Exemption not a holiday for the holiday village in Ukraine

Exemption not a holiday for the holiday village in Ukraine


Ukraine’s recent rapid advance into Russian-occupied territory liberated the resort village of Shchurove, once a forest paradise for families and fishermen taking a break from city life.

But the Russian occupation and recent bitter fighting in the forests surrounding the village have ravaged the once pretty little bungalows and country hotels and silenced the streets.

The few civilians estimate that only 20 to 30 remain of the once 200 permanent residents, and the only guests are the cheerful Ukrainian soldiers resting among the ruins.

“God only knows how we survived. Few of us are left,” said Svitlana Borisenko, 65, a widow who has lived in Shchurove all her life, even during the four-month occupation.

“It was miserable when Russia arrived, it was a disaster. They destroyed everything around them. They kicked in our doors and it was really scary.”

Borisenko was twice forced to cook and clean for the occupiers.

But on Saturday, Ukrainian troops, who last week expelled the last Russians staying in the village schoolhouse, enthusiastically took care of themselves.

– wild mushrooms –

In one of the damaged guesthouses, next to a swimming pool half filled with green water, they set up a wood-fired grill and caught and cooked a bucket of pike.

Six of the men squat around a bowl of water, cleaning and chopping a huge pile of wild mushrooms that have accumulated in a pine forest filled with the carcasses of smashed tanks.

There are occasional muffled detonations in the distance, but a mortar crew member assured AFP that Russian forces are now more than five kilometers away.

A blue and yellow Ukrainian banner now flies above the four-story schoolhouse, which is now a hollowed-out ruin surrounded by concrete splinters and spent bullets.

Inside are hundreds of unused Kalashnikov cartridges in Russian ammo crates, amid the filthy bedding and abandoned clothing left behind by the sudden withdrawal.

Nearby live 75-year-old Zynaida Chupryna and her son Ivan Lobachov, 43.

The tail of a mortar shell is sticking out of the flowerbed by her bungalow, the warhead buried in the sandy soil. Two craters are visible in her back garden.

Splinters from one of the blasts pockmarked the back door and the modest home’s asbestos roof was partially ripped off – allowing rainwater to collapse the interior ceilings.

“I’m trying to clean up because… we’re not dirty. Look what they did to us. We’re still human,” Chupryna told AFP.

“We’re crawling around in the basement. What else can we do? They bomb all the time. If you go upstairs, you’re done.

As fond of nature as the tourists who came to the banks of the Siversky Donets to relax before the war, Chupryna says she longs to swim in the river again.

Their son Ivan, a former forest ranger who retired after losing his eye in an accident, said Russian soldiers twice offered the couple food.

– car battery –

However, he suspected the offer was a ruse: the troops wanted to collect personal data in exchange for help, perhaps to issue Russian papers to Ukrainian residents.

Now the two have received a single aid package from the World Food Program containing seven kilos of rice and enough oil and canned meat for two weeks.

They have no electricity, but Lobachov hooked up a car battery to a transistor radio and knew an explosion had damaged the bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea.

To the extent that it spelled defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin, he took bitter consolation from the news. “It’s good, I’m glad,” he said, looking lost.

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