Hunger was evident in Lyman but the survival instincts were even sharper.
It was honed especially among the Lyman inhabitants who stayed through months of fighting, bombing, and the Russian occupation. And there are a surprisingly large number of them.
We saw crowds on the outskirts of town, gathered around a small warehouse where there were rare emergency supplies.
Now that the fearsome sounds of battle were far away, many appeared for the first time since the Russian army’s rapid withdrawal about a week ago.
But life after the liberation of this town of Donbas is still an extremely harsh test of endurance. There is little food, no electricity, no running water and no communication. They were cut off from everything as war broke out around them, drawing closer and closer until it finally set up camp inside their town.
They only realized the fighting had continued and control of the town had changed hands as the howls of war died down.
So word of mouth about the bread being given immediately led to long queues and almost no despair in the crowd as each person tried to secure one of the aid boxes.
Empty and Doubtful Stomach
“I’ve been waiting for hours,” complained an elderly woman.
“My legs are very tired. What do you think? I’ve been cooking rice on the fire for months now. You think that’s the good life?”
When another pensioner using two crutches was called before her in the queue, she cried out again.
“You weren’t like that before,” she told the old man, looking at his crutches suspiciously and looking at him with disdain and suspicion at his limp. An empty stomach and war fatigue have destroyed everything but some of the most basic impulses in some people.
A big and angry argument broke out between a mother of four and an elderly woman. Who needs more emergency supplies have ended.
But Olga brought her young son, and she will not lose this fight.
“People have become very aggressive,” she said.
“I thought war would bring us all together. But no, war did the opposite. Everyone only cared about themselves and didn’t help each other. Everyone took care of themselves.”
In the end, both women were among those receiving aid. A kind of unpleasant harmony is restored…for now.
A town that has finally given up its secrets
The prolonged fighting as the Ukrainian army entered the Donbas meant that the forests, the town of Lyman and the surrounding areas were finally giving up their secrets.
National police chief Ihor Klymenko, who is in Lyman, said he was called to experts including a UN team after police were guided to two mass graves that could be several hundred people. buried together, including infants and older children.
“We first interrogated every civilian who stayed in Lyman during the occupation and we discovered that there had been a number of burials,” he said.
“We checked the sites and then started excavating. And when we exhumed some of the bodies, we called in experts – investigators, forensics and prosecutors – and then, The full excavation begins.Only after they have been examined can we answer questions about how they died; when they died, and whether they were civilians or military in the graves. group. “
We saw large tents and teams of investigators – some in hazmat suits – sifting through the graves to try to determine the truth but the police asked us not to film the area or the work. their own until they establish some facts.
And there are still a lot of Russian bodies discovered before the Ukrainian attack. Those we discovered in the forest around Lyman and nearby towns also liberated by the Ukrainian army are now eaten by wild flies and rats. But they lay there, mostly untouched.
Booby trapped by Booby
Some were found with booby traps underneath, so demining teams focused first on roads and mountain tops. The small demining group we’re working with says they find about a hundred landmines daily – including the world-wide banned cluster bombs that are disguised as leaves to remain undetected and cause harm. maximum damage.
The head of this anti-mining group is Anatolyy Krasnopyorov and he says: “We found a lot of them in Donetsk – especially the ‘leaves’. They are banned by the Geneva Convention but they (the Russians) are still there. throw them all around.”
He continued: “There are also various anti-personnel mines that are also banned under the Geneva Convention. They are called black widows and they can shoot off half of your leg.”
Alex Crawford reports from a newly recaptured Lyman and the front lines in Eastern Ukraine with cinematographer Jake Britton and producers Chris Cunningham and Artem Lysak