The man we met in an apartment building in Irpin, Ukraine, had tears in his eyes when he retold the events of March 6th 2022. His name is Nikolai. “It was the most terrible day,” he sighed while petting his pug who had also survived the ordeal. Nikolai’s town was occupied by Russian soldiers who ploughed down the streets stopping for nothing, including humans. He had already escaped from them once before, when they stole Crimea and he no longer could speak or act freely. It was like being a prisoner in his own hometown and he left for a better life close to the capital.
Now Putin’s soldiers seemed intent on destroying and killing everything on their path here too. When the bombs started falling, they hid in the basement, scared and vulnerable. All the neighbors from the apartment complex huddled together, listening to the sounds of war outside. When it didn’t cease, he got into his car together with his family and pug, put a white flag on the car, taped signs on the windows that said: children, and joined the row of other civilians who tried to flee the terror. They were in 20 civilian cars. Surely the soldiers, even though they were the enemy, would have the decency to let innocent people, children nonetheless, pass. They didn’t. The convoy, white flags waving in the wind, were blocked by the Russian tanks. A narrow path was open between the tanks and the wall of a building and six of the cars attempted to make it through. He watched as all the passengers in the cars in front of him were killed. His neighbors. The rest of them were eventually allowed to go back to where they came from. To the block that was under attack.
In the basement they continued to listen to explosions and felt the ground shake. When there was a lull in the loud blasts, one family decided to try to go back upstairs to their apartment, retrieving belongings. It was exactly then that a rocket hit the building, killing the father and grandfather of a little child, the husband of a young mother. The mother and child escaped. It took one whole month before the bodies of the two dead men could be brought out from the destroyed apartment. By that time, the mother had taken her child and escaped to Germany.
It is the capacity for evil that baffles me. Why do humans turn into monsters that kill children? There were children in those cars. And they killed them. No territory, no political victory, no promise of promotion and status will ever justify the killing of innocent children.
As long as we have voices, as long as we can act, as long as we can show love in the face of evil, we must continue to do so.
Hanna is from Kharkiv. Last week, she went back to her war-torn home.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out, ‘Stop!’