The operators open and close bags with corpses at the rhythm set by the eight police officers who carry out the searches and identifications
Melania Davidenko had warmed up her first morning tea when she heard shots. After six weeks between explosions she barely gave them a thought, until she heard the cry of a familiar voice. “She was the wife of Oleg Klimtsov and she was screaming ‘my husband is out, my husband is out!’ I got out as soon as I could and found two bodies lying next to the garage.” It was March 28, there were barely 24 hours left before the Russian withdrawal and the unit that occupied this neighborhood of Sklozavodska, at the gates of an old glass factory from the time of the USSR, was “especially violent and they fired at the minimum” , recalls Melania, who assures that she was reborn when she saw the last tank leave. “The last few days were the worst, they were shooting like crazy,” Melania insists.
From the house to the garage there are only a few meters and there they found the bodies of Oleg and his friend Vasil Chekan. They were temporarily buried at the back of the neighborhood, next to the train track, with two large stones as their only distinguishing marks.
Oleg was 56 years old, retired, and took care of cats and dogs in the area. In his absence, the pets roam the old Nikita Khrushchev stage block waiting for the person who took care of them to show up. “The Russians established one of their positions here, they had tanks and the officers occupied the nearest floors. The first thing they did upon arrival was ransack the liquor store and the supermarket, in that order. They were furious because they had been ambushed in a nearby street and lost many men and tanks, so they yelled at us through loudspeakers that no one could leave the house, or go near the windows, they did not want to see us,” says Melania, who only broke the order. when he went out for Oleg’s body and didn’t even dare to water the plants.
This town, which had 30,000 inhabitants before the war, awakens to a nightmare of six weeks of enemy occupation. The images that have shocked the world, with dozens of corpses lying on the sidewalks, were taken on neighboring Yablunska street. In this neighborhood, being less exposed than the main road, the residents were able to find a way to bury their loved ones temporarily.
In addition to the loss of Oleg, Melania remembers her close friend Valentina Ivanova, 60, shot dead when she risked leaving the house to fetch water from the well. In Bucha there is no electricity, gas, or running water and going out for water or making a fire to heat food could cost you your life, because it was also forbidden to make a fire. The mayor has asked the residents who escaped during the fighting to wait a few days until they can restore the minimum services and, above all, until they can collect the remaining bodies. He has guaranteed them that the security forces will intensively patrol the streets to prevent looting.
Valentina’s house has bullet-riddled windows. Maria Petrovna lives in the same doorway and was the one who gave her the first assistance after she was shot on March 25. “He lost a lot of blood and died in a few minutes, they hit him in the back”, recalls this neighbor for whom “they wanted revenge, they were furious at the ambush they suffered in Bucha, on their way to kyiv and they took revenge on us. They called us Nazis, they checked houses for Nazi objects, but in this neighborhood I have never seen one.
Another neighbor, Mikhail, of Belarusian origin, took care of Valentina’s body. He asks us to accompany him on an abandoned garage trip from Soviet times. With tears in his eyes he remembers that since that March 25 he had to do this path three times. Following Valentina, the Russians also shot dead an elderly man named Kola Bimenov a day later.
On the 27th he had to carry the body of his close friend Valentín Boderenko, burned after the impact of an artillery shell against his apartment. “The last week was tough, with heavy fighting and nervous Russians. We brought in the bodies wrapped in a rug and using a door as a stretcher. We could not do anything else, here at least they are safe and, in case they killed those of us who knew the location, we put each one of their identity documents so that they could recognize them, “says Mikhail between sobs. The macabre farewell of the occupation forces was fattened with the residents of these humble blocks of flats.
The reality in this neighborhood of Sklozavodska is repeated in each of the neighborhoods in which the Russians deployed combat units. Their tanks were behind houses and civilians were caught in the crossfire with Ukrainian forces. They established a severe regimen of restricted movement, fired without warning, and carried out random searches and looting. At the rate that things were getting worse on the front for Moscow, the situation for the civilians of Bucha was getting more complicated.
“They left on the run and left us death, destruction and filth everywhere, nothing more,” laments Melania Davidenko, who now tries to replace Oleg in the task of caring for dogs and cats. They already know him and approach him as soon as he opens the door. In Bucha they try to come back to life, but they will not be able to do so until their dead rest in peace.
the martyr city
The Pope kissed and blessed a Ukrainian flag brought to the Vatican from Bucha on Wednesday. Francisco condemned these “atrocities” and assured that “the recent news about the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, shows that massacres have been committed.” The Pontiff stressed that the war is leading to “increasingly horrendous cruelties, also committed against defenseless civilians, women and children.”