In the first days [of the war], there was no combat in Borodyanka. Most of the fighting was happening in Hostomel, we could hear the artillery here. Russian troops entered Borodyanka around February 27. Columns of [military vehicles] came from the direction of Pripyat, through our town, toward Hostomel and Makariv. They had all kinds of problems, their tanks would break down, and they’d run out of fuel.
During the first days, [the troops] behaved themselves, no one-shot anyone, but in two days, things went to hell. They started bombing the town, and people’s homes, looting stores. The soldiers would shoot up a store from their tank, take everything, fill up the tank, then move on to the next target. They destroyed two large central shopping centers and a lot of little shops.
With each passing day, the relationship with the civilians became more violent. No one stood on ceremony with the locals here.
A person would come out to peek around the corner and see what’s happening and wouldn’t even have time to run down to the basement before someone started shooting at them.
They didn’t let people pick up dead bodies. They’d shoot to kill without any warning.
Civilians were forbidden from using the roads. Whenever anyone went out into the street, they’d get killed instantly. Russian columns bombed everything in sight. They rode through town indiscriminately, shooting at buildings. A lot of the nine-story buildings started crumbling from all the explosions.
The soldiers went into every house looking for men. They took everything they could; they even took my relatives’ axes.
There was no way for anyone to go anywhere. The soldiers were doing a kind of “census,” counting people and warning us that we weren’t allowed to go anywhere or else everyone would be punished. They took away everyone’s phones with cameras so that no one could leak out any information.
I heard a story about a column of Kadyrovites [Chechen forces] coming through town. One of their soldiers jumped out of an armored vehicle and tried to open the door to a cellar that people were hiding in. He didn’t manage to break it down, so he started shooting at it with his machine gun. Luckily the people had managed to get away from the door, and no one was hurt. Then he just left.
No one understands what the [troops] were trying to accomplish. There’s no Ukrainian army in Borodyanka, just a tiny territorial defense unit. There was no active resistance—just some locals with guns. There was no point in trying to use them on their tanks. We don’t have any military targets here or army bases or anything.
But the Russian troops drove their tanks into everyone’s yards. They tried stealing their cars. They tried to take this one babushka’s car, but her relatives had already taken out the battery just in case. The Russians showed up with their own, but they still couldn’t manage to get it. Many local cars started getting the “V” symbols; the Kadyrovets drove them around blasting music and making TikToks.
They killed our town. It’s a total humanitarian disaster. There’s no gas, no power, no communications. We lost all signal back on February 28; THE soldiers took down all the cell towers. There’s no medicine.
They killed our town. It’s a total humanitarian disaster. There’s no gas, no power, no communications. We lost all signal back on February 28; the soldiers took down all the cell towers. There’s no medicine. Some of the homes on the outskirts still have gas; people out there tried to get out to their gardens and helped each other make food. Lots of people have lost their homes.
The situation with victims is horrible. Many people got trapped in the basements after the aerial attacks, and they’re still down there. They wouldn’t let rescuers through; no one could get to them. Only one of the basements had a crack in the wall. A cleaning woman took care of the people trapped inside, searching out food and water for them for an entire month. There was a family of eight down there. Because of her, they survived. They’ve finally been rescued. Otherwise, so many people have died, so many are missing.
There were a lot of bodies out in the streets. No one picked them up because they didn’t have the chance to.
I left Borodyanka around ten days after the invasion. A missile hit my house. I and my mother and dog spent the whole night in our relatives’ cellar, and then we decided to leave. The humanitarian corridors didn’t work. Sometimes they’d let people out, but mostly, they shot at the cars. But there was a spot where there were no Russian troops. Whoever managed to get through that window survived.
I came back on April 2, as soon as the Russian troops left Borodyanka. A group of other volunteers and I brought medicine. A lot of people were already on the brink of dying.
The soldiers broke into every single apartment they could. They took everything. In my building, which is 70 percent burned down, all the remaining flats on every floor have broken locks. They not only stole everything [out of my apartment], they broke everything they didn’t steal. And left two unfinished glasses of wine on my table. They stole women’s clothes. I thought I would be able to get some things from there, but there was nothing left.
There are no more troops in the city. Things are calm, but it’s impossible to live there. There’s nothing left; it’s all been blown into smithereens.