Overcoming the Trauma of the Russian Occupation – Byline Times

After hundreds of people are murdered in their city, Ukrainian residents turn to antidepressants, alcohol, religion and ultimately the community to process the horror of what happened

The terrified residents of Bucha are desperately trying to come to terms with the trauma of the massacre of civilians that took place in the town at the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Located just 24 km from kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, Bucha came to the world’s attention after Russian forces occupied the city during February and March.

Although Ukrainian troops repelled the Russian offensive, residents who remain in Bucha are now struggling with the psychological scars they left behind.


Earlier this month, Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Federochuk said Signing time that more than 400 corpses had been discovered in mass graves across the city, with local authorities investigating the deaths as possible war crimes committed by Russian forces.

More than 100 of the victims were discovered buried in shallow graves next to St Andrew’s Orthodox Church in Bucha, according to Archpriest Andriy Galavin.

He said Signing time that despite the horrors, local residents still turn to religion for mental relief despite the church being mostly closed for service.

“Although it is not official, it is very important that people come and pray, the church is also helping and providing humanitarian aid. It all depends on how people react. I can’t see everyone, it’s not a small village, but what I saw is that people need to be with each other and need more support.

Halyana. Photo: Tommy Walker

Halyana is a resident of Bucha who takes care of her two disabled parents. When Russian forces occupied her village, all she could do was pray.

“Everywhere in this place there was [Russian] reservoirs. And above my house there were always strikes towards Irpin. There was shooting, I’m Orthodox, I’m a religious person, I prayed constantly and they didn’t hit us, so I thank God,” she said. Signing time.

Halyana and her parents survived, but several of her neighbors were very lucky. “I saw so many dead bodies, so many people I know,” she said. Although she does not regularly drink alcohol, her heartbreaking experiences are now hard to forget. “A neighbor brought some church wine, that helps.”

An unnamed man holds a bottle of vodka, Bucha, Ukraine. Photo: Tommy Walker

But for resident Lionia, the fear of attacks led her to drink homemade alcohol. The 62-year-old’s mother-in-law was making homemade moonshine before leaving during an evacuation.

“She left it in the closet. There is no alcohol in the stores, but I have these secrets. It is no less than 40%,” he said. Signing time.

“When the first explosion I heard, I thought I was going to die, but with this moonshine, I will have relief. If I have 150 g of moonshine, everything will be fine and I sleep without hearing those explosions,” he added.

In kyiv since April 1, the ban on the sale of alcohol has been lifted after it was banned at the start of the war. But in decimated settlements like Bucha with fewer shops open, alcohol has become an impossible luxury.


While the memories are still fresh in the memory of the inhabitants, the struggle to return to normal life continues. With a pre-war population of less than 50,000, thousands were evacuated during the intense fighting in the city.

Natalia, a nurse at Irpin Hospital in Bucha, said patients who remain at Bucha are still reeling from the massacre.

“All the medical workers provide psychological support because people come in with hypertension because of so much stress and they needed someone to talk to,” she said. Signing time.

“[They are asking for] strong drugs, like antidepressants and prescriptions, and what I saw was people smoking more,” she added.

To make matters worse, local authorities have admitted that dozens of settlements in the Kyiv region, including Bucha, still remain without gas or electricity. Andriy Nebytov, the Kyiv regional police chief, said Signing time earlier this month as the nearby town of Irpin hopes to have regular electricity by the start of May.

Volunteers who have since flocked to Bucha, distributing humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian gymnasium in Bucha, have helped. What keeps me sane is the hope that my life will return to normal. I’m not scared, I’m not scared even when I hear air raid sirens,” said 68-year-old resident Vasyly.

Bucha resident Vladimir with a Russian rocket shell. He stayed in his neighborhood using a makeshift communal kitchen to cook with other residents. Photo: Tommy Walker

Without a reliable power supply, some residents have been forced to use old-school methods to survive.

Vladimir, a middle-aged resident, explained how his neighborhood had been occupied by the Russian army since the start of the war. “That yard was full of Russian military cars, more than 20. It was a military base,” he said, pointing to the car punctures inflicted by Russian soldiers.

Despite being under Russian control, 150 people lived in underground basements. But that didn’t stop Vladimir and other residents from turning an outdoor courtyard into a communal kitchen. Complete with a kitchen area, a water supply and a broken door, the makeshift commune has become an important gathering place for terrified residents to cheer up.

“From the first day when we were very united in the community, we had a generator to produce electricity, so we were charging people’s phones. Thanks to this community we survived, we could not survive alone. This is history for us, a historic place,” he added.

After an evacuation of residents in March, most people left. But a dozen stayed and still use the communal kitchen today, including Vladimir.

“It was very important, my family left but I stayed here for my apartment. We were lucky I guess because the Russians were smarter, they weren’t beating us,” he added.

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