May 19, 2022


Original post: Translated and edited by our team.

This is Mykola. He is 53. He lives in Bucha. Mykola stutters a lot. Only after lighting a cigarette does he start talking.

He has been living in the basement for 34 days. He could have left, but he is a manager of a five-story building. He says he had to stay. On the first day of the fighting in Bucha, a shell flew into his windows, pierced a wall, and got stuck in a crib, which caught on fire. Fortunately, he has already evacuated the children. The fire was extinguished, and, with the help of three friends, all the old men and women were brought to the basement. They also moved there themselves. When russians captured the city, they began to break into every house. Men were taken out into the street, undressed, and looked at for tattoos. Two of his friends, Leonid and Serhiy, were over 50, and another friend, also Leonid, was much younger. When they saw Leonid’s passport, they said that he was not 50, so he could fight. They put him on his knees and shot him in the head. Leonid was the first to be buried by Mykola. Right in the yard. Near the transformer box. A bloodstain can still be seen at the crime scene. In a few days, Serhiy also passed away. The man went outside to smoke and got a bullet. Just like that. Without any words or warnings.

When the fighting intensified, the Russians seemed furious, says Mykola. Before that, people sometimes came out of the basement to cook or just breathe in some air. But at that time, they decided to lock up. In the evening, the soldiers began to hunt. They were yelling to open up. Before leaving the city, they probably wanted to get inside and shoot everyone. The man said that this happened in one of the houses on a neighboring street. Unable to break down the door, they threw a grenade on the stairs. On the other side, the entrance was firmly held by the second Leonid. The only man who survived with Mykola. Explosion and, after that, silence. His body lay on the bloody stairs all day. Only on the next day, there was another knock on the door, saying they had 20 minutes to clean everything. Then Mykola went outside and saw that his friend’s head was torn off and his legs were scattered around.

Mykola collected the remains in a bag and dug a new grave. Already the third. He said he couldn’t dig the ground deep as he didn’t have much time, and he was not that young anymore. Now he is the most worried that the sand will wash away when it rains and the stray dogs will come.

In the midst of horror, pain, and death, it seems easy to lose hope. But today Mykola is my hero. Because even after seeing the worst in people, he did not lose his humanity. Talking to us on camera, the man could barely hold back his tears. And when the recording ended, he cried and thanked us for just listening. Looking at the mass graves, where hands with rigor stick out from under the sand, it is easy to lose faith in humanity. But people like Mykola return it.

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