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Ukraine | In Bogorodychné, ruins, cats and a man

(Bogorodytchné) Only the pleading meow of cats pierces Bogorodytchné’s silence. In this village in eastern Ukraine, transformed into a Dantean theater of ruins, you must first meet the animals before finally falling for a man.

The harrowing sight of this completely destroyed village, located in the valleys of the Donetsk region, testifies to the fierce fighting that took place there for several months.

Occupied by the Russians last summer, after months of bombing, it was retaken in mid-September by Ukrainian forces, and then engaged in a major counter-offensive.

Not a house in this village of a thousand inhabitants was spared. The beautiful blue church, littered with shards, is half destroyed, its golden dome smashed to the ground.

A tsunami seems to have passed through the school, strewn with desks, books, notebooks … and Russian rations. The soldiers from Moscow had clearly established their base there, mattresses are still installed in the basement and a Russian uniform is on the ground.

In the streets littered with garbage and the carcasses of overturned cars, even the presence of animals is ghostly. The abandoned dogs follow visitors, jump and circle endlessly, but never let out a single howl or bark.

A poor cat, its head strangely encased in a sharp-edged glass jar, meows desperately, but runs away in fright as soon as anyone tries to approach it.

A human presence

And at a bend in the path, a man suddenly appears on the balcony of a windowless house battered by the wind. A sunken hat hanging over an emaciated face, a slender figure with scant coverage despite the freezing cold, Yuri Ponomarienko welcomes visitors.

The 54-year-old man from Bogorodychné sent his wife and daughter to Poland four days before the start of the Russian invasion in February.

Then he himself fled when the fighting began in this city, and stayed right and left in the still-preserved towns and villages of the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Before he returned, after the end of the battle, to Bogorodychné, where he spent most of his life. First a day here, a day there.

He finally settled there a week ago. In a house that is not his. His was shaved.

“I believe I am the first to come back to live here, although I believe there is always a mother and her son who have never left the village. I felt I had to come back, I had to,” says Yuri.

He lives in a small room of barely five to six square meters, has built a craft heater with bricks, which spreads a comforting warmth. A thermometer hanging from a wire shows approximately 18 degrees.

The silence of the village is broken by the sound of an engine.

Viktor Sklyar, a 50-year-old with a jovial face with two piercing blue eyes, has arrived with his wife and young daughter to collect everything that can be taken from his brother’s house, at the entrance to Bogorodychné.

“These pigs of Russian soldiers had settled in his garage,” he explains, pointing to the rations scattered on the floor and the military cups. “I think there were three of them. They were sleeping in the basement,” he continues, pointing to a dark room covered with a large dirty mattress.

The house itself is a mess, everything has been knocked over, destroyed. According to Viktor, the soldiers took the television, the microwave, the clothes, an ax to chop wood… And they fired a bullet into the refrigerator, he is indignant and points to the impact in the door of the unit, now useless.

But above all, they killed the dog and threw his remains in the garage. “He was a Saint Bernard. A Saint Bernard,” Viktor repeats in despair.



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