Liberated Ukraine: We entered Izyum, the unoccupied city

Rubble buildings, mass graves. A month after the escape of the Russians, everything is missing in Izyum, even food. The war has divided families and consciences. The young have fled, the elderly remain, who only want peace. And many of them don't care who wins

  liberated-ukraine-ap-today-42 Journey through the rubble of Izyum. And see how war changes the face of soldiers Photo Video

Like so many of the inhabitants left terror-stricken by bombing, frightened by the clanking of tanks for seven months on the road in front of her house, Olga Maros was initially extremely reluctant to be interviewed by a foreign journalist. 'Terrible events have taken place here and now our main concern remains to survive, certainly not respond to the press,' she repeated annoyed. But it was only when we asked her what the large building gutted by the bombs that could be glimpsed in the vegetation of the park behind her, right in the city center, was that Olga melted into the pain of that image and began to speak. – Photo | video

Alessia Marcuzzi in Piazza Duomo in Milan with pajamas... Alessia Marcuzzi in Piazza Duomo in Milan with pajamas...

Ukraine, their fear is that we will get tired of them – guard

THAT DEVASTATED GYMNASIO - “That is gymnasium number four, one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Izyum. I also studied in those classes. It was built at the end of the 19th century, in the middle of the tsarist era. He had withstood the 1917 Revolution and the difficult period that followed. Not even the battles of the Second World War, when the Germans occupied our region, had touched it. But, now look, the Russian bombs during the fighting in early March reduced it to rubble. The Air Force hit it hard, I think it was March 6 or 7. The firefighters could not intervene, they risked being hit in turn. Thus the fire devoured him room by room, from the roofs to the foundations. Now I think we have to tear down what's left to build a completely new one,” explains this 60-year-old pensioner. 'Within its walls entire generations of students have matured: it is a significant part of our collective identity that is being erased', she complains, this time insisting, to be filmed in front of the old broken door through which we can glimpse tangles of beams charred and skeletons of blackened shoals. Not happy, Olga climbs onto the piles of debris all around to show the craters dug by the explosions in the trees.

Mariupol as it was and as it is: the devastation of the city symbol of the war – guard

THE NOSTALGIC ELDERLY - And yet, his condemnation of the Russian attack does not actually seem as peremptory, harsh and aggressive as the policies of the Zelensky government and in general the words of the legions of refugees who fled from the occupied regions that we have met in recent months in all cities of the country that remained under the control of the Ukrainian army. “Russian soldiers generally hunted young men. A 19-year-old neighbor of ours was found a few days ago with his 40-year-old father in one of the mass graves. They belonged to the 'territorial' and ended up tortured and killed. However, we elderly people were left in peace. At least twice a month they distributed food rations to everyone left in the city. It was free, no hassle. On the other hand, they did not give drinking water, which had become our worry since the end of March, when the bombs had interrupted the aqueducts », he adds. A student met in the town square which was in turn devastated by fires puts it this way: «Here in the east of the country many elderly people remain nostalgic for the Soviet Union, which basically reminds them of their youth. I'm not pro-Putin at all, I hate war, but I'm not pro-Zelensky either. And in reality they would also have been happy to return to the Russian orbit, they love the language and culture of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. What matters most to them is to restore peace, regardless of who wins or who loses'.

“MY CHILDREN RUN AWAY” - We wander around the eastern regions that have just been freed from the Ukrainian counter-offensive, well aware of the existence of this gray area in a part of the population, which is not yet open in collaboration with Moscow, but rather emerges as a sort of apathetic passivity, especially widespread among the elderly, who are actually the majority of those who have remained at home. “My children have fled to the west,” they repeat everywhere. The police denounce the existence of mass graves with at least 500 corpses, many of them showing signs of torture. Recovery is difficult. A month after the stampede of Russian soldiers, the city still lacks electricity, water and food. The shops remain closed and every noon the inhabitants queue in front of the burnt building of the municipality to obtain food rations and civil protection blankets.
For many, the most serious problem is becoming the cold, with the approach of winter, houses without central heating become freezing cold. Already now many are walking around bundled up as if it were January, taking advantage of the warmth in the middle of the day to warm up a little in view of the next night. Civil traffic is almost nil due to lack of fuel. Izyum remains a wounded, ghostly city, with 80 percent of the public infrastructure damaged and 70 percent of the buildings affected by the explosions and in many cases uninhabitable.

Missile rain on Kiev. Tensions rise between the US and China. Russia halts wheat and corn exports – guard

AND GIVE - But the data remains clear. Izyum had 50,000 inhabitants before Putin's invasion on February 24. His battalions besieged it in early March and by the end of the month had completely occupied it, causing the flight of over 30,000 people. If they all came back, the pro-Kiev cause would be virtually unanimous. The soldiers we meet in the countryside and at the checkpoints on the outskirts smile with the «v» of victory. But what is most striking are the hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles and military vehicles, with the 'Z' of the Russian invasion contingent painted in white on the sides, destroyed, burned or abandoned intact in the countryside, on roads and sheep tracks. The Ukrainian soldiers of engineering work at full capacity to repair them or in any case to recycle what can be salvaged. 'Now more than half of our fleet has been recovered from the one captured from the Russians in over seven months,' the spokesmen in Kiev confirm. Still in Izyum, not far from the nearly four-century-old cathedral, a sentinel agrees to be photographed brandishing a Russian track shirt. 'Maybe you take it back to Italy as a souvenir,' he shouts. However, the medical officer next to him (his name is Dimitri and he specialized in surgery in Lviv) reveals that for a few days the Ministry of Health has been distributing massive quantities of iodine pills against the effects of nuclear radiation. “We do not believe that Putin will be crazy enough to use the atomic bomb. However, we try to equip ourselves as much as possible », he says. Returning to Kramatorsk we meet several villages completely razed to the ground. Long columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers with the yellow and blue flag are heading towards Lyman on the way to the next battles in the Donbass. 'The initiative is now in our hands and we will not stop,' says the national radio commentator. 'It would be stupid to waste time and give the Russians a way to regroup.'