Politics Economy Energy War Reforms Anticorruption Society

Irpin/Bucha hurts. Requiem for a friend not buried in the ground

Irpin/Bucha hurts. Requiem for a friend not buried in the ground
Since March 4, Sasha’s body has been lying in the basement of a high-rise apartment building that was shelled in Irpin. Like hundreds of other people who have died in the suburbs of Kyiv, it's impossible to retrieve him and bury his body.  

article by INNA VEDERNIKOVA, ZN.UA politics editor

I'm told it's also PTSD. When the bombs buzz inside you, tearing thoughts and words to shreds. Nothing comes to the surface. Even my tears seem to enter a crisis mode, pooling into some hitherto unknown sump to cool the psychic reactor instead of pouring from my eyes. I'm frozen.

My real war did not begin in the basement of Nauki Building #69 in Kyiv, where I spent the first week of the "special operation". It began with my husband's call: "Sasha Zubenko was killed. Tanya has a shrapnel wound to the head."

Irpin was massively shelled during the first days of the invasion. Entire families located near the Zhytomyr highway on the outskirts of Kyiv and the new Bucha-Irpin-Kyiv road were trapped in the cages of their houses, apartments and cellars. These small cities and towns, including Borodyanka, Nemesaevo, Gostomel, Yablonka... became and remain a seminal battlefield for Ukraine. Like Kharkiv, blown apart by missile strikes; like Mariupol, besieged and inhumanly destroyed; like Okhtyrka, erased from the face of the earth...

Footage of direct cruise missile hits into Irpin's residential buildings flew around the world. So too did images of the destroyed bridge over the Irpin River, under which thousands of peaceful Ukrainians hid from the "care of the Russian world". But Putin killed Sasha even before the "green corridors" of Bychi, Gostomel and Vorzel, which, unfortunately, never reached Irpin. This city, shot to death, has been under blockade for three weeks running.

After another missile strike at school No. 2, opposite Sasha and Tanya’s high-rise, Sasha went to the hallway to see if any shell fragments got into the gas lines. "Mom was standing in the open doorway. There was another explosion somewhere. The windows were blown in. Dad fell," says Sasha's son Maxim, rocking Sasha's two-month-old grandson in his arms. “It was a nightmare. Mom crawled to Dad, all covered in blood. Dad said he couldn't feel his legs and that probably he... was dying. Mom opened his jacket. There was a huge wound over his heart..."

Tanya was taken away by an ambulance to Kyiv. Today she and her grandson are safe, in Ivano-Frankivsk. But Tanya no longer has a husband or a home. A few days later another shell hit their apartment. Tanya’s bedridden mother, who lived on the floor below, was first taken in by fellow members of the neighboring church, before being taken to the capital's nursing home. Sasha remained, his body lying in the hallway. Next to their once-cozy apartment where we drank homemade wine so many times in the kitchen, looking at the evening Irpin sky from a bird's eye view. Later, their neighbors reported that they moved Sasha to the ground floor of the entranceway.

Since then, I haven’t been able to escape this ground floor, where my friend spends his last days in this land. I feel the grayness of the walls in this empty space. The cold of the cement floor. The shining emptiness of their once-warm house that Sasha and Tanya had sacrificed so much for so long. And his humble loneliness. He is not yet in the Kingdom of Heaven...

Since then, we have not stopped looking for someone to retreive Sasha. At first, there was hope from Zhenya's family, who lived nearby; he and his neighbors were ready to pick up and bury Sasha. But now, as I am writing this, Zhenya, together with his little daughter Masha and wife Oksana, are sitting in the basement of their home in Irpin. Its been twenty days. I've been in contact with Sasha’s family myself a few times in recent days, to say I couldn't retrieve Sasha. I haven't been able to leave my own Hell either...

Then there was Rina, a friend of my colleague's daughter. A member of a team of young volunteers “the two hundred”attempting to get into Iprin. They took all the information from us (including the fact that the body is whole, not in parts) and attempted to retrieve Sasha on the first day of the "green corridor". I even sent our earthly helper a Google tag so they could get to the ground floor faster. But it didn't work.

"We weren't allowed in, but I passed on the information. Today, the 200 wasn’t lucky— evacuation. God willing in a couple of days..."

Two days later, Rina wrote again, as promised.

"No one is allowed in there. They're just evacuating. The 200 are not allowed in; it's an order. They tell us there is nothing we can do, that we can't help the dead anymore. One day everyone will be taken out. There is no way in there now. The bridge is destroyed..."

There was another group of volunteers that I was tracking on Facebook. I called them through a colleague. Today an SMS came from them: "The guy who was able to get through there several times disappeared in Irpin for three days. There is nothing we can do now but bury them in mass graves. After the war we can perform exhumations and identify the bodies.”

"Thank you for trying," Sasha's son wrote in response to my terrible SMS. The face of this boy will always be with me: his sunken cheeks and look of despair, the weight of four women and a baby upon his thin shoulders.

Like the two hands of my parents who escaped from Bychi with the wedding rings that they had not worn for a hundred years. That's how they prepared for the worst. When we decided not to go down into the basement anymore. Mom was sick there.

Like the grief of my former neighbor, fleeing with her children under fire on the last day of evacuation from the outskirts of the private sector. While her older sister stayed with their paralyzed mother and a Russian tank in the yard.

Like the footage of a mass grave in the courtyard of the Bychi church that I have walked past so many times. 67 bodies in black plastic bags were laid out by doctors and utility workers in a narrow trench. Like everything we saw in World War II footage. Only now the Fascists are different.

I'm sorry, Sasha. We will, without fail, retrieve you and do everything right.

P.S. After I finished this article, Maxim wrote to me. "Dad was buried today, opposite the house, in the schoolyard. Yuri Ivanovich from the eighth floor--he is in the Territorial Defense—and some soldiers. They even did a salute, like an officer." Kingdom of Heaven. But I decided not to change anything and publish what I wrote. How many more of our relatives and friends have been retrieved, not identified, not devoted to the earth in this war...

Read this article by Inna Vedernikova in russian and Ukrainian at the links.

Noticed an error?

Please select it with the mouse and press Ctrl+Enter or Submit a bug

Stay up to date with the latest developments!
Subscribe to our channel in Telegram
Follow on Telegram
Total comments: 0
Text contains invalid characters
Characters left: 2000
Пожалуйста выберите один или несколько пунктов (до 3 шт.) которые по Вашему мнению определяет этот комментарий.
Пожалуйста выберите один или больше пунктов
Нецензурная лексика, ругань Флуд Нарушение действующего законодательства Украины Оскорбление участников дискуссии Реклама Разжигание розни Признаки троллинга и провокации Другая причина Отмена Отправить жалобу ОК