The Final Chapter of a Riveting Journey
Welcome to the last episode of our educational tour of Ukraine with NomadMania. Our story resumes in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv, where the air still holds echoes of artillery shelling and the fierce clashes between Ukrainian defenders and Russian forces.
In this episode, we delve deeper into the heart of Ukraine’s struggle, sharing personal insights and reflections. Stay tuned as we continue our journey through Bucha, Borodyanka and back to Lviv, capturing the thoughts of fellow travelers.
Irpin: A Testimony of Strategic Defence
The stark remains of a destroyed bridge in Irpin speak volumes. This wasn’t just infrastructure; it was a crucial defence line. “If the Russian troops crossed the river, it would only be a matter of time before their tanks would be rolling into the capital,” the locals recalled. This bridge symbolized the thin line between safety and invasion.
Journey into the Heart of Conflict
As we moved from Irpin to Bucha, the ambience shifted. Orest Zub, the main organizer of our tour, captured this transition poignantly:
“We didn’t even notice how we entered from Irpin to Bucha. So, these are it’s an entire large western suburb of Kyiv with a total population over 100,000 people and multiple towns around merging into each other.”
Bucha: A Silent Witness to Atrocities
The transformation of Bucha was both sudden and severe. “Bucha almost instantly went under occupation,” Orest narrated.
“Just north of here, there’s a famous historical airport, which Russian military forces wanted to occupy and use as the founding base for their massive invasion. And on the 25th of February, Russian forces were already stationed outside of Bucha, basically murdering people who were fleeing, so numerous families were killed this way, people were fleeing by cars, and they were shot.”
The Streets of Bucha: Echoes of Lost Lives
In Bucha, the aftermath was both visible and visceral. Streets and sidewalks, once lively, now stood eerily silent. The remnants of brutality were evident everywhere. This town, once a symbol of peace, became a stark reminder of the horrors of war.
A Grim Discovery
As the Russian forces retreated from Bucha in late March, the town’s eerie silence revealed a haunting truth. The once-vibrant streets, now still, were marked by remnants of violence. Orest Zub, reflecting on the devastation, said:
“There is not a single military object here…those are residential areas where people were living peacefully.”
The most harrowing sight was the bodies of civilians strewn across the town, silently testifying to the atrocities. Orest Zub disclosed, “Every particular case is researched. And at the moment, it has been reported that approximately 600 local residents have been killed.”
This revelation sparked an international outcry, demanding investigations into these potential war crimes.
Scars of War:
Personal Tales of Survival and Loss
Beyond the headlines, it was the personal stories that deeply resonated. Orest Zub shared:
“When people were murdered, they were lying on the street, and it was forbidden to take their bodies out. But once the number reached a critical level… it was arranged that they could be buried in the mass grave here by the church.”
This church, once a sanctuary of peace, became a memorial to the tragedy, with each victim commemorated by name on a memorial.
The Memorial at St. Andrew’s Church
In a particularly heart-breaking revelation, Orest Zub spoke of children who became casualties:
“Two children were also buried here. Both children were living in a house nearby, and when their family was trying to flee, they were shot by a Russian military unit.”
The mass grave at the church, now a solemn site of remembrance, echoes the profound impact of the tragedy on Bucha’s community and the unyielding spirit of those who
The Heart-Wrenching Reality of Bucha Inside the Church
Stepping inside the Church of St. Andrew in Bucha, we were confronted with a powerful photo exhibition. The images displayed the stark reality of the tragedy: abandoned bicycles beside their owners, a loyal dog waiting beside its fallen human, and groceries lying untouched next to lifeless hands.
The exhibition told stories beyond words. Some photos showed individuals with hands tied, hinting at executions, and close-range gunshot wounds. This visual narrative was heartbreakingly real, making the abstract numbers of casualties painfully tangible. It underlined the global implications of these events, raising questions about war crimes and the pursuit of justice.
A Visit to the Military Cemetery in Lviv
After a stop in Borodyanka our journey then led us to a military cemetery in Lviv, a poignant reminder of the ongoing conflict. Orest described it as a place that was not made for this purpose… and since the Russian invasion, their fallen soldiers in the recent two years have been buried here. The cemetery, with graves marked by photos of the young soldiers, brought a personal dimension to the loss, emphasizing the tragedy of lives cut short.
Walking alone amongst the graves, we were each given a candle to place on a grave of our choice. The silence was profound, broken only by the intimate act of remembering these soldiers. Orest explained the significance of the photographs on the graves, “…because you want to remember the person as they used to be, considering that most died in a very young age.”
The military cemetery in Lviv left a lasting impression on all of us. The sight of graves marked with the young faces of soldiers was a stark reminder of the war’s tragic toll.
Courage and Compassion in Lviv
As we gathered in Lviv, the atmosphere was a blend of anticipation and reflection. New travelers joined us, each bringing unique perspectives to our journey. In between exploring the city and attending the NomadMania annual award show, we shared profound experiences.
A Microphone Around the Table
At the final dinner, I sent a microphone around the table asking everyone to share their reflections on the visit to Ukraine.
Gustav Rosted, known as “Gus1TheGo,” spoke of the incredible strength of the Ukrainian spirit, saying, “These people are really, really strong, really hard to break.” Max Layerer from Austria shared a memory that stuck with him: “walking around in a 99% destroyed village… and shortly after we went to hidden volunteers’ shelter.”
Per Besson, a polyglot who’s been to every country, reflected on his repeated visits to Ukraine: “I’ve come away with an experience, so inspired, moved, touched by all the things that we’ve done.” Mette Ehlers Mikkelsen, nearing her goal of visiting every country, brought her daughter on this trip, highlighting the trip’s impact: “…how deep and meaningful travel is something that has broadened our horizon.”
Alex Rivera from Puerto Rico, new to the NomadMania group, commented on the emotional roller coaster of the trip:
“There were many moments, many emotions… I’ve cried several times, particularly today at the cemetery for the military veterans, which is very, very sad.”
Kim Borup Frederiksen from Denmark captured the essence of our trip succinctly:
“Great experiences all along but very hard also.”
His words echoed the complexity of emotions we all felt. Meanwhile, Khadija and Ed from New York provided a contrast between their home and Ukraine. Khadija expressed admiration for the bravery of Ukrainians:
“I did not expect people to be moving on every day with their daily life in the middle of another country bombing them.”
Ed detailed their experiences, from the frontline proximity in Kharkiv to the relative calm of Lviv.
“In the hotel we were in, 10 days before, there was a missile that came down into the street right by it… But because of NomadMania we were safely guided through this.”
Lee Sandberg from New Jersey spoke of Ukrainian resilience: “There’s no easy way to sum up the takeaway… Ukraine is more than just a territory, it’s a lifestyle, a state of mind.” Tony Wang mirrored this sentiment, expressing how being on the ground in Ukraine brought a deeper understanding of the conflict. Allan Have Larsen from Denmark found pleasure in revisiting Ukraine, despite the changed circumstances.
Petro Marais, who joined in Lviv, shared her feelings about missing out on the eastern part of the journey:
“I deeply regretted not agreeing to it because there’s always more reasons to collect but that’s not always such an amazing trip to join along with.”
The Journey Ahead: Plans and Promises
And with the words of my fellow travellers from the amazing educational NomadMania tour of Ukraine, it’s almost time to say: “Gotta keep moving…” And it’s also going to be the last regular show this year.
I have a lot of plans for 2024 that I can’t wait to share with you. As you know, producing these travel episodes takes a long time, but I’ll do my upmost to keep to the schedule of one a week. I probably won’t succeed when life and travels come in the way but, I’ll do what I can and that’s where my focus is going to be. Much more on that and not so much on interviews with other digital nomads and travellers. I mean, I’ll still do them from time to time, but not as many.
I do have another thing in the pipeline that I’ll share with you in the beginning of the new year. In other words: there’s so much to come. In order for me to be able to spend more time on The Radio Vagabond, I do need your help. Help me spreading the word about The Radio Vagabond. Send a message to a friend or share a link on your social media platforms.
If you tag me in a story on Instagram @radiovagabond I will reshare it in my feed too. And with this, I want to wish you a happy Christmas and a festive New Year.
My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you in 2024.
Either way, I would love to hear from you. It’s so nice to know who’s on the other end of this.
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