Bucha, the city of the dead


The body of a man with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in a street in Bucha, a town near kyiv, recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces. / Reuters / VIDEO: ATLAS

Ukraine has counted 410 bodies in the areas recovered by its forces in the towns near kyiv

Abandoned dog barking. Fog and snow. The entrance to Bucha from Irpín is a Dantesque walk through neighborhoods devastated in the violent fighting that forced the Russians to retreat on their way to kyiv. Crossing the road that separates both towns, the first body lying on the ground announces the arrival at a Bucha converted since the departure of the Russian troops in a kind of city of the dead. Since the liberation of this town 30 kilometers northwest of kyiv, the rescue services have tried to remove the bodies from the streets and houses, many of them with clear signs of having been executed, for which an investigation is underway to clarify what happened. The freezing cold makes the stench of some bodies that have been out in the open for days barely noticeable.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Irina Venediktova, reported that 410 bodies have been counted in the areas recovered in recent days by the Ukrainian forces in the kyiv region, and of them 140 have already been examined. Most have been collected from the streets of Bucha.

The sky is gray, but free of explosions since the withdrawal ordered by Moscow, which they officially call a “drastic cessation of military operations.” Here the real war began on February 27, when Russia suffered the first major ambush by Ukrainian drones. “We heard a loud explosion and suddenly there was a huge rainbow in the sky, it was the first time in my life that I saw something like that. The tanks were advancing down our street, my son counted more than 70. They were on their way to Irpín when the attack by our forces began”, recalls Larisa, emotional in the middle of the junkyard that her house and her street next to the station. Skeletons of tanks, charred caterpillars, remains of uniforms and footwear everywhere and a black floor of mud and charred metal.

Pieces of bodies in the kitchen

This 72-year-old woman collected pieces of the mutilated bodies of enemy soldiers from her kitchen. A week later, “some soldiers dressed in black appeared at the scene to recover the material that could be reused and they took our phones, so they left us incommunicado. They told us we were lucky with them because others used to shoot men in the legs.”

From the station to the town center are just a few minutes by car. There, the civilians who have stayed these six weeks of war in Bucha gather in search of help. There is no gas, there is no electricity, there is no food, but there is “fear that they will come back, they can do so at any time. In our neighborhood we couldn’t go out or take out the garbage. There were Russians everywhere and they threatened to open fire if we looked out on the street,” says Volodimir, who is waiting for the doors of a medical center converted into an improvised aid distribution point to open. «My wife is disabled and we have not been able to go down to the shelter at any time, we have always been together on our fourth floor. The temperature in our house is 8 degrees, but we are lucky because the crystals are intact, “says this 75-year-old man.

Another neighbor, also called Volodimir, 63, has already collected the box with cans of preserves, oil, coffee and sugar that they have given him and tries to place it on the rack of his bicycle. “I find it a bit humiliating to have to turn to charity, but there is no other option. In these weeks in our street at least we have not had corpses lying on the sidewalk. We know that our neighbor Andrey died, but we don’t know the reason,” he says before heading back to the streets, leaving behind the distribution center where the tension grows at times and some neighbors desperately scream for help as soon as possible.

six weeks of nightmare

The dead have names and surnames. They are the neighbors, family and friends of these survivors who wake up from a six-week nightmare. A bad dream that began in the nearby street near the station in which Larisa and her son continue explaining what happened to whoever passes by her house. The fence that surrounded the dacha disappeared with the explosions and now the charred tanks connect directly to his kitchen. “On Friday they took the body of our neighbor, a 45-year-old man, out of a nearby house. We thought he had gone to kyiv, but it turns out not. His body was being eaten by rats. When the Russians left, a truck came that collected bodies and also took that of a cyclist who had been shot, ”Larisa narrates automatically. She talks and gesticulates incessantly, points from side to side, looks at the sky and suddenly, when a soldier removes a piece of cannon and a ‘boom’ sounds as it falls, Larisa screams and puts her hands to her head. Impossible to put yourself in her place, to feel what has happened in the last few weeks.

The horror of Larisa is the horror that hour after hour is revealed in Bucha and in the rest of the towns liberated in recent days. It is the horror of a war between neighboring countries in which there are no red lines.

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