Conflicts & War

Memories of Russian occupation haunt eastern Ukraine’s towns, villages

By Luis Ángel Reglero

Tsyrkuny, Ukraine, May 30 (EFE).- The thudding of bombs on the frontlines of eastern Ukraine punctuate the silence in Tsyrkuny, a town on the outskirts of Kharkiv where the scars of Russian occupation are still fresh.

Tsyrkuny resident Olexandr Yena tells Efe that he and two of his neighbors were in the street when the occupying soldiers first entered the town in early March.

The 42-year–old says the commander, a man who went by the name of Sergei, had come from the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway region in the Donbas.

‘Sergei’ asked Yena whether any of the houses in the town were empty. Yena told them that there were still people in all of the properties, despite the fact many were evacuated at the onset of Russia’s invasion.

“They threatened to punish us,” he adds.

The soldiers then requested the documentation of the group of residents, but Yena insisted on seeing their identification papers first.

“He was in our town,” he adds.

The commander later ordered Yena and his neighbors against a wall and instructed his soldiers to open fire. It was a mock execution, designed to terrorize the victims.

Tsyrkuny was later liberated by Ukrainian forces but the town still bears the fresh scars of battle, its houses destroyed and its streets dotted with shells.

A local factory, where Vitaliy Bobryshev once worked as head of production, was another witness to the hostilities thrust upon the Kharkiv suburb.

Few of its walls and windows withstood the bombings.

Bobryshev, 45, has traveled from Kharkiv to salvage what he can from the factory that before the war produced cereal sorting machines.

He tells Efe that a number of the items were ready for export before the invasion, but that now it is impossible to send them abroad.

Washing machines and microwave ovens looted from local houses by the invading troops have been left abandoned in the factory and a large ‘Z’ dubbed on the wall harks back to its occupation.

“We’re going to send them to the United States,” Bobryshev jokes.

On the upper floor of the factory, where the offices are located, a paperweight in the form of the Statue of Liberty stands among the rubble.

“This is Russia’s contribution to the world,” Bobryshev adds. “Make sure every country sees this.”EFE


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