At the beginning of April, Russia withdrew about two-thirds of its troops around Kyiv, and sent most of them back to Belarus with plans to redeploy elsewhere in Ukraine.
Before the Russian invasion, the sleepy village of Mykulychi in Kyiv Oblast, counted 2,500 inhabitants; today, there are about 1,500 left. During the month of occupation, the villagers worked at gunpoint; today, they continue working on their farms and organize humanitarian work.
Mykulychi is a small village in Buchansky Raion, Kyiv Oblast, located between Borodyanka and Nemishayeve, and just 11 km from Bucha. Russian tanks entered the region at the end of February 2022. This urban-type settlement and other villages in the area were under Russian occupation for an entire month.
Evacuating the village
On March 11, the Russians disrupted the evacuation of residents from the raion (region) to Zhytomyr. Twelve buses were sent to Mykulychi to evacuate the local population. The Russian military stopped them at a checkpoint and ordered them to turn around and leave. Then, the Russians executed the villagers who had gathered and were trying to leave the settlement.
Village head Petro Perevoznyk says that, despite threats from the Russian occupiers and countless difficulties, the village council managed to organize two evacuations from Mykulychi and neighboring villages.
“There are several villages in our community; that’s over 16,000 people. We got about 2,000 out. You know, many inhabitants just couldn’t stand it anymore – both morally and physically, so they organized their own evacuation convoys. But, it didn’t work out. Some returned on their own; others were turned back by the Russians. The first vehicles were stopped and the people were shot on the spot.
The head of the village of Kozintsi (about 1,400 inhabitants) decided to leave with his family. They shot his son. For no reason – just like that, right there and then.
Let me tell you more… I was driving home a few days ago when I saw an old Zhiguli and four bodies lying beside it. And, you know what else the Russians do? They place booby traps on the bodies, so we can’t remove them until our demining experts arrive and neutralize them,” he says.
Russian army atrocities
Petro Perevoznyk continues to recount the atrocities committed by the retreating Russian forces. In the village of Klavdiyevo-Tarasove, a woman stepped out of her house in order to get a better phone signal. At that moment, a convoy of Russian vehicles was passing through the village. They opened fire and shot her for no reason at all.
It is not known for certain how many people were killed in Mykulychi and the neighboring villages. The village head confirms that seven bodies have been officially identified; two others are declared missing.
“They entered our village and just started shooting. Five of our people who were out on the street at that moment were murdered then. This is only in Mykulychi, never mind all the other towns and villages in our area. And, this is not the final count,” he explains bitterly.
Locals say that the countryside is littered with Russian military equipment; it has been standing in the vicinity of the village since the beginning of March. During that terrible month, the Russians went from house to house, demanding food and drinks. Then, they started “searching homes” and taking away valuables and appliances, in other words looting. As a final insult, the Russians stripped the inhabitants naked, looking for “nationalist” tattoos or traces of bulletproof vests.
The village head states that he asked the villagers not to provoke the Russians or “do stupid things”. He told them to be careful and hide in their basements.
“Yes, we’d prepared a lot of Molotov cocktails. I can’t tell you how many… I suppose we could have given them a “warm welcome”. But, I didn’t want to see a massacre in my town. I asked my people not to do stupid things. Their task was not to provoke the enemy, but to save themselves and their families,” he remarks.
Saving the farm and the cattle from Russian occupation in village near Kyiv
The villagers say that they were able to survive thanks to the cows on a local farm, which belongs to the Agrotechnical College in Nemishayeve.
At the beginning of the Russian invasion, the villagers hid in shelters and there was no one to feed the cows. Leonid Ternenko, the owner of a local trucking business, says that the cows began dying from hunger as there was no one around to feed them. He and some other villagers approached the Russians and asked them to refrain from shooting while they fed the cows. Everyone would benefit, he added.
“We had to save the farm from Russian evil! The cattle were scattered all over the fields. We brought them in – the cows and the calves – and herded them into the pens. But, it was strange as the people who came to help us had never milked a cow in their lives.
The Russians and their tanks were stationed in a field, near the farm. A group of them, armed with machine guns came to get milk almost every day. But, thank God, our people survived! Our community was able to pull through thanks to these cows and their milk. We looked after the cows and helped the people as much as we could.” says Leonid.
Russian army camp is a landscape of waste and desolation
However, the Russian tanks did not remain in the open field for long. In early March, the invaders decided to move to a more protected place, in a forest on the outskirts of the village. Here they set up their camp and organized rudimentary living conditions.
The head of Mykulychi confirms that it was here that the Russian invaders dug in and created a kind of base. And, it was namely from here that they organized their deadly onslaught on Bucha, Hostomel, and Irpin.
A preliminary inspection of the Russian camp confirms Petro Perevoznyk’s statements. There are several dugouts, a lot of military hardware and personal belongings.
The Russians even dug a separate hole to hide what they had stolen from private homes and shops. Some of the military equipment looks brand new. But now, it lies broken and completely useless. Locals believe that the Russians destroyed everything so that it would not fall into the hands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The houses located not far from the Russian positions suffered the most – several dozen damaged buildings, but the village council has yet to draw up a final list of ruined homes and buildings.
Reviving village life
Today, a humanitarian center has opened its doors in the center of Mykulychi. The locals redistribute aid arriving from other cities. Svitlana is in charge of the accounts. She explains that the staff is now distributing crucial aid and recording how many villagers are left and where they are located.
“We pack everything on the bus, go through the village and distribute what we have and what is needed,” she says.
Svitlana says that there are now 1,482 people in the village as opposed to more than 2,500 before the war.
Svitlana is a teacher, but the Russians looted and vandalized the school where she worked before the war.
On March 6, the school building came under mortar fire. Later, the Russians demolished the fence and drove their tanks in circles around the playground.
Despite the current hardships, Svitlana is happy that people are not just starting to return home, but are united as never before.
“Every day the number of villagers is growing because people are returning home. They come to see me. They offer their help… and we do what we can” she says, smiling with tears in her eyes.
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