After Russian occupation, traumatized Ukrainian city emerges - worldsnews
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After Russian occupation, traumatized Ukrainian city emerges

Ukraine's IZIUM (AP) — The school was a wrecked wasteland. In August, a Ukrainian missile attack brought an end to its six-month existence as a Russian base and repair factory.

Even if its years of educating the children of Izium were ended, it still had something to provide the locals who so desperately needed it: the wood that was used to construct the lattice work, chalkboards, tables, and beams.

A few older locals came by on Monday to remove firewood from the wreckage; others came prepared with gloves, strong woven bags, and hand tools. Before substantial electricity, gas, and running water are restored, it will be months, if not longer. A cold is already setting in.

This city in far-eastern Ukraine was one of the first ones captured by Russian forces when the conflict began on February 24 and it served as their command center. Izium had no electricity, heat, or cell phones at the beginning of March. The locals had no idea how the conflict was progressing, if their relatives were still alive, or even if Ukraine still existed.

They were freed on September 10 in a quick counteroffensive that surged across the Kharkiv region and is still going strong in the south, close to Kherson. However, locals are still recovering from the uncertainty and pain of their occupation, whose savagery garnered international attention this week as one of the greatest mass burial sites from the conflict was found.

"We are in the dark. To prepare cereal and heat water for tea, we are using wood. Observe my hands! Even though I'm 75 years old, this woman is older than I am. Oleksandra Lysenko declared while perched atop a stack of bricks, "We are frightened of winter. "I am robbing this school since my grandkids attended there."

Nearby, a man lifted the car's damaged hood onto his bicycle. He intended to cover an open window frame with the component, which was spray-painted with the letter Z that has come to represent the Russian army.

A little more than half of Izium's 40,000 inhabitants left when the war started about seven months ago; some of them went into Russia itself. The remainder took cover in basements or behind any solid walls they could locate. Some food was distributed by Russian forces, but seldom enough.

Those who had battery-operated radios found that the only signal was a Russian propaganda station that was spreading lies to them about which Ukrainian cities had fallen, how their government had abandoned them, and how they would face trials for being collaborators if the Ukrainian army ever made a comeback.

The counteroffensive was so quick that the Russians abandoned their armaments and armored vehicles, occasionally resorting to robbing locals of their belongings like clothes and automobiles in order to go unnoticed. The Russian army suffered its worst military setback since more than five months ago, when its forces withdrew from territory close to Kiev.

Soldiers from Ukraine have started to gather brass buttons that were hastily ripped off an officer's uniform or patches bearing the Russian flag. They are also reusing abandoned vehicles that haven't corroded to the point of becoming worthless and gathering Russian ammunition that fits well into Ukrainian guns.

Numerous mines were dispersed by the Russian occupants, which Ukrainian forces are laboriously detonating one at a time. Their massive controlled blasts rattled Izium, which is roughly a two-hour drive from Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, every few minutes on Monday until dusk.

It could as well have been a different planet.

In the early days after Izium was released, one woman nervously enquired, "Is Kharkiv still Ukraine?"

There is currently a spotty mobile signal, barely strong enough for anyone with access to a power source to send texts or make calls.

But on Monday morning, anticipation for a more fundamental kind of communication was strong. More than a hundred people were waiting for the first postal delivery since February when the mail truck rolled into the parking lot of a shuttered market.

"I am relieved when the letter gets delivered. It suggests that things are improving in life. "We will continue to live and hope for the best," said Volodymyr Olyzarenko, 69. He was already aware of what was in the package that his grown children had sent: warm clothing for his brother.

But difficult days will still come.

In a forest on the northern outskirts of town, a site with, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, more than 440 burials was found last week. Now, investigators are exhuming the dead to begin the gruesome task of identification. Russian government representatives have denied ownership of the facility.

The entire village of Kamyanka is an explosives danger on the southern periphery, where the worst combat happened. Out of the 1,200 residents, just 10 are still present.

Bombs and bullets are dispersed over almost every yard. The weather is only starting to have an impact on the white Z, which is rusting away in someone's driveway. The only sound as the sun sets is the barking of dogs whose owners have left them.

They stayed because it was home, according to Natalya Zdorovets, the matriarch of a five-person family that makes up half the village's population. On March 5, they lost contact with the outside world.

"We were isolated. The world was closed off from us. We had no idea what had transpired. Because we just lived here, we had no idea what was going on on the nearby street, she remarked, pointing to a yard populated by hens, ducks, cats, and dogs.

The dwellings that the scared people had left behind were occupied by about 2,000 Russian soldiers. The village then abruptly went quiet a little over a week ago. Before the Ukrainian army showed up, the family was unaware of the reason.

Zdorovets remarked, "We wept and laughed at the same moment." "When we saw them, we weren't ready. We were not aware of the news.