Graves of local residents can now be found in many yards of Bucha. Burying in the yards was the only way during the Russian occupation. Otherwise the dead bodies in the yards and apartments would have simply decayed. Even burying the dead in the yards and gardens was only possible when the Russian soldiers permitted it.
Andrey (33) and Yuliya (28) Chornyi buried four people – two women and two men – straight in the center of Bucha in late March.
“One day, March 16, a wounded girl was brought to our house,” Yuliya told us. “Shooting broke out. Father said that it was cleansing.”
“Maybe the woman living in the apartment (where the girl was brought) said something about the Russians. Anyway they shot her,” Andrey added. “We heard a burst from an automatic weapon. They later shot the owner of the apartment and the wounded girl they had brought in.”
It was only possible to bury the dead a week later when they were already rotting in the apartment. “We finally went to beg them that we could at least bury them in the yard. That it was almost desecration, “Andrey said. “They did not allow it at first. They said that snipers were operating everywhere and could simply shoot us. Finally the commander of their tankers gave us three hours for burying them, from 11 until 2 p.m. We made the cross ourselves as well as we could.”
The fourth dead was a man the Russian soldiers had shot in their yard earlier. “He had been lying in our yard for several weeks. A sniper had shot him in the head. I brought him here to the grave on a wheelbarrow. We do not know who he was. Just like the wounded woman.”
They used a spot for the grave where a Russian tank had been standing. The heavy vehicle had already torn up the ground somewhat and made the digging easier.
When Yuliya and Andrey showed us the site, there were four graves clearly visible behind the handmade green cross.
We heard that there were dozens of such graves in the yards of Bucha.
Yuliya and Andrey lived throughout the month-long Russian occupation of Bucha together with their 12-year-old son. He could hear how people were shot in their house. The mother ordered the boy to stay in the apartment during the burying later. “My son told me several times that he is afraid. As our military now came, one of them offered him kindly to hold the assault rifle. The boy got very scared at that and said that he would not,” the mother told us.
They yesterday sent their son to his grandmother here in Bucha. “Her apartment windows have not been broken, it is warmer there,” Yuliya said.
Yuliya’s father lives with them as well.
“The Russian soldiers found an old army uniform father had bought to wear while fishing. They ordered us all out. I was already saying him farewell in my thoughts, “Yuliya said. “As we exited the building, the first thing I could see in the yard was a tank with “Gods of War” (in Russian) written on it. There were seven tanks parked in our yard. They said that they would not touch us, that they had not come after us. Maybe they were so loyal to us because of the child.”
Andrey said that their elderly neighbor had died the day before: “He is now there in his apartment alone. He probably had a heart attack from everything he had to endure. They say that his son had been found killed.”
Tatyana Tretyak (72), who was waiting for the distribution of humanitarian aid in Bucha center, said that she had been hiding the whole month in the cellar of her house because she feared, immediately after the Russian forces invaded, that she could be shot if she goes out of her gate. “My neighbor, a man of 45, was shot. Maybe they did not like that he jaywalked. And they did not warn before shooting him,” Tatyana said.
Her friend Vera Shcherbak told us that her neighbor, who had been fighting in Donbas, died several years ago. But the Russian soldiers found his son in Bucha and according to Vera broke his fingers and arms before shooting him.
Vadim Tretyak (47) described how his acquaintance had come from Irpen on a bicycle. The Russian soldiers detained him and he was later found dead. “Near to my place a man showed or soldiers five dead bodies in the cellar of his house,” he added another tragic story.
And one could have talked to the people of Bucha endlessly this day. Everyone had a story which rivaled the others as to the horror, tragic and terrifying details.
Vera Shcherbak said that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin should be handed over for punishment to the Ukrainian people after the crimes Russian soldiers had committed. “We would cut him up piece by piece and put salt on every wound so that he would suffer the same way as our people. Like the young girls his soldiers raped and killed!”Vera cursed. “I could not be so humane as to put him in prison.”
Vadim Tretyak said that the Russian soldiers had only communicated with the locals through threats. “But they were afraid all the time. Even if they pointed the gun at you, their hands were shaking,” he said. “I wonder from where they were sent here. I could hear them wondering that we have asphalt everywhere.”
Although Bucha has been liberated for four days by today, it still lacks electricity, water, gas and telephone connection. It was all cut in early March when the Russian forces invaded the town. The residents used to survive on their supplies and shared food between them; now they depend on humanitarian aid.
Andrey Nebetov, the head of police of the Kyiv region, told the press in Bucha today that the police had received so far one report of rape from the liberated areas around Kyiv. It was received from the village of Bohdanovka, located in the direction of Chernihiv, which had been occupied by the Russian troops for some time. “She is so far the only woman who decided to submit a statement and to talk about it. She suffered a terrible tragedy,” Nebetov said. “She was at home with her husband and three-year-old son as drunken Russian soldiers invaded their home and raped her. Her husband tried to protect her but the Russians shot him. Then they tried to scare her by threatening to abuse her three-year-old son as well. They raped her repeatedly.”