Proof of the horrors local residents were subjected to during more than six months of occupation was revealed on Sept. 19 in a dark and dust-filled basement under the police station in Izium, a strategic city in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region that was liberated in its latest offensive. Among the instruments used to terrorize people were Soviet-era gas masks that had been modified to prevent the victim from being able to breathe once it was placed on the face.
“Tonight, we had five raids. If we had air defense, it wouldn’t be happening. We have it, but not enough. It’s from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s too weak. We need modern air defense. We haven’t received any yet. And you also have to learn to use it first. It’s not like driving a car.”
Many people have bloodshot eyes or skin discoloration and, in some cases, visible sores. “When we worked here our guidelines were to never spend more than half a day underground because it could make you sick,” said Nastya, a 23-year-old former train attendant who now works as a volunteer organizer. “Now there are people who haven’t left in nearly two months, and it is impossible to keep them all healthy.”
Before bedtime I stacked up the blue divan pillow blocks one over the other, placing the large ones on top in the manner of a fort. My son’s baby mattress leaned against this wall of feathers, and the cushioned roof sheltered him in his little blue bassinet.
Before Russia’s 2022 invasion, Ukraine had well-established mechanisms for documentation of those killed or missing — with more than 3,095 conflict-related Ukrainian civilian deaths documented from 2014 to late 2021. But the ferocity of the current conflict has fragmented those existing networks.
Turkey has maintained economic and diplomatic ties with Russia throughout the war, declining to join Western-imposed sanctions and hosting negotiating teams from both Kyiv and Moscow. It has also hosted admittedly failed peace talks between both sides. Yet Ankara has quietly and not-so-quietly supported Ukraine throughout the war militarily, diplomatically and rhetorically.
Bloodstained clothes, shoes (mercifully absent dismembered feet), bits of plumbing, a PJ Mask stuffie, a car seat, and dozens of books and papers. I found a certificate of an eighth-grader, Yulia Lapai, for first place at the All-Ukrainian Olympiad for the English language at her school.