By Sara Gómez Armas
Kyiv, Apr 2 (EFE).- Russia’s retreat from the city of Irpin has revealed a trail of death and destruction, a horror that has been etched on the emotions of the latest evacuees from the Kyiv suburb, many of whom break down in tears after setting foot on safer ground.
“The situation is horrible,” says Valentina, 78, her voice thin. “Our streets, our homes are destroyed, they have bombed everything. Our neighbors were murdered, we saw bodies lying in the street.”
She takes a deep breath and continues: “They barged into our home with force, they made us raise our arms in the air and they broke our phones so we couldn’t communicate with each other.
“They took all the alcohol there was in the house and they drank it and took all the valuable objects from the empty houses in the neighborhoods.”
THE LAST TO LEAVE
Valentina has just arrived in Kyiv.
She was evacuated by the Ukrainian army and the Red Cross, who are coordinating the extraction of the last remaining people in Irpin, a city that came under intense Russian bombing and found itself in the crossfire of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops.
Valentina managed to leave with her daughter, grandson and son-in-law after days in hiding, moving from house to house to flee explosions. With no electricity or gas, she and her family lit fires to stay warm and cook food left behind by Irpin residents who left before them.
“The worst was leaving to draw water from the well, because of the bombings,” she adds.
At a reception point in Kyiv, just five kilometers from Irpin, which sits adjacent to the northwest of the capital, the city’s evacuees are given food and hot tea to temper the trauma and the bitter cold suffered during the siege.
Valentina and her family are then quickly transferred to the train station, from where they will travel to temporarily stay with friends in Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine.
This is the second time the 78-year-old has fled war in her country. In 2014, the pro-Russian separatist uprising and subsequent war in the Donbas, eastern Ukraine, forced her from her home in Luhansk.
Irpin, a city of 60,000, withstood the Russian onslaught for over a month and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and a crucial hurdle preventing the Russian army from advancing further on Kyiv.
Ukraine’s troops dynamited the bridge connecting Irpin to the capital. It slowed the Russian advance but has also complicated the evacuation of Irpin’s last remaining civilians.
BODIES IN THE STREET
Irpin’s mayor Oleksandr Markushyn estimates that 3,000 civilians were killed in the battle for Irpin, but today there are still bodies strewn across the city’s streets that have yet to be accounted for.
Around 5,000 Irpin residents evacuated their homes in the early weeks of the way and now there are no more than 500 people remaining, most of them older people who stayed put in an otherwise abandoned city.
Vitaly, a volunteer driver helping to evacuate Irpin residents, commented on the city’s desolation compared to the relative normality of Kyiv.
“They are two different worlds.”