By Sara Gomez Armas
Tarashcha, Ukraine, Apr 9 (EFE).- “I feel very sad when I see the images of how Hostomel has been left. It’s all destruction,” laments Alexander, a 43-year-old Ukrainian who was recovering from a hip operation at a care home in that small town northwest of Kyiv when the war began.
“The situation was horrible. We suffered everything, the constant shelling, the attacks, for three weeks,” Alexander, who was evacuated from Hostomel by volunteers because the residence’s windows were smashed in and most of the rooms were unusable.
Alexander is one of over 30 elderly, sick and dependent people – most of whom have no family – who were moved from Hostomel to a pensioners’ home in Tarascha, a village surrounded by grain fields 120 kilometers south of Kyiv at the height of the Russian offensive.
Last week, Hostomel was liberated from Russian troops, who have left a trail of devastation and death similar to those seen in Irpin, Bucha and Borodyanka, and throughout northwestern Kyiv after the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
According to the head of the military administration of Hostomel, Taras Dumenko, more than 400 people have disappeared during the 35 days of Russian occupation in the town of 17,000 inhabitants, which has strategic value for its international cargo airport that was seized by the Russians on February 25, the second day of the invasion.
“I was in the residence after an operation to rehabilitate myself. And after the medical operation, a ‘special Russian operation’ awaited me,” Alexander says with a smile, although he breaks down when he remembers what he experienced, clutching his crutch that he needs to walk.
The Tarascha pensioners’ home was home to about 100 people before the invasion, but during the war it took in about 50 evacuees from the affected areas, of whom about 30 have remained, who are “more helpless and vulnerable than ever,” the director of the residence, Vitaly Kolomias, explains.
“In addition to their health problems or ailments of age, they are now in shock after the war. Many were evacuated while the bombs were raining down,” Kolomias says.
This is the case with 77-year-old Svitlana, who bursts into tears when asked how she managed to escape Hostomel. “I saw my neighbor being killed when the Russian attacks began, and I had to hide in a warehouse all night until neighbors found me,” she sobs.
The tears continue to stream down her cheeks as she describes how she lost all contact with her son, who lived near a military base, on the first day of the war and to this day, she has still heard no news of him.
VICTIMS OF THE RUSSIAN OCCUPATION
“We witnessed the trickery of the Russians, how the tanks and their artillery attacked civilian areas; how they hid; how they put straw over the tanks to cover what they were doing. That’s what you see in an area under Russian occupation,” says Vladimir, a 50-year-old Ukrainian who has been in a wheelchair since losing both legs in an accident.
Vladimir lived an “odyssey” from residence to residence until he found accommodation in Tarascha, where he shares a room with five other men who came from the same pensioner’s home in the Hostomel area, whose street the Russians used as a missile launcher against the Ukrainian Army, “because they knew that they would not respond to the attacks as they were surrounded by civilian homes.”
“The Russians were hiding in the middle of residential areas. They were hiding behind houses and their center of operations was the church. They would enter the houses asking for all the food, in our residence they took everything, eggs, chicken… everything. They also took the drinks,” says Vladimir.
That humble public care home, where up to five people share a room, has been so overwhelmed by the flow of evacuees from the areas affected by the Russian occupation in Kyiv province, that it now requires humanitarian aid from organizations such as Red Cross or Food for Ukraine.
“We have much more work now because as the Ukrainian Army regains control of more areas, more vulnerable people appear who need our help”, says Sergey Moskalyuk, Red Cross volunteer. EFE