Conflicts & War

Ukraine town holds 1st market day since Russians bombed, occupied it

By Lourdes Velasco

Borodianka, Ukraine, Apr 28 (EFE).- It hasn’t been a month yet since Russian troops withdrew from the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, near Kyiv, leaving hundreds of civilians dead, tons of rubble and massive destruction in their wake, but some local residents are trying to resume their regular routines.

On Thursday, the town held its first market day since the Russians pulled out.

About 20 street vendors returned to their spots on the town square, although signs of destruction were all around: empty or rubble-filled lots where buildings once stood, a 10-story apartment building fractured by repeated bombardment and where ceramic bathroom fixtures and refrigerators teeter precariously on the edge of the blown-apart rooms and clothing is strewn everywhere, with nobody bothering to collect it after fleeing for their lives.

The city of some 13,000 is in ruins with about half the homes destroyed during the Russian occupation when only about 500 residents did not seek refuge elsewhere. In the Kyiv region, the Russians fired some 22,000 missiles anywhere and everywhere in their failed attempt to seize the capital and drive the population away from the surrounding towns.

Corpses are regularly being found amid the rubble and local residents are digging to give the as yet undiscovered dead a decent burial, and these tasks are being undertaken even as the town tries to get back to something more “normal.” Water and electricity have been restored and it’s possible to buy food. The authorities understand and support the locals who are returning to take care of their homes.

Geography teacher Tatjana, 60, returned to Borodianka on Thursday after evacuating on March 2 and next Monday she will return to work. Although there will be no students attending school here yet, she plans to provide her classes online.

She said she doesn’t know what to say or think because this is the first time she’s been back to the town and it looks “like something in a World War II film.” She came to the town square to see if the home of some friends was still standing and to take advantage of market day to try and buy some fish for dinner.

“This is sad, but I don’t have any other option than to be here. This is my place. I had to return,” she said.

Igor is 5 and came to the market with his neighbor Alexandra, a friend of his mother. If you ask him how he is, he responds: “Good.” But then he adds: “If I hear a sound like bombs then I’m afraid.” His 7-year-old sister is also doing OK, she says. Alexandra had just bought them some candies.

She took refuge with the kids and their mother for three days in a local shelter until they were able to get out of Borodianka. But now, she’s happy to be able to return. “I was born here, this is my home and my place. I don’t know where else I’d go,” she said.

Orsana is 52 and lives in Galynka, the adjacent town, but she came to the market because in her village no stores are open yet and it’s difficult to get food.

She left for western Ukraine and stayed for a time with relatives, but she also returned here this week, when the authorities gave people the green light to come back after checking to be sure the streets were free of mines. She’s happy to be back, although she’s not used to the destruction around her yet.

“My town looks like Syria now, but we have to go on. We don’t have any other choice,” said Orsana, who several times asked your correspondent to relay her thanks to everyone who made possible the arrival of humanitarian aid.

She has a garden at her house and intends to plant it. Usually, she plants potatoes in early April, but this year she couldn’t do so because she was refugee. She said she’s happy to have returned because she believes there’s still time to put in a crop. Like every year, when the time comes, she wants something good to harvest.

EFE lvp/chg/bp

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