As It Happens·Q&A

She fled Bucha with her son. Now the Ukrainian city has become a battlefield

Mykhailyna Skoryk hopes she will one day return to the “beautiful, modern” Ukrainian city she calls home.

Mykhailyna Skoryk, adviser to Bucha’s mayor, is working to get supplies to those who stayed behind

A local resident looks at the destroyed building on in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, on March 1. (Serhii Nuzhnenko/The Associated Press)

Story Transcript

Mykhailyna Skoryk hopes she will one day return to the "beautiful, modern" Ukrainian city she calls home.

Skoryk is an adviser to the mayor of Bucha and lives in nearby Irpin. The two neighbour cities are just north of Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. She fled on March 4 with her six-year-old son, while her husband stayed behind to fight.

And there's been no shortage of fighting in Bucha. Ukrainian officials say violence has intensified in the suburbs and towns surrounding Kyiv as Russian forces try to take the capitol.

Skoryk, meanwhile, has been working with her municipal colleagues to get food, water and medicine to residents trapped inside the besieged city. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay. 

As far as you know, what is the situation in Bucha today?

Until today, there was no possibility to drive [into] the city [with] any supplies.

They have no gas. [They] have no electricity. The water lines are broken. So they live like in medieval ages, just cooking food by using wooden materials and cooking food … they kept in their houses before the occupation.

And how many people are we talking about?

We didn't know exactly the number of the people because lots of them were walking out from the city [at] their own risk.... But we think that it's [between] 5,000 to 10,000 people. And we know that there are lots of families with kids and a very big amount of elderly people who can't walk out themselves. 

The situation is really very hard. There is no mobile [phone signal] or any other connection with those people, so we don't even know how to maintain relations with those who stayed.

Mykhailyna Skoryk, right, with her 81-year-old father, left, six-year-old son, and another relative. (Submitted by Mykhailyna Skoryk )

You said that the Russians have surrounded the town. Are they actually inside as well?

If you look at the photos and the videos from the people who stayed, you will see tanks [outside] private houses. 

They parked their tanks in the areas between the houses and they live there like [it's] their own homes, in the … apartments of the people who, instead of staying in their rooms, are hiding somewhere [so as] not to be killed by Russians.

Is the resistance going on?

Civilians … can't fight with the tanks. But every day we see the Ukrainian army reports that they are trying to move Russians out of the city. 

So the Ukrainian army is at least attempting to push the Russians back, but so far, not with a lot of success?

Yes. Bucha now, it's like [a] battlefield inside. Every day, almost every day, there are lots of battles in different parts of the city.

You have been part of the efforts to try to evacuate people. What are the challenges that you're running into?

At the beginning, there was only one way to evacuate — just encourage people to walk [out of the city at] their own risk because it was not possible to drive [out], because Russians shoot at everybody who tried to do that.

But after these Ukrainian-Russian negotiations on the state level, they allowed us … five [humanitarian] corridors at the moment, and four of them were the corridors for evacuated people who could walk to the centre of the city and sit inside the school buses. Evacuation is [happening] on school buses. Can you imagine that?

And today [for the] first time, they allowed us to drive in supplies. So today was [the] first time when we succeeded to bring in some food and some medicine inside the city thanks to these negotiations. So officially, [the residents of Bucha] received … four school buses full of all different stuff they need.

People walk amid destruction as they evacuate from a contested frontline area between Bucha and Irpin on March 10. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

What was it like for you when you left with your family?

I am happy to be with my family — part of my family, because my husband, of course, stayed in Ukraine. And I am happy that my kids are in [a] safe place. 

But at the same time, it's very big pain because when I see the ruins of our city — which was very beautiful, modern with lots of new buildings and with very beautiful parks, and we had lots of plans [fo]r how to develop … the city and the community — that's very painful. 

I understand very well how [much] money we [will need to] invest to rebuild all that after the occupation, when the city will be de-occupied. I have a big hope that maybe in the nearest future, this city will be de-occupied. 

At the same time, I understand very well that Bucha is very close to … Kyiv, and the fights inside the city, that's really the fight for … Kyiv. Russians want to move inside the capital of Ukraine, and we are stopping them for more than 10 days.

You mentioned your husband stayed behind. Is he fighting?

He's part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

You must be very worried.

Yes, that's true. Because I understand that if you compare the amount of Ukrainians and Russians, we know that Russia is bigger and has more people. But I hope that the world, the other countries, will support Ukraine, that we will win this big fight.

What was it like when you had to leave your husband? We hear these stories, and I'm just trying to put myself in your place. What was that like?

Of course, we were crying the last night. And we were explaining to our son what is happening, why his father should stay, because they are very close. They were very close to each other. They were playing computer games and went shopping together, and my son is missing his father very much.

But that's the law: that all the men should stay and should fight in Ukraine. And I think that's the only way … we could save at least some peaceful areas in our country. 

Ukrainians, all Ukrainians who could fight, should do that.

You and your son are safe for now. You're out of the country. Do you wonder whether you will ever be able to return home?

I hope I will. I have learned the history very well, and I know for sure that all the wars finished in our past. I hope that this war will finish as well.

But at the same time, I understand that even in Western Europe, my family might not be safe enough. Because I see that if Ukraine [does] not stop [Russian President Vladimir] Putin there, he would move further. I'm almost sure his plans might be not only Ukraine, but also all the former Soviet Union-controlled Eastern European countries.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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