Ukrainian soldier on leave at home reflects on the horrors of war

WROCLAW, Poland, Aug 19 (Reuters) – For Ukrainian soldier Dmytro Dovzhenko, embracing his family in Poland after six months on the front lines comes as a special shock as he tries to clear his mind of the image of a mother and child whose mutilated bodies had been tied together.

He came across the bodies in Irpin in early March as his unit was fighting to liberate the Kyiv suburb from Russian forces.

“The child was glued to the mother and then both had been blown up,” she said in her small apartment in the western Polish city of Wroclaw, where the family moved in 2019.

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He also showed Reuters telephone footage of a hospital he said he visited in nearby Bucha, where the bodies of people of all ages had been placed as part of the Ukraine clean-up operation.

Russian forces are accused of committing atrocities while occupying the once leafy town on the outskirts of the capital early in the nearly six-month war.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the war, calling allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha a “monstrous fake.”

The Defense Ministry in Moscow did not respond to a request for comment on Dovzhenko’s accounts of the war, which Reuters was unable to independently verify.

One of thousands of soldiers believed to have come from abroad to fight in Ukraine, the 41-year-old, who has also seen action in the south near Kherson, can now enjoy the simple daily activities he has been missing since end of February.

He has spent his brief time at home before returning to the front cooking, cuddling with his two young children and taking long walks with his wife Oleksandra.

“I really don’t know, I might have a very slim chance of being able to return (again) to my wife and children. But this work needs to be done,” said Dovzhenko, who runs an organization for Ukrainian veterans living abroad. .

‘WE NEED A LOT OF GUNS’

He fought Russian troops in the eastern Donbas region in 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea to Ukraine, but this time the conflict is more brutal, he said.

“There used to be a battle line: our country is here and there was a legal delimitation. Now there is no such line. And all the rockets, the shooting, everything that Russia is using now was not there before,” Dovzhenko said. .

With no signs of a slowing in the Russian advance and with the Ukrainian army outgunned, Dovzhenko has little patience for Western voices expressing concern about the course of the war but offering no tangible help.

“Someone is very worried while rockets are falling on our heads. If he is so worried, we can change places. I invite you to Kharkiv or Mykolaiv. Your concern will be much needed there,” Dovzhenko said.

“We just don’t have enough weapons right now. We need a lot of weapons, artillery, we need rocket systems, and we need new guns for the infantry. We also need a lot of technical help.”

Trying to reconcile the stark contrast between life in Ukraine and Poland, things she once found normal, like streets full of pedestrians, suddenly seemed strange to her.

“I was driving and a helicopter was flying over the road. Maybe it was the police, maybe an ambulance, I don’t know,” she said.

“I almost had an accident because I wanted to shut down suddenly, because in Ukraine if you see a helicopter it means you are about to fight. So I said to myself, stop, stop, stop, stop.”

But, with the sun shining brightly on Wroclaw, Dovzhenko and his wife focused on trying to enjoy their final hours together before heading back to Ukraine.

“When he’s here, it’s always a holiday,” Oleksandra said through tears. “He’s a wonderful husband and father… We’re doing everything we can so we can be together.”

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Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kuba Stezycki; edited by John Stonestreet

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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