List of news from journalists Jan Novák and Janek Kroupa visited the Ukrainian battlefields for the second week in a row. They spent the last days outside kyiv on the front line.
Nearby is the town of Irpin on the river of the same name. He resisted Russian aggression for four weeks. But only now has desperation reached the point where even older people are leaving their homes. Often they cannot fend for themselves and have no one to turn to.
“I spoke to a 91-year-old woman, another 85-year-old. At that age, to be in a situation where someone evacuates you and you just sit there and don’t know where to go – that’s pretty strong , it breaks your heart, “he said in a telephone interview with Honza Novák’s editorial staff.
Can you start by describing the situation in Irpini? Do they take place around combat?
We returned to the scene of the crime, the last place in front of the front line. We are northwest of kyiv, on the border with the city of Irpin. It is a place that is on the border of the front line and where evacuees from transport points are transported.
Major battles are currently taking place in the cities that are glued to kyiv, that is, Irpin and Bucha. Although the shelling was heavy for four weeks, not everyone decided to leave. Especially old people who somehow wanted to survive stayed here. However, the situation is already so dangerous that they are already leaving their homes.
Unlike the previous days we spent here, today was (Wednesday, editor’s note) much more massive and intense bombings. I was there around nine in the morning and it was so huge there was constant smoke in the air. The bombardments are constant, at different intensities, at different distances from us. As the front obviously approached, they closed off the area, began to fortify much more, and dug trenches.
And they also mine those places. I send a photo of what it looks like in such a place.
It shows a warning that there are still mines. To give you an idea of what you see: it’s a fairly ordinary housing estate, a suburb, behind a grove and behind it is the town of Irpin. And there was no mine scare here two days ago.
Whenever possible and the shelling is less intense, the volunteers go to Irpina. The city bridge over the Irpin River is already partially shelled. And these people can’t take it anymore. Volunteers pick them up, pick them up and take them away.
And I still spent today where they are linked. In the early days of the war, there were thousands, tens of thousands of people. At that time, the vast majority of people fled, but especially the elderly said that they would somehow survive, that they were helpless and did not want to leave. But they have already decided to leave.
They transport them in ambulances, cars, minibuses. Some of them are also injured, for example a lady was hit by shrapnel from a mine, so they immediately moved from one ambulance to another and took her to the hospital. Others are not injured, but are weakened or suffer from various ailments of old age.
Isn’t there a food supply problem?
The supply here in kyiv works relatively well, it is more difficult to find fresh bread and the like. But food and water are available.
What about screening those who stray from the areas? Isn’t there a danger that divers are among them?
Basically everyone is transported from the war zone. But as soon as they arrive, they are searched by the police to find out who they are. In the case of older people who have obviously lived on the site for a long time, they have left them alone. But this time, several young people who are suspicious of them have also rolled.
So they take all the things they have with them, almost take them off and look for what they took. These can be people who, for example, steal something, they can be diversors, criminal elements or even Russian army scouts can pose as refugees. They are so suspicious of these people.
I witnessed a case where they found a strange piece of jewelry while looking for a man, questioned him a lot, and then took him to the police. Then they found a knife, the blade of which they broke off and threw away. They are very careful with those fleeing the war zone, and basically the whole of kyiv is on hold.
They also search all documents and passports of people and verify that they are indeed residents of the city – they call mom, dad, some relatives, they also ask people around them if they know the person.
And in the case of the two men in the photo, tied to the ground, we had no idea what they were. So they tied them up like that and took them to the police station.
They controlled you like that?
They already know us, so definitely not. But strangers, photos, news also pass through strangers, they carefully check everyone who leaves the war zone.
So how did ordinary people fleeing the war accept you as a journalist?
They are useful to us. But the fact that they decided to flee really signifies great despair. They lasted four weeks without water, electricity or gas. The weather is nice today in kyiv, but five days ago it was minus four degrees. Add permanent bombardment.
For example, I met a family who had a disabled daughter, Michajlinina, with me. His mother, Ajlona, told me that they must have already escaped, as Mikhailin was having more and more seizures from the shelling and shelling. But she said they had nowhere to go, so they were waiting for the evacuation buses to take them. They take them to other cities or even abroad.
The stories are very similar. Everyone recounts what it is like to live in constant fear of the bombardment, when they may come across their house. They claim that the shelling is targeting houses. Everyone describes the experience the same way – cold, little food, scared… but now they have a trick and someone is pulling them away. But some of the relatives who might take them don’t have them, so they sit there in surrender.
It is especially sad for the elderly. I spoke to a 91 year old lady, another 85 year old. At that age, being in a situation where someone is evacuating you and you’re just sitting around not knowing where to go… that’s pretty strong. It just breaks the heart of visual sight of them without having to talk to them directly. Many people have dogs with them, others are crying that they had to leave them there. Old people say their sons and daughters are injured, etc.
From eight o’clock there is a curfew here, so I pack my bags and go to sleep at the metro station. Since the beginning of the war, many people have hidden in the hall. Not only do they sleep there, they live there, there are children and old people, they have mats, inflatable lounge chairs and it is their home now.
Four weeks of war in Ukraine
On the night of Wednesday to Thursday (February 23-24), the Russian army invaded Ukraine. List The reports prepare a series of texts, analyzes and interviews on the four weeks of the war.
WAR DAY AFTER DAY – a chronological overview of the progress of the fights during the first month.
ON THE EASTERN FRONT – Expert perspective on war as a military operation.
RUBLY, hryvnia, crowns – How Russia, Czechia and the West cope with the economic effects of war.