Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday that Russia had agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire in six of the areas worst affected by the fighting to allow civilians to escape. According to Vereshchuk, it is a truce that goes from 09:00 to 21:00 local time (07:00 to 19:00 GMT) and among the several evacuation corridors that will be opened is one from Bucha to Kiev. The BBC Mundo dialogues with Hernán Olaya occurred before this declaration.
For three days, Hernán Olaya spoke with BBC Mundo from Bucha, a city on the outskirts of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
When I spoke with him on Sunday night, I could feel the anguish in his voice.
“You can’t even go out and pick up the dead that are on the street,” he told me.
On Monday, also at night, we talked again and he sounded a little calmer.
“Yesterday was a very hard day and you couldn’t, but today I saw some special cars that picked up people and put them in black packages. I don’t know where they are taking them, but they have picked them up from the streets.”
“There have been so many bombings, combats and shootings around, in the woods, that people say that there are many people lying there, but how to pick them up? There is no mobility, people are very afraid to go do that, one goes in, come and shoot him and there he stayed”.
“That is something very dangerous, five go to pick up a corpse and those five can die.”
“Nobody dares to go to those places.”
Not just because of the attacks, he explained, but because they are patrolling. “At any moment there could be an ambush, the tankettes come and go.”
This Tuesday, at noon in Ukraine, we talked again and he told me that shots and shelling were heard until approximately 8:00 in the morning, but then everything was silenced.
“They have collected the victims who have been left out there,” he said.
In our conversations, some interrupted by problems with the telephone line and the very unstable internet connection in his area, he insists that “this is a catastrophe, there are deaths, displaced people, there is no water, electricity, basic services.”
Olaya is a petroleum engineer. He studied and lived in Moscow for six years and then went to Kiev for two years to continue his studies.
There he met his wife, a Ukrainian citizen, with whom he returned to Colombia for five years.
Twenty years ago they returned to Ukraine, where their two children were born, who, along with their partners, are refugees in Olaya’s apartment. They are also accompanied by a family friend.
“We are isolated, there is no way out, all roads are blocked by Russian soldiers.”
“They also bombed two bridges and the railway station was set on fire.”
“Unfortunately, this is the way the Russians chose to get all the military units to Kiev.”
“They come to the town and, from there, they try to spread out to get closer to Kiev.”
He said that the city is surrounded. “During the day, (Russian soldiers) are on the outskirts, guarding all the steps and at night they enter the city, when you start to hear the shelling.”
When the Russian troops return, “people stay, everyone locks up”, either in their homes or in shelters that have been improvised in the basements.
“Usually when they come in they start shooting.”
In addition, there is a curfew imposed by the Ukrainian authorities.
“After 5 in the afternoon and until 8 in the morning there is a curfew because whoever goes out can be shot.”
The challenge of trying to get out
“My wife doesn’t sleep, just an hour or two. Sometimes you fall asleep, but then the shooting starts.”
Although his city has been the target of attacks, he says that “miraculously” the residential complex where he lives has not suffered the ravages of the war.
“They have bombed everywhere, the safest part of the city is this. Why? I don’t know, even the (Russian) tanks pass through the street in front of the house, turn around and leave. Those They are miracles that one cannot explain.
“Yesterday (Sunday) some 50 military units passed through,” he said.
“Other buildings have been affected by the projectiles, but not this one. We pray that God takes care of this city, this building where we are.”
He has been thinking of leaving Bucha to reach one of the borders. “I am very afraid that my family will suffer. What worries me the most is getting them out.”
He said that on Sunday, some people tried to leave, but died trying. Among them was a couple with his four-year-old daughter, the only one who survived.
“They managed to operate on her because shrapnel entered her head and skull. But it is necessary to take her to Kiev so that she can receive specialized care.”
“That is the reality that I want people to know. They did not come here to save anyone. If that was what they proposed to save the town, what they are doing is destroying it completely.”
The case pointed out by Olaya could not be verified by BBC Mundo. However, human rights organizations have denounced the impact of the war on the civilian population.
On March 7, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that there have been more than 1,200 civilian casualties since the war broke out.
That figure includes at least 406 dead and 801 wounded.
Russia denies that its troops attack civilians.
“There are people who walk day and night, but now it is very dangerous to do so because they simply go out on the main roads and if they are given the opportunity, because they have mined a lot of the forests, the sides of the roads, so that nobody get in there,” Olaya said.
“I feel pain to see that our soldiers are dying defending their country, many young (Russian) soldiers have arrived who do not even know what war is and have been sent here.”
“These are truncated lives. They tell them that this country must be liberated because there are Nazis, that they must help. That information is not real.”
“If this is called liberation, I don’t know anything about life.”
“It makes you want to cry, this was a very nice, quiet city. Now you see burned cars, shells, roofs of houses destroyed, buildings that have lost part of their structure, others are empty, bombed tanks that have remained on the roads”.
“Our soldiers are outside because a lot of tanks have arrived, a lot of Russian soldiers.”
“Many Russians arrive and are looking for food, they did not come prepared for so many days. They go into the warehouses and take out the food.”
Olaya has intestinal cancer and used to receive chemotherapy twice a month. “There’s no chance of that right now.”
“I have a tumor that has affected my urinary canal and blocks my left kidney.”
On Monday, in a first aid unit that was opened in a school in front of the building where he lives, a neighbor who is a doctor, a urologist and an assistant – both also from the urbanization – performed a small intervention on him.
“I had a catheter, but it had to be sewn because it was falling out. The kidney is still obstructed, but because of the catheter, one is undone.”
And so, the urine reaches a small bag.
That is an example of the solidarity that, he stressed, has developed among all members of the community.
“We made a list of the people in the building who work in medicine. They left their phone numbers, and although they don’t always work, we know where we can reach them.”
“It’s like going back to the Stone Age”
Despite the difficulties in finding food, he said that “whoever has a product shares it.”
“People in Ukraine grow crops during the summer and some of these products are saved for the winter” and that is what they are sharing.
“(During the attacks) they destroyed a supermarket, but the bakery remained and bread was prepared to give to the community.”
“At around 10:00 in the morning, we meet in front of the houses and whoever has something brings it, we make a fire, we cook for everyone and for those in the shelter.”
“We distribute among all the hot food that is made once a day.”
“With firewood, sticks, whatever is found, the campfire is built. It’s like going back to the Stone Age.”
The lack of electricity supply is another problem to which they are trying to find a collective solution.
“We connect disposable batteries to make a kind of battery. Someone got an electricity generator and with gasoline they activated it and we charged phones.”
And winter worsens the already dramatic situation.
“There was a snowfall and it’s quite cold and we don’t have heat. Every day the apartment gets colder and colder.”
On March 7, Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy had reported that more than 742,000 people had no access to electricity across the country and more than 238,000 were without gas.
Olaya said that the scarcity of water has made them have to build latrines.
“We make holes around the area because you can’t go very far. You open one, dump the waste, cover it up, and the next day you open another one and do the same thing. You don’t imagine this in modern times.”
On Monday they got an artesian well. “From bucket to bucket, we collect. We achieve about 100 liters for the entire community.”
“Despite the difficulties, people have come together to help each other. We have seen people’s hearts.”
“This country is like my blood,” he says. “This country has given me everything.”
Olaya pointed out that with the start of the war a WhatsApp group was created to locate and help all Colombians on Ukrainian soil.
He was one of the first people to join and, like the rest, he tried to help his countrymen.
“The consul, the embassy and the Colombian foreign ministry have done an impressive job to get the Colombians out. More than 250 Colombians have already left,” he said.
The members of the group shared information about the routes they were finding to leave the country.
“A group that started with 7, 10 people managed to connect about 250 Colombians. I didn’t think there were that many Colombians. Each one, based on their own experience, spending five, six days at the borders, was helping the rest.”
In fact, he indicated that many of those who have already left the country continue to help.
According to information from the Colombian Foreign Ministry on March 6, 261 Colombians have been able to leave Ukraine.
Olaya is proud of that network of cooperation that they have created among all of them and insists that she is waiting for a sign.
“God, show me the time to get my family out, I need them out. Give me a sign and we’ll get out.”
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BBC-NEWS-SRC: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-60656223, IMPORTING DATE: 2022-03-09 12:20:05
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