An empty playground in a residential area during the Russian invasion of Ukraine on August 17, 2022 in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. As of June, two of his three children had been displaced by the war, according to UNICEF. (Reuters/Nacho Doss)
WROCLAW, POLAND: For Ukrainian soldier Dmytro Dwzhenko, returning to Poland to embrace his family after six months of fighting on the front lines was a head-to-head image of a mother and child with severed bodies tied together. When you try to dispel it, you feel a special sensation.
In early March, when his unit fought to liberate the Kyiv suburb from Russian forces, he came across a dead body in Irpin.
“The child clung to his mother and then they were both blown up,” he said in a small apartment in the western Polish city of Wroclaw, which the family moved to in 2019.
He also showed Reuters phone footage of a hospital he visited in nearby Bucha, where bodies of people of all ages were laid out as part of a cleanup effort in Ukraine.
Russian forces have been accused of atrocities by occupying a leafy town on the outskirts of the capital early in a civil war that lasted nearly six months.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the war, calling claims that Russian forces executed civilians in Bucha a “horrible fabrication”.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Dobzhenko’s recollection.
One of thousands of soldiers believed to have come from abroad to fight in Ukraine, the 41-year-old is also active in the south near Kherson, a simple routine that has been lacking since late February. can now be tasted.
He spent a short time home, then returned to cooking at the front, cradling his two small children, and heading out for a long walk with his wife, Oleksandra.
“I’m not sure. It may be very unlikely that I will be able to return (again) to my wife and children. But this task needs to be done.”
‘We need a lot of weapons’
He fought Russian forces in the East Donbas region in 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine, but this time the conflict was more brutal, he said.
“Once upon a time there was a front line, our country was here, there was a legal line. Now there are no such lines. And all the rockets, shots, everything that Russia is using now We didn’t have that before,” Dovzhenko said. .
With the Russian advance showing no sign of stopping and the Ukrainian army being defeated, Dobzhenko has little patience for Western voices expressing concern over the course of the war, and offers no tangible help.
“Someone is very worried while rockets are falling on our heads. If you are very worried, you can change places. Their concerns will be much needed there,” Dovzhenko said.
“We don’t have enough weapons now. We need a lot of weapons, artillery, rocket systems, new pistols for infantry. We also need a lot of technical assistance.”
As I tried to reconcile the contrasting lives of life in Ukraine and Poland, things I once thought normal, such as streets full of pedestrians, suddenly seemed strange.
“As I was driving, a helicopter was flying over the route. Maybe it was the police, maybe it was an ambulance, I don’t know,” he said.
“I almost got into an accident because I suddenly wanted to turn off the engine, because in Ukraine, when you see a helicopter, you immediately fight. So I told myself: stop, stop, stop it, stop it
But on a sunny day in Wroclaw, Dobrzhenko and his wife were focused on enjoying their last moments together before he returned to Ukraine.
“It’s always a holiday when he’s here,” Oleksandra said tearfully. .”