For the first time, more Ukrainians are returning to the country. At least five millions have gone into exile; of that number, one million have since returned, according to Ukrainian border services. The calm of kyiv attracts and the risks are less there.
The city looks almost normal, if we forget the anti-tank obstacles and the sandbags.
Shops are mostly closed because they lack customers, while half of the five million inhabitants have left. A curfew is also still in effect. But the city was not affected. Trains from the west bring families, especially women and children, who couldn’t resist returning home.
Kateryna, her mother and her two children return from Lviv; they admit a certain fear. Svitlana, for her part, returns to her home in Irpin. That’s another story.
Irpin, heroic city
Irpin, a comfortable suburban town about fifteen kilometers from kyiv, paid the price for Ukraine’s first major victory over the Russian invader. The ruins bear witness to the fierce fighting that lasted a month.
The Russians were trying to bypass kyiv from the south; they lost, with hundreds of casualties, some of whom were executed. The invader thus suffered very heavy losses. Result: kyiv was saved.
We met two women, Svitlana and Kateryna, who were evacuated to the west as soon as the fighting started. They have just returned and stand in front of the town hall of Irpin, distraught.
They led us to their apartment, in a house that seems relatively intact: the stairwell is holding up, but the interior is a disaster. Together they have three children. A total of six people occupied the apartment.
All the windows have been blown out, pieces of the wall are torn off, there is debris everywhere. Russian soldiers even stayed there; they left military rations behind.
Svitlana and Kateryna don’t know where to stay. They ask the mayor of Irpin, Oleksander Markushyn, for help.
The city is actually 50% destroyed. This is why the first magistrate asks the exiles not to return now, the time to find temporary accommodation and restore public services, such as water and electricity.
Despite the destruction, the mayor became a nationwide legend for leading the resistance.
We beat the Russians here. We will win the war, because we defend our country, our homes and our familieshe says.
But the Russians are far from having said their last word in the Donbass; they also go after Mariupol and Kherson, while continuing to threaten the cities of the West.