A day in Bucha: First hand account of atrocities in Ukraine

Days after the Russians invaded Ukraine, they descended upon the small town of Bucha, just west of the capital, Kyiv. For weeks the battle ensued in the town until the Russian forces withdrew on March 31, 2022. The Russians were under command of Gennady Bayur, commander of the VDV’s 234th Air Assault Regiment. Like many other commanders in this war, he died just days later in Bucha on March 11, 2022. The Russian digital sphere said he died of a land mine, but we may never know. 

In the city days after the withdrawal of Russian forces from Bucha my friend Andriy and I went to document the damage, to listen to the stories of the survivors and to connect with the teams that were doing their best to restore the town to some form of normality. 

After a full day traveling across Ukraine it was late last night as we approached the outskirts of Kyiv. 

As we approached the city,  the lush terrain of spring time green we had become used to became a hellish warzone. 

It was a day of rain, with a rainbow to finish the day before when Andriy said, “Look over there!” it was a burned out tank. The heat from the burning tank was so intense it scorched the concrete walls of the highway

We pulled up and jumped out the car to see a war ravaged gas station with two Russian armored personnel carriers (APCs) sitting just behind. What had been a nice little hotel across the street was now just ruins.

It didn’t take long before we saw the first burned out Russian tank on the road to Kyiv. It was an ominous sign of more to come as we traveled further east into the city. Parts of the tank were blown all over the road and the sidewall of the highway barriers were melted from the intense fire. 

This was the beginning of what would be a layer just outside of Kyiv showing the weeks of battles between the Russians and the Ukrainian forces. Although we saw many destroyed Russian military vehicles, we didn’t see any Ukrainian vehicles or signs of Ukrainian defeats. 

While there we met our friend and fantastic journalist from India, Soumik Saha. 

He cut his opening segment, an impression of the of the war, and we continued on down the road.

As the sun disappeared, we spotted a group of locals removing a gun mount from a tank. The tank had a large “V” (for “Our strength is in truth” сила в правде) painted on the front; the mark of the Russians. 

Ironically, the tank was stopped dead in front of a tractor supplier. The tractor has become a sign of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian horde. 

Soumik spotted a crew of men salvaging the dead tank and lept at the opportunity to interview the men who were removing the gun mount.

After interviewing the men, they continued to take their salvange and load it into a van. 

Later, we continued into the eerie part of the city that was now devoid of lights. Although the ability to see well eluded us, we didn’t need lights to be the aware of the devastation that surrounded us because the city was thick with the smell of carbon and hulks of bullet riddled vehicles that had been attacked by the Russians. 

Before leaving for Bucha, we first looked at an attack in east Kyiv that struck a civilian residential building. 

The massive impact crater told the story; lives shattered forever.

Just a month before I had seen much of this area and there were not any military establishments in sight. Instead, it was a vibrant area filled with people who were living their lives even if they were surrounded by aging Brutalist Soviet-era architecture.

This was a place where children played, and not filled with neo Nazis or military targets.

It was  blocks from where I stay when I’m in Kyiv. 

It was a place where families who work hard all day come home to spend time with their loved ones.

 It is now scar in the war Russia launched on Ukraine.

After meeting with our contact, Andriy, we joined him as he prepared to shuttled much needed medical supplies to the rugged Ukrainians who then would take them to the front lines. 

Once ready, we were on our way to Bucha. As we approached the village, we saw a series of burned out Russian tanks. The power of the Ukrainian army was on easy display as we walked through the iron carnage of the tanks. 

In an echo of the burned out “convoys of tanks” carcasses we had seen before we saw more remains of young Russian soldiers abandoned on a battlefield in a country they should not have invaded. 

Their personal items such as jackets and bits of clothing were scattered the fields and in a couple of cases, so were their body parts.  

By now, we had witnessed many horrors but nothing prepared us for what was to come. 


We arrived in Bucha. 

It was a post-apocalyptic war zone. 

The unmistakable stench of war surrounded us. 

As we drove down the streets, we could see devastated buildings, ruined Russian tanks, APCs and the shocked remaining residents.

We interviewed several local residents and surveyed the inside of their homes.

When the Russian soldiers occupied the homes they didn’t just destroy the sanctity and tranquility of Bucha, they destroyed the lives of everyone who lived there. 

There is a reason the Russian soldiers are called “Orcs”.  

After destroying one home, they left a sign that read “Thank you for the hospitality. Z. Sorry for the mess.


It is one thing to know death in non-war zones. I’ve covered hurricane and tornado destruction, but war has a greater betrayal of humanity at its root. 

In Bucha, there site that should not exist in the 21st century after the carnage of the early 20th century and yet, there it was. Just behind the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints we visited a mass grave of Ukrainian locals. 

All murdered by the Russian horde. 

Several bodies were in black bags laid out side by side, their precise identities still to be determined. 

As we walked up to the large chasm of earth in front of us, one man was there to try and identify if his father was among those murdered. He looked at each of the bodies and did not see signs of his father. After examining each body he said he didn’t see his father and quietly walked away without any closure. 

I’ll never forget him.

The graves are now part of history of Ukraine. Their graves can be seen by using a satellite view.

An interview in Bucha with Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of Crimean Tatar

While we were walking through Bucha, Andriy pointed out that we were in the presence of a man of profound significance. His name, Mustafa Dzhemilev, ‘The Son of Crimea’ and the leader of the Crimean Tatars. 

At the moment he was in an interview by a young woman who was recording him with her cell phone. 

As a political prisoner, Dzhemilev had survived years of Soviet brutality  including the torture of Soviet labor camps and the longest hunger strike of 303 days just to stand for the dignity of the Crimean Tatars.

I asked Andriy if he would be so kind as to conduct an interview with Mustafa Dzhemilev. Dzhemilev had many things to say about the destruction of Bucha and a reminder that this was predicted.

He was soft spoken but his spirit was vast and few can fathom his life experience. It will go down for both of us as moment of important contact with a man who foresaw the tyranny of Putin and this catastrophe.


We began our travel out of Bucha and on to our other destinations. We came upon a bridge that was blown to stop the advance of the Russian forces, stood there to contemplate how the self-destruction was necessary to curb the horde and to prevent the Russians from gaining further ground. 

A bridge can be rebuilt and the memory of that passage will be etched in stone. Down the street there were cars riddled with bullets and the tell tale signs of confrontations, and the lives that were lost.

In a moment of international camaraderie we stopped to thank soldiers who had been fighting to secure the region. It was a blessing in the face of the destruction that lay ahead on the road to Borodyanka. 


Borodyanka was spared no wrath of the horde. Civilian residential towers were completely destroyed by shelling of the Russians and no military targets were to be seen. 

CNN and other TV crews were climbing over the rubble, the fire department was still putting out fires as heavy lift crews were arriving to remove debris.

Like Kyiv and Bucha, Putin is shelling civilian locations to punish the Ukrainians and wipe them off the map. 

Despite the loss of life and destruction of infrastructure his efforts will not work I noted at least two men out with brooms to sweep the streets in front of the obliterated towers.


As with our other stops, the path of devastation continued in Makariv. At first saw a normal cottage-like environment with people who lived a quiet life, free from the terrors of war. 

Until now. 

All we saw were broken walls, burned roofs of homes and the ruins of the local economic hub of the town.

While we were documenting some of the destruction, we visited some of the locations and interviewed an Armenian shop owner. 

At first he seemed frustrated with our presence until hearing I was American that came to Ukraine with the intention of helping.  I  assured him that I strongly condemned Russia and I had a healthy disdain for Putin. 

At that point we asked him, “Is there anything you want to tell America?”

The owner gave us a statement on the impact upon their lives by the Russian attack. 

There are places facing much worse catastrophe than we saw in these towns but there is no place in the borders of the country where the Ukrainian spirit will not sustain itself during the hell brought by the horde. 

It is the very idea of Ukraine that offends Putin but it is in that hatred that he will meet his failure. 

He isn’t the first to try and destroy Ukraine. He will meet the harsh reality that it is impossible to extinguish the flame of a people.

Slava Ukraini and let the day of victory for Ukraine be sooner than later.