Polish village shaken after rocket explosion

Polish village shaken after rocket explosion


When an explosion rocked a small Polish village near the Ukrainian border, resident Joanna Magus’ first thought was that something had happened at the nearby grain drying plant.

The reality was far more ominous – a missile of disputed origin had hit Przevodow, killing two people and placing the village at the center of a dangerous episode in the Ukrainian war.

“I’m scared. I haven’t slept all night,” said Magus, 60, an elementary school teacher in the village, which is about four miles from the border.

“I hope it was a stray missile, otherwise we are helpless,” she told AFP news agency on her way to work in a place where only a few hundred people live.

Russia on Wednesday blamed Ukraine for the deadly blast, with Belgium saying it was likely caused by Kiev’s air defenses firing at Moscow’s incoming missiles.

The fallout immediately sparked concerns that NATO could be dragged directly into Russia’s war against Western-backed Ukraine, but the situation calmed down as officials pushed against a hasty verdict.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said the blast happened around 1440 GMT on Tuesday and residents said it struck a local grain drying plant near a school.

When the missile hit, Magus was sitting at home with her window looking out on the grain dryer.

“I heard a huge explosion, a terrible explosion, so I went to the window and I saw a huge cloud of dark smoke … I saw people running,” she said.

“I thought maybe something had happened to the grain dryer that one of the devices broke and exploded.”

She said her husband was outside near the scene of the blast at the time, so she called him and found out he “pretty saw what happened.”

“He was scared, said something had exploded and two people were feared dead. From there the panic was total,” she added.

– ‘Didn’t expect that’ –

The two victims were males in their 60s, both involved in local grain drying.

Ewa Byra, the primary school principal, said one of the dead was married to the school’s cleaning lady. The other man was the father of a former student.

“We didn’t really expect something like this, even when accidents happen, especially when the war is only six kilometers from the village,” she told AFP.

Local authorities have declared a three-day mourning after the blast.

An AFP journalist at the scene said the blast site had been cordoned off and a photo released by police showed a crater littered with metal debris and a truck-sized vehicle thrown on its side.

Officers stood on the paved road leading to the village, which apart from the school has only a few buildings, a church and a cemetery.

Local parish priest Bogdan Wazny told AFP the area had emptied when news of the rocket broke and nobody came to mass on Tuesday afternoon – a first for the village.

He said he knew both victims well.

“They were really nice. They helped the community whenever I asked for help,” Wazny told AFP.

“We recently redesigned the facade of the church and one of the men helped with that.”

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