When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Geopolitics

Dymer Diary: My Month Under Russian Occupation

This is the story of Olga Simonova from Dymer, 50 kilometers north of Kyiv, which was occupied by the Russian army as a base for their assaults to the south. It was a time of great fear and uncertainty, as Simonova is still assessing the damage and searching for those who have disappeared.

​A man putting the Ukrainian flag on a roof in support of Ukraine

The areas around Kyiv are now back in Ukrainian control

Victoria Guerra

KYIV — Olga remembers that the first military equipment started arriving in Dymer, her small hometown north of Kyiv, on Feb. 25. The next day, the lights went out. And then the "heat" started.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

From their friends in Katyuzhanka, which is 10 kilometers away, the residents of Dymer found out that there were Russian guards stationed there. "We understood that something was wrong," says Olga. "They [the Russian army] believed that this was their land; they behaved like masters."


"During the first week, we were not very popular with them. They mocked us and went to the Lyutizky bridgehead. They had some kind of interest in that bridgehead. I do not know how to explain it, but the Russians followed the paths of the Germans in World War II and the Lyutizsky bridgehead was their main target. It is located 15 kilometers away from us. But because there was no electricity and the pumps on the dam stopped working, the Irpin river returned to its previous levels.

Burning bridges

Olga explains that the occupying troops had to change their plans with the river filled back up. "The Russians tried to force their way across, but they were already met there by our troops," she recalled. "They came back very angry."

For the first few days, locals were able to evacuate from Dymer via a small bridge to Ivankiv, about 35 kilometers away — not by car, but by foot. All the bridges had been destroyed.

Within a week, the Russians began to entrench in Dymer. "I finally found out what a trench looks like," Olga says. "The Russians liked it here; there were a few stores. There were also a lot of factories where it was convenient to have equipment. They occupied the plant of a business that moved to us from Donetsk eight years ago. At the plant, the Russians developed their ammunition warehouse, and they started to actively take local people into the basement. They detained and killed them there."

Some captives were saved by a local man. "I don't know who that man was, but he knew from somewhere that the captives were being held there. Thanks to him, they were able to get out," Olga says.

Searching for hospital supplies

The whole time the occupation lasted, Olga helped her mother working in the hospital.

"I always had a sense of guilt when I talked to them. They said: 'Olga, you don't know what it's like to be shot. Now, when we went into the bomb shelters and dragged the dogs in, I remembered those conversations and thought that now I knew what it was like to be shot at."

At the beginning of combat operations, the doctor began to receive injured people. "And along with the patients, a disaster. Our hospital had no surgical departments, so there were no adequate medications," says Olga. "I was looking everywhere to find the necessary medications. People were willing to help, but how can they get to us? All bridges are destroyed; one of the only crossings was closed for two months."

Olga received a phone call from friends who said that the Ministry of Health was collecting a list of medicines to somehow deliver them to the occupied territories. "Our mobile phones were jammed; you could only get them at the very roof of the hospital, where the pigeons were. And I ran there, trying to send information and photos of the victims to the Ministry of Health," says Olga.

\u200bMember of the Red Cross in a bombarded street, Ukraine

Member of the Red Cross in a bombarded street, Ukraine

Червоний Хрест України

Communication blackout

"The complete lack of information takes away hope. Without communication, we did not know what was happening in other places, and the Russians told us that they had already taken over half of Ukraine and would soon take over the river," Olga says. "But we still did not believe it, because we have our Ukrainian army, our angels and defenders. Our biggest dream was to see our troops."

They were as angry as dogs

Olga recounts another time the Russian troops came back very angry from one of their forays into Hostomel, a town 30 kilometers south, closer to Kyiv:

"They got bombed there, and they were as angry as dogs. And in three days they gathered again for Kyiv. Interestingly, they did not even know what was happening at other checkpoints — they had no connection with each other, and they had to destroy their phones because commanders said so."

\u200bPhoto of a Ukrainian bombed out bridge

Photo of a Ukrainian bombed out bridge

yuliana_milevskaya

Looting on the way out

Three days before Russia announced that it would withdraw its troops from the region, their troops started going inside all the buildings and dragging belongings out of them.

"It's a shame I didn't take pictures of that military vehicle — it had everything in the world on it: chairs, carpets, chandeliers. Everything was piled up, tied up and THEM sitting on top," says Olga. They also stole the off-road vehicles and "proudly" transported the locals' property. During these 35 days, 30 young men and girls were taken into captivity.

"Now the Ukrainian military is inspecting all the infrastructure. A mass grave was found in Katyuzhanka; there are about 40 people there [editor's note: this information has not yet been officially confirmed]. An exhumation is underway. We still do not know who they are, whether they are from Dymer. A volunteer from the Red Cross was also taken into captivity. There is no news about him. It is scary. Where do we go to look for the victims? So far no one knows."

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ