How Poland is helping the people of Borodyanka

In the small town of Borodjanka, life is rearranging itself. The nine-story blocks of flats along Tsentralna Street stand black and silent. Whole stairwells and the adjoining apartments were torn away by bullets. Other parts of the blocks are burned out. The town hall was also destroyed. A local resident says that not a single administrative building has survived in the city.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

Borodyanka was once a town with 13,000 inhabitants. If you want to visit it, you have to drive a good hour northwest of Kyiv by car. He passes Irpin and Bucha and suddenly sees a row of burned-out armored vehicles in the forest. Irpin and Bucha gained notoriety in the first weeks of the war because of the mass abuse and murder of civilians by Russian soldiers stationed there. In Borodyanka, 25 kilometers from Bucha, there were apparently fewer atrocities. In return, the buildings suffered more. The President stood in front of the ravine that Russian shells had ripped into one of the blocks of flats Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his address on May 8th, the anniversary of the end of World War II. Here he delivered a dramatic, at times lyrical, anti-war speech in which he asked why the formula "Never again!" had still not been fulfilled. His ten-minute video, which also shows images from other cities, is one of the most moving documents of the war.

Borodyanka town hall staff can now be found in part of the classrooms of a school; here they have set up temporary offices. The survivors from Zentralna Street can be found a few streets down. Turn left, then along the sports field and to the right, and you come across a container village, which is called differently here: "Moduldorf", this term has prevailed since Germany, after the start of the war in the Ukrainian Donbass in 2014, several of these settlements for internally displaced persons in the eastern half of the country.

Life in the container village: TV room, WiFi, English lessons

Now Russia has turned the small war from back then into a big war. The number of refugees has roughly quintupled. This time puts Poland modules up. It started in April when Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki opened the first village in Lviv. Borodyanka soon followed. Here, the bunk beds offer 354 sleeping places, four per "apartment", i.e. per container. But since you can't just accommodate a stranger with a family of three, some beds remain empty, says Olha Kobsar, the "commander" of the village, as she is called here. She and her husband Olexander live in one of the containers themselves and are the contact persons for all worries.

Olha Kobsar, the

Olha Kobsar, the "commander" of the village, and her husband Olexander in their container

Image: Yulia Serdyukova

Tamara Wyschnjak and Tetjana Solohub live a few room numbers away, both around 60 years old. They lived in Borodyanka before the war. Only local residents whose houses or apartments have been destroyed should be allowed to live here. "Our block of flats burned for three days," Solohub recalls. At the beginning of the war she fled to Poland, but returned a month later after the Russians withdrew from the area Kyiv, back to Borodyanka. Today she lives in a Polish residential module. She shows a group photo of young soldiers on her smartphone. Below is her son. He is currently fighting in eastern Ukraine. "He wants to buy a night vision device for the fight, he's asking everyone he knows for donations." Tetjana lives on a pension of 2,300 hryvnia, the equivalent of about 62 euros. After all, the pensions are paid. She also works part-time as a cleaning lady "so that the grandchildren can get something for their birthday".

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