At the entrance to my building I saw three graves
I don't want to think back to how I walked the last three kilometers; I will just say that I put a note in my breast pocket, next to my passport: "If you find my body, please notify my father” and his phone number.
Anyway, I had to save my pets. I reached the house under the roar of artillery and machine gun bursts. Several shells had hit our nine-story building, killing five neighbors, but my apartment had survived, except that all the windows had been smashed out. My frightened cats were hiding under the bathtub, and the turtle had almost gone into hibernation because of the cold. I put them all into my backpack and bags and started to make my way back out the same way. On the way I passed one of our snipers lying in a trench on the lawn.
At the checkpoint entering Kyiv, the officers examined my live baggage and let me through without any problems. The whole trip took five hours, but it took me another week to recover, listening to every distant explosion.
April, the Russians retreated, and a couple of days after the end of hostilities, I went to Irpin and Bucha. At the entrance to my building I saw three graves, and a family of five was buried in the next yard. They all died together from a missile attack.
In the first weeks after liberation, when very few people returned, I brought food for abandoned animals: there were a lot of them! Sometimes I had to climb balconies or throw food through broken windows to cats and dogs locked in apartments.
In May, power and water were restored in Irpin, and then gas. Very quickly much was restored, and by winter destroyed and burned out houses were being demolished.
Russian soldiers took over my mother's apartment in Bucha, and they left behind a complete pigsty! They put out cigarettes right on the wallpaper without getting out of bed. They threw half-eaten food onto the floor, and left behind garbage and dirt, but they didn’t forget to steal two new TV sets. My mother is now in Germany; my wife and daughter are in Poland.
In the summer, I was able to get to the town of Narodichi on the border with Belarus to preserve unique wooden grave monuments. I also managed to secure permission to install a monument on the site of the former Jewish cemetery in Obukhiv, Kyiv region. Before the war, with the support of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, I had planned to erect monuments at the sites of former Jewish agricultural colonies in the area of Chernobyl, as well as in cemeteries in abandoned shtetls. Prior to the current conflict, the worry was only radiation, but after the Russian army, it also became mines. Therefore, I had to put away this idea until more peaceful times.