Ukrainian soldier, home on leave, reflects on horrors of war

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WROCLAW, Poland, Aug. 19 (Reuters) – For Ukrainian soldier Dmytro Dovzhenko, embracing his family back in Poland after six months on the front lines is particularly poignant as he tries to clear his mind of the image of a mother and child whose mutilated corpses were bound together.

In early March, he encountered the corpses in Irpin as his unit fought to liberate the suburb of Kiev from Russian troops.

“The child was attached to the mother and then they were both bloated,” he said in his small apartment in the western Polish city of Wroclaw, where the family moved in 2019.

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He also showed Reuters phone footage of a hospital he said he visited in nearby Bucha, where the bodies of people of all ages had been deposited as part of Ukraine’s cleanup operation.

Russian troops are accused of committing atrocities while occupying the once-green city outside the capital at the start of the nearly six-month-old war.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians during the war, calling allegations that its troops executed civilians in Bucha a “monstrous fake”.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow did not respond to a request for comment on Dovzhenko’s reports of the war, which Reuters was unable to independently verify.

One of thousands of soldiers believed to have come from abroad to fight in Ukraine, the 41-year-old – who has also seen action in the south near Kherson – can now enjoy the simple daily activities he has been doing since late February. missed.

He has spent his short time at home before returning to the front to cook, cuddle his two small children and take long walks with his wife Oleksandra.

“I don’t really know, I may have a very small chance of returning to my wife and children (again). But this work has to be done,” said Dovzhenko, who leads an organization of Ukrainian veterans living abroad . .

‘WE NEED A LOT OF WEAPONS’

He fought against Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region in 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine, but this time the conflict is more brutal, he said.

“There used to be a battle line – our country is here and there was a legal demarcation. Now there is no such line. And all the missiles, the shots, everything that Russia uses now, was not there before,” Dovzhenko said.

With no signs of a slowdown in the Russian advance and the defeat of the Ukrainian army, Dovzhenko has little patience with Western voices expressing concern over the course of the war but offering no tangible help.

“Someone is very concerned when missiles fall on our heads. If you are so concerned, we can switch places. I invite them to Kharkov or Mykolaiv. Their concern will be much needed there,” Dovzhenko said.

“We just don’t have enough weapons right now. We need a lot of weapons, artillery, missile systems and new guns for the infantry. We also need a lot of technical help.”

In an effort to reconcile the stark contrast between life in Ukraine and Poland, things he once thought normal, such as pedestrianized streets, suddenly seemed bizarre.

“I was driving and a helicopter flew over the route. Maybe it was the police, maybe an ambulance, I don’t know,” he said.

“I almost had an accident because I suddenly wanted to turn, because if you see a helicopter in Ukraine, it means you’re going to fight. So I said to myself: stop, stop, stop, stop.”

But as the sun shone in Wroclaw, Dovzhenko and his wife remained focused on trying to enjoy their last hours together before returning to Ukraine.

“It’s always a party when he’s here,” said a tearful Oleksandra. “He’s a wonderful husband and father… We do everything we can so we can be together.”

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Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kuba Stezycki; Edited by John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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