war crimes in Ukraine

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‘My husband and daughter wanted to get to Brovary on foot’

23.06.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksii Sydorenko
Valentyna Bas, a resident of Zalissia village, went to work in Brovary on 8 March. On the same day, her village was occupied by the Russians. The woman tried in vain to rescue her family. In desperation, Valentyna's husband and daughter decided to walk to Brovary, but Russian soldiers detained them.

I am Bas Valentyna Vasylivna, and we live here. We bought the house recently. I live with my husband, and my daughter lives in Brovary, where she has her apartment. We are trying to restore everything that was ruined. It’s challenging, but we try.

Could you imagine that there will be a full-scale war?

No. The only thing we did was collect all the documents in one place. We did nothing else. I couldn’t believe it... There were explosions in the distance, but only the echo reached us. We did not think that the Russians would come here. Even the thought of such a thing was not allowed. But it was scary. When they came to our village, I was at work, and my husband and daughter were in our house.

The husband called and said: “Tanks are coming.” I felt uneasy: maybe they won’t stay and pass through?

But it so happened that they first passed and then returned. The situation developed when many people could not go to work because there were no trains. Everything was destroyed. On the seventh, I left for a day and stayed on duty: we worked every other day. And on 8 March, the Russians came. My husband called and said that they were coming to the village.

Did your husband and daughter remain in the occupation?

Yes. They were here throughout the occupation. It’s hard to talk about it now. There was no mobile communication, no information: who was here, who was not. They were going on foot to Brovary — the husband and daughter with the cat in the pet carrier. They went, but a Russian sniper stopped them immediately. They took them to a large house and kept them there for a day.

How old is the daughter?

Then she was 25. But we can say that the orcs [Ukrainian name for the Russian army] were more or less human. They didn’t kill. They could have shot my husband in the forehead and taken our daughter away. It’s scary to even think about it now. She said she cried for days. She asked me to bring them back home. At first, they asked to go to the neighbors, but the Russians said: “No. To the neighbors, no, go home”. Well, at least eventually, they got home.

There were no strict conditions and they were given food. They were just kept there and later brought back home. They said the Russians visited many people but did not enter our house. There was no phone connection, no light, and they could not charge their phones. They probably lost their nerves from the explosions when they decided to go. A reckless decision, of course, but ...

How did they survive?

There was food in the refrigerators and the cellar. Thank God they ate. There was no bread. The husband smoked tea because there were no cigarettes. I called the hotlines from Brovary to find out how to get them out of there. I read a lot about green corridors in Dymerka and Bohdanivka, but there were none in Zalissia: “There is no possibility, we cannot, there are no instructions.” And then they opened a green corridor. The husband said he went out and saw the cars were driving. They tore the first rag they found, which was more or less white, and attached it to the car. Good thing the car was running. So they left. It was... Oh, I don’t remember the date. They went to Bohdanivka, to the church.

The husband said the Russians stood with machine guns and scared people, saying they would shoot.

A neighbor said they were walking on the road, and the orcs told them to go along the side of the road. And they feared it was mined there and purposely walked on asphalt. The whole column went to Bohdanivka, and then people who did not have cars were waiting for buses. Everyone gathered there and arrived in Brovary.

Valentyna Bas, a resident of Zalissia

We returned here on 10 April; we were permitted to return and arrived on the first day. Horror! Horror! Everything here was covered with slates and bricks! Windows, roofing material ... Horror!

What happened in Zalissia during the occupation?

There, near the forest, were tanks and armored personnel carriers. In that house, they took the ATVs [all-terrain vehicles] and drove through the gardens — got drunk, probably. My husband and daughter were in the basement of the house. There was an air duct, and you could see what was happening through the hole. Armored personnel carriers also stood along the street. My people didn’t come out as they were afraid.

Was Zalissia shelled?

Yes. I don’t understand much about it: what and where it flew in, where it exploded, but my husband said it was scary. It hit somewhere, but it felt like near the house. I was in Brovary for two weeks and didn’t know where those hits were, but it felt like it fell behind me. I can only imagine what emotions they had. What horrors they experienced during these two weeks.

What about your property?

We had an underground passage. The Russians blew it up. According to the people who were here, they blew it up twice. Huge boulders came flying towards our house. Some of the windows fell out, along with the bricks. There were no entrance doors, and the wall was damaged inside the house. The broken roof moved down by 15 centimeters and damaged the wall. The barn was almost destroyed. Some posts stuck out, but no roof and no walls. There laid a block that demolished everything. We just made repairs in the house; the suspended ceiling was hung on the 23rd and the 24th [Russia attacked on 24 February] … Probably, it should have been so. Thanks to the volunteers and the Red Cross for helping. Something was restored, but ... You see, we fixed the shed with what we could. There is no slate on the roof; we covered it with a tarp so it would not drip.

They drove a tank or an armored personnel carrier into the underpass because the caterpillars from the tank were lying around.

They drove a tank or an armored personnel carrier into the underpass because the caterpillars from the tank were lying around. They stuffed it with explosives and blew it up. It flew in all directions. Our fence was demolished; we have already installed a new one. It seems that a rocket hit a neighbor’s house. Shells did not hit our house, but we had enough trouble from the blast wave.

A car was parked along the road: they shot it, as I understand it. The woman had a broken collarbone. She was in the cellar with the others, and her husband was dead in the car. The Russians did not allow her to bury him. What happened next, I don’t know. As for looting, I can’t say that we have lost something. The husband checked, and everything seemed to be in place. But many others had things stolen.

When it all started, did you think about evacuation?

Me — not.


Where would I place my cats and dogs? No, I didn’t think about leaving. And since I stayed, so did my family. But it so happened that I left for a day, and they stayed here alone. Before that, everything was fine. A couple of times, I went to work and back. Well, yes, it thundered, they flew to Kyiv, but we did not think they would come here. No, we didn’t.

How many houses were destroyed in Zalissia?

Let’s say 99%. Everyone had some damage! Either complete or partial, but it affected everyone. It thundered every day. Usually in the morning, sometimes in the evening.

What are you planning to do next?

Plans for the future… First of all, for all this to end. And then, little by little, slowly, everything will return. We don’t count on much or think ahead because we look and see nothing good every day. The news is very disappointing. We wish there were no war. Everything else will work somehow.

We returned here on 10 April; we were permitted to return and arrived on the first day. Horror! Horror! Everything here was covered with slates and bricks! Windows, roofing material ... Horror!

Has your attitude towards Russians changed?

Yes, very much so. I am a mother, and my daughter will be 26. What can I say ... You listen to their speeches, and it is impossible to understand these people. Very difficult! Why did they come here and send their children to their deaths? They know that many children died on our side and theirs. Everything would’ve been much better if they didn’t come here. Their mothers... I recently watched a video of a Russian woman who said she had two daughters and four sons. “I sent four sons, but I will give birth to more.” They have no brains.

Collective responsibility! It would be better if those troops went to Red Square. It would be better if they were killed there instead of coming here. Don’t come to us, don’t kill innocent children. Kill yours to understand what it’s like. My heart aches for peaceful people and children. How many of us have died! It’s hard. And the Russians — it’s like talking to a brick wall. People don’t realize that this is the war they provoked. Maybe someone controls them — I don’t know... I have many thoughts, and they are mine. Many people may not like them.

This publication is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Human Rights in Action Program, run by the Ukrainian Helsinki Group on Human Rights (UHSHR).

The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government, or UHSHR. The authors and KHPG are solely responsible for the content of this article.

USAID is one of the world's leading development agencies facilitating the end of extreme poverty and supporting the movement of recipient countries to self-reliance and resilience. USAID also contributes to the national security and economic well-being of the United States. Its activity is a manifestation of the philanthropy of the American people. USAID has been partnering with Ukraine since 1992: during this time, the agency's total assistance to Ukraine amounted to more than 3 billion US dollars. USAID's current strategic priorities in Ukraine include strengthening democracy and good governance, promoting economic development and energy security, improving health systems, and reducing the impact of conflict in the eastern regions. For more information about USAID's activities, please contact the Public Relations Department of the USAID Mission in Ukraine at tel. (+38 044) 521-57-53. We also invite you to visit their website: or the Facebook page:

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