In the Ukrainian towns that fall into the hands of the Russian army, the priority is to first evacuate the living, especially the wounded, so that they can be treated. The dead are not in such a hurry. Vasil, 63, has managed to save his life, but not his right leg. He affirms that on the night of March 16-17, the invading soldiers ordered the men to line up and that he was shot in cold blood in the shinbone for being late. It took him two days to be transferred from Bohdanivka to the hospital in Brovari, east of kyiv, a distance of only twenty kilometers.
“I have been in the profession for more than 20 years and I have not seen damage like the ones I have seen these days,” says Volodímir Andriiets, 44, deputy director of the medical center. Time seems to have frozen in the rooms of this building decorated with plants, furniture, crochet rugs and telephones that seem to have been brought from a museum, but where medical equipment is conspicuous by its absence. Some of those interviewed, such as Vasil himself, acknowledge, however, that having managed to be transferred here now allows them to look forward, although in their case it is with a pair of crutches that now rest next to the headboard of the bed.
In this hospital they are currently treating 28 wounded civilians who have arrived from different locations around Brovari. The eastern bank of the Dnieper River, which irrigates an important part of Ukraine, is these days the scene of fighting between the armies of Ukraine and Russia in the surroundings of the capital.
Zina, 62, with experience as a nurse, checks that her husband’s medication has just run out of the drip before feeding him soup. Vasil’s account coincides with that of other IDPs who have managed to escape from those villages, but she is shaken to see him speak without altering the tone of his voice with his stump on the bed.
It was at one in the morning on Thursday, March 17. About twenty neighbors were sheltered in a house, all together. “They came to the house and an officer said the men had 10 seconds to line up in front of him. I was late and he shot me directly in the leg. He wanted to shoot me in the second one, and I told him: ‘Well, shoot’. But they left”, recalls the man. “We put the bandage on. We had antibiotics, painkillers and we put the tourniquet on. We couldn’t save his leg, but his life,” she explains, sitting on the next bed. She adds the woman that the Russian soldiers themselves who saw the scene “understood that their officer was not right in the head and they let us go” to another nearby town. Aleksandr, Vasil’s son-in-law, has also had to leave Bohdanivka with his wife and his children. Arriving at the hospital to visit his mother-in-law, he says that in his neighborhood they have already had to bury two neighbors in the street and that there are three corpses pending collection.
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Bohdanivka, about 50 kilometers from the center of kyiv, had been in the hands of Kremlin troops for days, who were unable to advance towards the capital and suffered supply and logistical problems. For this reason, the now fled neighbors in Brovari coincide in describing scenes of looting and abuse. Vasil, a retired construction worker, remembers it as if it were a movie that he had to experience first-hand: “Next to each house there were one or two tanks, armored personnel carriers and equipment. We were very scared. They had occupied all our houses and kept their equipment in the patios. They broke, destroyed, stole, nothing was saved. They stole all the men’s clothes, all of them, and women’s too. They took out all the appliances.” Zina points out: “Less not in the houses that they occupied to live, that they did use them there. Gold. All the food that was in the fridge. They took the children’s bicycles, the scooters, because we have four grandchildren, the motorcycles and they rode them”.
In the hospital there are no scenes of chaos nor are there races with injured people arriving every so often. The deputy director details that in recent days, coinciding with the withdrawal of Russian troops, barely four or five civilians are injured each day.
In another of the rooms, Yuri, 47, a member of the civil defense groups in the town of Dimerka, is recovering. The man points to his leg and belly, where fragments of a cluster bomb remained embedded, a weapon prohibited by more than a hundred countries, but not by Russia, which has not ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Yuri was injured on March 8 and underwent surgery as soon as he arrived in Brovari. “I was running from my house to the shelter to hide and on the way I was shot by a fragment of the projectile. The cluster bomb went through the whole town and fell on one of the houses, burning it down. But the fragments shot out and exploded everywhere. At first I didn’t know that he was injured. I felt something, but I thought maybe it was the blast wave, then I got sick and saw that I had a hole in my belly.
Rina, Vasil’s wife, who is also being treated for colon damage, pulls sarcastically: “The great Russian army, pure poverty.” And she dispatches herself at ease: “We want them to leave, to leave until the last one. I want all of Europe to know what kind of Army it is. It is not an Army, they are vagabonds. And they are dressed worse than the bums. No shower for two months, dirty, greasy. No clothes, dressed in our clothes.”
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