- The Russian soldiers behaved correctly as the war began but it changed later.
- Men were expressly prohibited from walking in the streets.
- Somebody’s relative or friend is killed in Ukraine every day.
Hemingway wrote in his book on the Spanish Civil War that one of the hardest things was to see men crying as their friends were killed. Somebody’s friend is killed in Ukraine every day.
I have cried three times in Ukraine.
The first time was when I was viewing a photo from Mariupol. The photograph showed a young male doctor sitting by a dead child. The doctor was sitting on the floor holding his head. The child in bloody clothes was on a stretcher.
The second time was silent crying as I was traveling home. I was riding in a bus carrying refugees from the Ukrainian-Romanian border to Bucharest. I was the only man on the bus. All the rest were mothers with children. The children were crying all the way. The mothers didn’t.
The third time was yesterday. I had just learned that one of my best friends in Ukraine had been killed. Maksim Levin, a photographer. We had repeatedly visited the war in Donbass together. What a nice and quiet war it was.
The Ukrainians have stopped crying a long time ago. Their tears have dried up.
If they ever will cry, it will be after victory.
The Russian troops are running away from Kyiv so fast that one cannot catch up with them.
Only three days ago they were as good as next to Kyiv. On Saturday we tried to drive as far as we possibly could and managed to travel whole 60 kilometers away from the city along the right bank of Dnepr before the Ukrainian military told us to stop. This is as far as you can go for now.
But yesterday we could have travelled God knows how far.
The Russian army disappears from Kyiv’s vicinity, taking women’s underwear with them. Good, let them remember that smell. The smell of Ukrainian women will be the smell of fear for the Russian soldiers for the rest of their lives.
I heard this from the women of Katyuzhanka (Katyuzhanka is part of Kozarovychi). It is a village near the Kyiv reservoir, 60 kilometers to the north of the capital of Ukraine.
«When they left, they (took) several carloads with them. It is just funny that why did they need women’s underwear? Maybe they took it to Belarus to be distributed as humanitarian aid? Or as souvenirs for their wives,» said Larisa (50), a resident of Katyuzhanka.
Larisa lived in a village the Russian army had occupied for a month.
«We asked: where did you come from? They said that from Ussuriisk (a city in the Russian Far East), we travelled for 20 days. They told us that it was about training exercise. Telephones were taken away. The first wave men were experienced. They said that they had been [fighting previously] in Chechnya and Syria. They were regular guys. They said that if we were ordered to go home, we would drop the guns at once and go. But the second rotation was very young men. These were pure marauders. They crawled into houses, smashed the windows and carried everything away from the unoccupied houses. We saw how it happened to our neighbors. Fortunately, the worst thing that happened to us was that our car had its tyres cut up. We had no idea why. They took the cars of some people and drove around in them. They took clothes. Men were ordered to undress, they were checked for tattoos. Well, the Ukrainian flag or something like that. They took one man who shouted in their face «Putin kaput!» His 80-year-old grandmother was also taken along and we still know nothing of either of them.»
Viktor (67), a resident of the same village, said that while the Russian soldiers used to behave decently at first, they later began to seize the locals: «Some 15 of our people were detained, some were released but we still know nothing about the others. When they left, they left many of their bodies behind. They lived in the hostel (of the local window factory), the whole ground floor was full of them (bodies).»
Larisa’s husband Valeri (53) added: «They were more or less polite with women, but men were ordered directly not to go out in the streets. That they would shoot at once without any warning. Fortunately they did not kill anyone in our street. But Natasha’s sister was shot in the street. They said that they had ordered her to stop, she hadn’t and … »
According to Viktor, the Russian army units took young men along as they left the village. «They took our local journalist with his father. The father was released but they took the son. My neighbor was taken, we still haven’t heard of him. He was riding a bicycle, they took him. He was just riding the bicycle in the street, they stopped him and took away. Why, nobody knows. One man who came to see his mother – she was bedridden – was shot. Nobody knows, ” dice uno di loro. They kept telling us that we should not worry. You are under our control.»
Larissa: «They said that they came to bring us peace. I asked, what damn kind of peace you have? Did you invite you? Whoever told you that we have nationalists here? Are you soft (in the head)? When they left they set a lot of houses on fire. We were putting the fire out the whole night with the entire village. Total Fascists. I have close relatives in Russia. As the Russians occupied Crimea, they called and said that you have Bandera’s supporters here. I asked: and what are you then? The brother of your grandfather was shot in 1958 only because someone informed on him that he was in a Bandera group. Think about what your grandfather and grandmother had to endure when others pointed them out at school and now you are telling us that. You used to come to Ukraine every summer, you ate our borsch and now you are saying something like that. Aren’t you ashamed?»
Viktor: «When they entered my house, these young boys were so amazed that do you really have gas in your house? And you have WC in the house? Do you really live like that?»