American Volunteer at Bucha Morgue
I am Darrell Patrick Loveless, from Arkansas, USA. Last year I was here in Bucha in April, right after the Russians left the city. I worked in the morgue with the Ukrainian police and the criminal investigation department of the French Gendarmerie and saw with my own eyes the atrocities committed by the Russians. It was tough.
My job was to pick up unidentified bodies from trucks as they arrived. We carried them to a tent, where French and Ukrainian doctors performed an autopsy. I saw with my eyes the damage caused by the Russian soldiers who occupied the city and the variety of ways they killed and tortured people — traces of ropes on bound hands, gunshots, and shrapnel wounds. The Russians laid many mines everywhere: in children’s parks, churches, on the streets: where people walked, everywhere they could harm someone.
The bodies of hundreds of people ended up in the morgue. It was grueling. There were families there.
Many people could not be identified: they had been outdoors for so long that no one could recognize them. The French team brought their DNA specialists. DNA samples were taken from people to find out who they were. We received about 14 bodies per day, plus 200-300 bodies that were already in trucks and refrigerator trucks.
People were killed and buried in their cities. We saw these burial places. I spoke with several family members. Liudmyla’s husband was shot dead by a Russian sniper simply for going into the street. It was terrible. It was probably the most challenging thing I have ever had to do. As a veteran in the USA, I saw the victims of the war, its consequences, and everything happening in the war. But it was unlike anything I had ever seen. A vast number of people were killed. It was murder.
I have been here for over a month. We worked 12-14 hours daily to determine how these people were killed, what type of ammunition was used, etc. Most victims I saw were women, elderly people, and children. We saw very few men of military age. It was terrible. There was no reason to kill these people. Most wounds were gunshot wounds to the head. The wounds indicated that they had been executed. These were not the cases when people were accidentally injured while on the street among the fighting soldiers. These were executions, murders, and torture—lots of injuries on the body. People were burned alive. People were destroyed as if doused with gasoline and set on fire.
From conversations with some technicians who worked in the gendarmerie, I know that they took samples for the remains of explosives to determine what kind of explosive it was and where it was made. It was done to establish whether most of the ammunition seized from the bodies of the dead was produced in Russia — Russian ammunition of Russian soldiers.
A year has passed. I still see these people in my dreams. This changed me forever. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was helping family members get into a refrigerated truck so they could inspect the body bags and determine where their loved ones were.
Mass graves. It was unbearable. It’s been a year, but I still feel the pain.
My wife Sarah and I moved to Ukraine a few weeks ago: we want to get the status of permanent residents, stay in the country and support Ukraine in every possible way. Now I teach English at the MAUP Lyceum in Kyiv. I work with students in grades 4, 6, 10, and 11, teaching English. My wife is a psychologist studying for a master’s degree. Now she works online with one firm in America. We decided to live in Ukraine. I feel a connection with Bucha and the local people. It is a wonderful city. We have an apartment here in Bucha.
I have been to many city places and still smell death in the air. Even though it’s been a year, I can still feel the smell of burning. I know it’s gone, but it’s still on my mind. What I saw in Bucha last year will forever remain in my memory. I have never seen anything like it. The people who committed these crimes, the Russian soldiers who were here, must be held accountable. Vladimir Putin must be held accountable because everything depends on him. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces and bears the same responsibility for what happened as any other person who was here.
As I said, we moved to Bucha. I love Bucha.
Ukrainians are the strongest people I have ever met in my life. Their strength gives me strength.
They work wonders on the battlefield, and I felt drawn here. I just want to support Ukraine and support Bucha in every possible way. Teaching English, participating in hostilities, helping with recovery, delivering medicines to the front line — all I can do to help Ukraine. That’s why I’m here. I am happy that I can be here, put down roots with my wife and make Ukraine my home. Glory to Ukraine!
Not many people in their lives have to work 14 hours a day identifying nameless murder victims. This should never have happened. But everything I have seen shows 100% that the Russian army killed many civilians. As I said, they were older men, women, and girls 14 years old. Once, I had to get a 14-year-old girl out of a body bag. Her face was hard to recognize. Knowing she was so young, putting her on the table and watching her body cut open was difficult. This will never be forgotten. Her life was cut short too soon, but that was just one of the many other children and adults I saw on that table. With clear signs of ill-treatment, torture, gunshot wounds, and random mining, the Russians left everywhere, including playgrounds.
People are dying when they step on a mine in a playground. This should never happen.
Many news channels and Russians say it’s fake. It’s not fake. I saw it with my own eyes. I cannot express how many corpses I saw because I have lost count. We received them every day — ordinary people. People between the ages of 65 and 85 obviously did not pose a threat, but the Russian army killed them in their own homes. The evidence was documented by the [French] National Gendarmerie and the National Police of Ukraine. They documented everything. This is murder.
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: usaid.gov/ukraine or the Facebook page: facebook.com/USAIDUkraine