АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Bevtsyk Diana
8 July 2022
George is 25 years old (the name is changed), he has been dancing for more than ten years. He began dancing in the streets, later George joined the team of Svitlana Loboda (ed. Ukrainian pop singer) and also he danced in one of the professional ballets. On February 24 George has got before-and-after life. On the first day of the war, he and his friends left Kharkiv. They reached Bucha, where they decided to wait out active hostilities. They believed it would be much safer in a provincial town. But just a few days later, Bucha and neighboring settlements of the Kyiv region were under occupation. About how they survived and about the war crimes of the Russians further in the article.
I am Georgian who was born in Moscow. When I turned 5 years old, my parents moved to Ukraine. It was due to Russians who don’t like people of Caucasian nationality. I know it , because we experienced it ourselves . I went to the first grade in Ukraine. A few months before the war, I was in Georgia. I was working there on one of the dance projects. No one from my environment believed that there would be the all-out war, they did not immerse themselves in this topic, did not watch TV and news. I needed to return home to Ukraine , because working contracts had been waiting for me in Kharkiv.
Just when I arrived in Kharkiv, we were engaged in rehearsals for a month, and during that period “the mosaic began to be assembled.” The first call for me was the fact that ambassadors of foreign countries were leaving Ukraine. Already on February 23, I was sure something would happen. My friend and I packed up just in case. And already at five o’clock in the morning on February 24, the shelling of Kharkiv began. We immediately left the city. At first we went to Kyiv, but since my friends’ parents lived in Bucha, and we had visited them several times before, we decided to go there. I didn’t want to be alone at such a difficult time.
There were no air raid alerts in Bucha. We were sitting in the so-called bunker, in the cellar. There were 17 people, two dozen cats, three or four dogs. My friend’s parents also kept chickens, turkeys and other animals, so there were a lot of living creatures in that yard. For the first few days, everyone read the news while there was access to the Internet. Later there was no light. But there were very talented boys with us , they were able to turn on the Wi-Fi router through the gasoline generator. Subsequently, this generator, which was gasoline, was converted to gas. Later, we also had the gas turned off. We cooked food outside, on firewood, as well as in the fireplace. We went on duty every night. Each person was on guard for 2 hours, and then we replaced each other. We did this for security reasons. We even came up with a “code word” to report hazards using walkie-talkies. On the fourth day, we got used to the constant explosions and shelling that started every day at 5 AM , and it wasn’t so scary anymore. The mood was cheerful. Sometimes it was possible to get one stick on the phone to download some news from Telegram channels.
On the morning of March 9, the owner of the house, Oleksandr, woke us up and informed us that green corridors would be open for evacuation. I don’t know exactly why, but there were rumors that the Russian military did not allow the buses ,that were supposed to evacuate people from Bucha, to pass. We had several cars, but we were worried that we wouldn’t have time to leave town before the curfew, because we wanted to go to Kyiv. In the capital at that time, the curfew began earlier. On the same day, the ninth of March, we stood in column with other cars. There were no buses that were supposed to pick up people.
On one of the central streets of Bucha there were lying corpses of civilians, houses smashed by shells, burnt cars, I don’t understand at all how they could burn like that. I managed to shoot a video of this car, because I have never seen such a thing in my life.
That day, the Oleksandr’s daughters went to stand in line for the buses, which never came. Oleksandr, as you can remember, is a man who sheltered us all in Bucha. And I was in the car with my friends at the end of the column. Our friend, who was driving, decided to go to the girls in line to make sure everything was fine. I got behind the wheel instead of him. At that moment, ten Russian soldiers approached us. First, they checked the trunk, and then they said: “leave the SIM cards, and give us the phones.” I asked one of them: “how can we call?”, he answered that you will find someone and call. He meant that we would find someone after we left Bucha. It is only now that I understand that they were Buryats: they communicated with us adequately, there was no audacity, insolence. They thought my phone was the one on the holder near the driver. But it was the phone of the guy ,who went to visit the queue for buses. And it turned out that I did not give my phone, but someone else’s. I did this on purpose, because I understood that staying in such a situation without a single phone is foolishness. In a few minutes, it became clear why they took and immediately broke the phones. Because a tank drove towards our column, cars pulled over to the curb to let it pass. The Russians “monitored” people so that no one took off their equipment, because compared to other city areas, the connection there was quite good. I suppose that they were afraid that none of the people would pass on information about the number, type and direction of movement of enemy equipment.
When we were leaving Bucha, we saw one car, it seemed strange to us, and we deliberately drove slowly past it. Inside were human entrails, just meat. We did not manage to evacuate from Bucha on the ninth, the curfew was already approaching. When the Russians found out that we wanted to go to Kyiv, they told us that either ours or yours would shoot us, saying that we would not be able to leave in time. Thus we went back and were able to evacuate the next day, the tenth of March.
In a nutshell, my friends and I left, and the man , who sheltered us all in his home, stayed in Bucha. He lived with his sister, who was the same age as him, and his wife. They stayed behind to take care of the dogs, other animals and the house. And his daughters went with us.
Two weeks after we left Bucha, the owner of the house, the father of my friends, was killed by a Russian soldier. Later, getting out of Bucha became simply impossible. First of all, the connection there completely went dead, and if there were any corridors after that, then people could no longer find out about them. The Russians began to walk around the houses of the locals, turning everything upside down.
The Russians visited the people ,who sheltered us ,three times. They searched for something, rummaged through the entire library, well, they even didn’t allow to clean the house. That is, they “shitted” there and did not allow people to clean it.
Once Oleksandr, the owner of the house, left the house in search of gasoline, the Russian military detained him for a day, then they found out who he was and let him go home. Later, they again came to these people’s houses, took away all the phones. It was only later that they managed to get an old push-button phone and get in touch with us.
How did this whole murder situation come about? At night, a «drunk as a skunk” Russian soldier “flies” to their house with some “grandfather”, no one knows that «grandfather”. He points with his hand and says, «here, he has it.» That Russian soldier was looking for alcohol, and this unknown man brought him to Oleksandr’s house. While Oleksandr’s sister went down to the cellar to bring wine to the Russian soldier, shots were heard. The Russian shot Oleksandr and that grandfather who brought him to the yard of these people. Then he just opened the bottle and started drinking right there. The woman went to the house , where she and the deceased’s wife spent the night. In the morning, other Russian soldiers came to them, took that “drunkard” and said that they had been looking for him for a long time all over Bucha, that he was “uncontrollable” and that he had a mental disorder. Oleksandr’s wife and sister first buried him in their yard. But when Bucha was liberated, we all went there for the funeral. I did not talk to them about this topic and moments any more. Maybe they know more stories that happened in Bucha, however, we try not to mention or talk about it.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Bevtsyk Diana