Left behind in Ukraine: The faces of Bucha

Left behind in Ukraine: The faces of Bucha

Bucha, the once quiet town on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, became a theatre of fierce fighting. Most of its 30,000 residents fled. But those who couldn’t, like the elderly, sick and those with limited mobility, stayed behind. Many of them are alone with no heating, water or electricity. They are deeply traumatised and often break into tears when they speak to the ICRC team about what they endured.
Article 20 April 2022 Ukraine

The ICRC team registered Bucha residents for cash assistance between April 13 and 20. Some of them shared a glimpse of what life is like for them today. All photos by Alyona Synenko/ICRC

Galina Dmitrievna, 70

All our neighbours left. We buried my first son here, and I didn't want to leave his grave. My second son told me: "Mother, I will not leave you alone." So, we stayed together. The fear drove me mad. I prayed day and night.

Tamara, 75

Our children and grandchildren left. I stayed with my husband. He is 85, and he cannot walk. I feed him and help him change his clothes. We live without electricity, gas, and water. The sound of warfare haunts me. We don't have anywhere to go. Who needs us?

Ivan, 40

Together with my wife and our three children, we hid in the basement. There were other families. We heard shooting outside. Marina, my wife, kept telling me how scared she was. She stopped eating. Then, one morning she didn't wake up. We buried her outside in the courtyard of our apartment building. I thought about everything we wanted to do together but kept postponing for later.

Vasyl, 65

Was I going to the unknown? Would I die somewhere on the way? I prefer to die at home. My sister and I hid in the basement. I warmed a kettle and placed it next to my bed to keep warm.

Vladimir, 59

My family left, but I decided to stay to watch my house. I wanted to keep an eye on my chickens, dogs, and vegetable garden.

Natalia, 68

Our children, our granddaughter, left, and our godson went missing. Now, it is only my husband and me. All our windows got broken from the fighting. After that, I couldn't force myself to go to bed for three nights. I feel sorry for the animals. We have chickens, rabbits, and pigeons.

I feed five cats and one dog left behind by the neighbours. We have all changed. Young people have aged.

Galina Petrovna, 71

Only five people stayed in our apartment building. The neighbours, when they were leaving, gave us their food. I stayed to take care of my daughter. She is 51, and she stopped walking from too much stress. We heard explosions but couldn't go down to the basement. Even when it was quiet, I couldn't fall asleep from fear.