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“We were pushing the stroller around the corpses of civilians. I didn't know what to say to my child.” Confessions of Bucha residents

Alyona Koroleva

On April 2, the Russian military began retreating from Bucha in the Kiev region. It was one of the towns where the fighting was the most violent. When Bucha was liberated, journalists saw a terrifying scene: the streets were strewn with the bodies of dead civilians, including women and elderly people, some with their hands tied behind their backs and some dead from shots to the back of their heads. The Insider spoke with residents of Bucha, and they described how the Russian military shot random passersby, looted homes, and prevented them from leaving.

ALL CARDS
  • Kristina

  • Yekaterina

  • Igor

Kristina


Those were the scary days. Neither your courtyard, nor your house, not even your life belonged to you anymore. No light, no water, no gas. It was forbidden to go out, and if you did, you would be shot. Enemy equipment was stationed in our courtyard. On March 5, they broke the windows, broke in and took our phones. On the 6th they took my father and husband for interrogation. They found correspondence and phone calls to the territorial defense (we were trying to get out and find out a little bit about the situation outside). They looked through everything - the posts, the Telegram channels, and if you wrote something they don't like - you're dead.

People are being shot around the house, and what a scary sound that is. Even scarier than the sound of a bomb. You just sit in the basement and pray for your relatives to come back. And we were lucky, we found a commander who was nice to children; he knew my three-year-old daughter was in the basement and ordered his soldiers to move the equipment to another location. They brought food, water and candies for the little ones. They let our men go, they couldn't prove their guilt.

Before this group of soldiers, some Kadyrovites marched by and miraculously ignored our house. The commander said that if they had come in, we would have no longer been alive. They were taking revenge for the column that had been smashed up earlier, and they didn't even care who to kill. We were lucky.

The next three days passed in the cold, we sat in the basement in terrible fear to sound of shelling. Fifteen people who had fled from Gostomel were brought into the house. We tried to feed everyone. If it hadn't been for my dad, we would have all been sitting there hungry.

On the 10th we heard on the radio that a green corridor was opening at 9 o'clock, so we realized we had to get out. We asked them if we could take the child out. They said no, not by car, in that case they'd shoot us. We decided to go on foot. A stroller, a white flag, as few belongings as possible. We pushed the stroller around the corpses of innocent civilians (I don't how many were there), which had been there for days.

There are Russians in almost every courtyard. Suddenly we hear the shout: «freeze!», and we freeze with our hands up (later we noticed that my daughter had also raised her hands). They let us through two checkpoints, at the third one they won't let us through, they turn us back, saying the corridor will open at 3 pm. We are desperate. We go back, we wait. Another attempt. We can't look back, only forward. A car with civilians rushes by, hits a mine and explodes, there is almost nothing left of the car; the path ahead is mined. The men are in front, I'm behind them with the stroller. Amid mines, corpses, broken equipment, then on through the swamp we made our way to freedom.

We were making our way pushing the stroller around the corpses. Suddenly we heard the shout: «freeze!»; we froze with our hands up, my daughter raised her hands too.

At last, our soldiers meet us, and we are handed over to the guys from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, get on the bus and go. We arrive at the Russian checkpoint and wait 4 hours. We hear bad news. They won't let us in, we have to spend the night in the bus on the road. Not many people at the checkpoints know about the humanitarian corridors and they make them angry.

Meanwhile, it gets dark and rockets start flying over us. We find a basement, women and children are there, it's minus 10 outside. A sewer in the basement had burst, and in this stench, horror and cold we sit until morning.

In the morning, our soldiers arrange for us to be let through, and this time we are lucky. One last dash, an enemy roadblock, my heart sinks, they could fire at any moment, and we pull into territory controlled by our troops.

We are safe for now, but our psyche is blown, we have changed, nothing will be the same as before. We try to communicate normally, even joke around a bit, but when you close your eyes, you immediately see a road full of dead bodies, and how we froze with our hands raised, waiting for them to decide.

When you close your eyes, you immediately see a road full of corpses, and how we freeze with raised hands

It's a blessing we managed to get out. But my soul and thoughts are with Bucha and with all the hero-cities, with the people who are trapped, with the children who should not be involved in the war at all.


Yekaterina


I left Bucha on the second day. But my parents and sisters stayed. They were held captive for four days. They took people captive as human shields. The Russians gave six people one can of pate and 1.5 liters of water. My dad stood in line to be shot. They miraculously got him out, while 10 other guys were stripped naked and shot.

Dad stood in line to be shot. They miraculously got him out of there, and ten other guys were stripped naked and shot

On March 11 my family was released. They were walking down the street, stepping over the bodies of civilians. There had been no gas, no light, no water for a month. Our neighborhood was occupied, and they didn't let people out of their houses. Those who dared to come outside were shot.

My parents say there were Russians, and Buryats, and Belarusians among the occupants. They looted houses, parked their tanks in the courtyards. When asked why they came, a Russian answered they were liberating Ukrainians from Bandera, and a Belarusian said they were just following orders. They are all young, 18-20 years of age.


Igor


I was at my son's house in Bucha, that's where the war caught on with me. The Russian invaders came to us on March 3. We hid in the basement of the house. We were very scared, we didn't know what to do, we just sat there and waited. In the evening we heard them break the windows of the house next door. We understood they were looters, they wanted to steal something. All night long we listened to the sounds of them breaking windows and taking things out of houses. That's how we sat until morning. It seemed to us they had moved on through the city, and then the question of what to eat, how to cook, and how to survive came up. There was no electricity or gas in the city.

The Russians had set up a base not far from our house, half a kilometer away. But people came out of their houses and began cooking over a campfire.

Then the occupants brought artillery and started shooting at Irpen. I saw it with my own eyes, there is a new apartment complex there and it is clearly visible from our neighborhood. Bombs were flying in there. It's good that I hadn't listened to my mother-in-law, who had called me and told me to move to Irpen.

Our neighborhood was almost untouched by bombs. But shells still hit us. We had a neighbor. A rocket flew into the building next door and a shrapnel tore her leg off. It was her son's birthday that day. She didn't wat him to be scared, so she endured the pain and somehow bandaged her leg herself. She called the doctors, but they said they would not go to the combat zone. She survived till morning and then she died from the loss of blood.

Four days after that I asked her son what happened to mom. He said his mom had died and had been lying at home the whole time. We dug a grave right in the vegetable garden and buried her. We did the best we could to bury dead bodies, that were just lying on the roadside. Every day civilians were killed. I had the feeling the soldiers were taking out their anger about the fact that their equipment was being bombed on people.

At some point they started patrolling the streets, going into houses, checking phones. They found a picture they didn't like on one guy's phone, so they shot him.

They found a picture they didn't like on one guy's phone, so they shot him

The next day they went to the last house on the street, near which a barricade had been built. They ordered the man out of the house and asked, «You have a barricade here, did you help build it?» And without waiting for an answer, they shot him.

Some brave local guys were delivering water in their car. The occupants did not like it, and they shot them.

A woman was cooking outside in her courtyard. She saw Russian soldiers, got scared, ran to the entrance, shut the door behind her, and they opened fire on her with assault rifles – and killed her through the door.

I don't know who they are fighting with.

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