By Carles Grau-Sivera
Irpin, Ukraine, Apr 13 (EFE).- The road that leads to the recently liberated cities west of Kyiv is littered with rows of damaged and scorched armored vehicles that have been abandoned by Russian forces amid a trail of destruction.
Sasha has parked his car opposite a jumble of wrecked tanks to take a break before returning to Irpin, which was pounded relentlessly by Russian forces reducing the once quaint suburban town to ruins.
The 35-year-old builder fled from Irpin on February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
His wife and children, who are both under three, fled to neighboring Poland, while Sasha traveled 130 kilometers west to join his mother where he has remained until now.
A week after Ukrainian troops retook the suburb, Sasha decided to return to Irpin to see what belongings he could salvage.
“I have two children who have been left without a house to live in. Now I’m going to Irpin, to see what I can salvage from my flat that wasn’t destroyed,” he says nervously.
LONG JOURNEY HOME
The narrow road into Irpin is backed up as hundreds of residents try to return home. Before the war, Irpin was a 20 minute drive from Kyiv, it now takes two hours to access the city.
As locals arrive, they are greeted by scenes of devastation. Buildings have been reduced to rubble by relentless shelling and an intense odor of scorched plastic wafts through the air.
A bullet has pierced the windshield of a car on which the word “children” was written in Russian.
As Sasha parks his car in front of his block of flats he looks on in shock: “I can’t even describe what I feel.”
To access his flat, Sasha climbs a mound of rubble where the stairs once stood. He dodges the shattered glass scattered on the floor and looks out for unexploded missiles.
His apartment has not been seriously damaged and is locked, a sign that the Russians did not loot it. In the living room, toys are scattered on the floor by the babies’ cribs.
Sasha stuffs bags with clothes, kitchen utensils, tools and electronic devices.
“I hope to be able to return in the fall, but I think it will be later because the whole building has to be renovated,” Sasha says. “I don’t know when I will be reunited with my family, maybe when the war is over, because there is no place for my family to return to.”
Sergei and Ivan meet in the courtyard of Sasha’s block.
Equipped with flashlights and gloves, they have been cleaning the building for four days, clearing entryways so that tenants could access their apartments and retrieve their belongings, something they say “was very dangerous.”
According to Sergei, for residents who were returning to looted and splintered homes “the biggest challenge was psychological.”