The sound of sawing echoes over the deserted community yard at the base of a block of flats in Bucha.
A charred kettle boils on an open fire at one of the entrances, billowing clouds of steam into the frigid air. The bustle of youngsters playing and clambering over the climbing frame that dominates the plaza should fill this space with life and sound.
However, since the Russians arrived, everything has changed. The majority of people fled and have yet to return. Only a small, tenacious group is attempting to prepare the path for others to return.
Sergei and his wife have been in their apartment for five days. They and their neighbours are now attempting to reconstruct their damaged homes and clean the debris left behind by countless Russian shells.
He tells me, “You always want to come back home.” “As a result, we used our Sergei to drive me to an open grave beneath his building. It’s only a few yards away, and we’re walking in the deep grooves etched into the mud by Russian tanks as they rolled in. Sergei’s next-door neighbour, who was slain while attempting to photograph them, lay here waiting for his chance to return. And we took advantage of the opportunity to ensure that all of the property is secure, even from locals who might try to steal something.”
His name and the date of his death are carved into a piece of wooden pallet, which serves as a crude and temporary gravestone. One of the first things Sergei wanted to do when he got home was to finally give him a proper burial. Bucha residents have become accustomed to death in just a few weeks.
Denys Davidoff remained in town for the duration of the occupation. When the Russians left, he returned to the streets and was met by a terrifying vision. Many people across the world witnessed photographs and videos of dead strewn about Bucha, some with their hands chained behind their backs. Denys, on the other hand, had personally witnessed them.