A Ukrainian village retaliates after the Russian occupation | World | News

Located just 30 miles from kyiv, Bohdanivka is a humble village that has recently been devastated by war. Russian forces occupied the area for just over three weeks in March, using it as a base as they prepared an eastward jolt towards the capital. But after the village is liberated by Ukrainian troops, its horrified residents return and attempt to put their lives back together.

After entering the village on March 8, Russian troops set up a military base at a local school while occupying the houses and buildings around it.

Four soldiers decided to use Serghii’s house as their own, just across the road.

“When they came in, our family was hiding in the basement and they took us out and put us against the wall.

It was me, my wife, my son, my daughter and my daughter-in-law. They took our phones and sim cards checked all our messages and told us to go to the kitchen to live,” Sergii told the Daily Express.

The invading soldiers took over Sergii’s home as their base as fighting continued in the area.

“They did what they wanted to do. Some of them were really cruel, they would come into the house with their AK47s whenever they wanted,” he added.

But as the fighting intensified, Sergii and his family decided to get out when they could.

“The village was taken with tanks. When it all started, the fight for the village, there were a lot of tanks between the houses that were all burning,” he described.

His family completely evacuated the village, but Sergii sought refuge in a friend’s apartment a shorter distance away.

His house was mostly destroyed, but now he’s back.

“I spent 20 years building this house, so I would [fix things] myself. I have no money for materials. As for food, humanitarian aid is coming, and they have my name on the list of people who have lost their homes, so they just bring me food,” he added.

Irina Pryanishnikova, head of the kyiv regional police press office, told the Daily Express that more than a dozen people were killed during the conflict in Bohdanivka.

“She was released, but people also told us how the Russian army was quite cruel. Many tried to escape,” she said.

Bohdanivka had a population of less than 1,000 people in pre-war times.

According to Pryanishnikova, local authorities found that only 10% of the village’s population remained despite Russian rule.

But during this time, 16 corpses have been found and investigations are underway for possible war crimes.

“About 70% died from gunshot wounds, so they were tortured. And 30% were killed by the use of bombs,” Pryanishnikova added.

WOMEN MILA TOTE BAGS

For resident Mila, she has just returned home to Bohdanivka. Carrying shopping bags from a local humanitarian center, she is still trying to mentally comprehend the devastation.

“Yesterday we came back, and it looks crazy. The number of destructions, the houses, everything is destroyed. If you walk into the houses, everything has been looted, so I’m really depressed about the state of the village,’ she told the Daily Express.

A few days after the invasion of her village by the Russians, Mila was evacuated to a nearby town with her family. But she was on the move again as she found it was unsafe and eventually fled to Kyiv.

“We had been in the basement for two weeks, and someone came to see us if you don’t leave now, you won’t stand a chance. We had 10 minutes to gather all of our stuff and off we went. We were very lucky because the house we stayed in the night was bombed,” she added.

Bohdanivka’s scars remain clearly. Burnt tanks are visible in schoolyards and in the front gardens of houses.

Strangely, some buildings were remarkably left intact, others completely destroyed, including a demolished kindergarten.

The atmosphere is understandably subdued, but the noise of public buses and sporadic chatter outside houses show that the village is trying to return to some normality.

Oxana works at a local grocery store in Bohdanivka. She told the Daily Express how she suspected Russian soldiers looted the store during their occupation.

“There were empty shelves, broken windows, broken refrigerators, bullet marks, they did whatever they wanted here,” she said.

The store reopened 3 weeks ago and is only now starting to see more customers coming back.

“We can see more people coming in general, before Easter, so the village is getting back to a lively vibe,” she added.

But for those living in the village, the stress persists. One of the largely unscathed buildings is a local hospital.

According to Ludmila, who works there as an administrator, Russian soldiers used it to treat their wounded.

Today, she says, the building is open for practice, but the village is still in shock.

“After 2 p.m., doctors have to go door to door to [people in the village] to measure his blood pressure. [And] usually people ask for a lot of antidepressants,” she told the Daily Express.

Michael A. Bynum