When Yulia returned to Bucha in June, she cried for a while.
She said, “I couldn’t calmly face what had happened here, what had happened to this city. It was so hard to see the devastation and the streets in my neighborhood where people were killed. But thanks to nature, with its blooming flowers and lush green trees, I was able to calm down a little. I pray that the town will come back to life as soon as possible.”
The residents are trying to recover from the sorrow of the war that has been deeply etched in their hearts.
Photo： Courtesy of Ukrainian residents