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Ukrainian border region battered after Russian attacks

Anna Pshemyska in Velyka Pysarivka, Ukraine
April 23, 2024

DW's Anna Pshemyska met with residents of the Ukrainian village Velyka Pysarivka on the Russian border — and also spoke with former residents, who've fled elsewhere for safety.


The Sumy region, six kilometers from the Russian border.

Before the bombardments in March, four thousand people lived in the village of Velyka Pysarivka. Now about five hundred are left. The regional government says Russian aircraft dropped nearly 200 guided bombs on the community over two weeks in March.

Mykola and his wife Tamara stayed to take care of their elderly parents.

Mykola, resident of Velyka Pysarivka: "My father-in-law said  I was born here, I'm going to die here, and that's it. I have to give him food, he can barely stand on his own feet."

Police helped evacuate residents from villages near the border, while local authorities organized evacuation buses. Some villages are now completely empty.

In Velyka Pysarivka, local infrastructure was destroyed — the administration buiilding, the hospital, schools. Workers were just finishing repairs on the library when the shelling started.

Liudmyla Biriukova, Mayor: "We had so many projects and ideas. But we didn't have time. We didn't have time to do it. Now I think it will calm down a little bit and we will restore it again."

More Russian airstrikes could come any time. We ask the mayor if she is afraid to stay on and work here.

Liudmyla Biriukova, Mayor: "Look, this is my house, this is my home. I'm not afraid at home."

This town about 50 kilometers from the Russian border now shelters evacuees who tell harrowing stories of Russian bombardments.

Tetiana, IDP from village of Luhivka: "Everything was flying from the sky. Something happened to my ears — I have a noise in my head and cannot hear well. The explosions are really scary, unbearable."

Nina, IDP: "I didn't want to leave, I didn't want to, up to the last moment."

Shelter residents are supposed to move on to stay with relatives, or find rental housing. It's unclear when it will be safe for anyone to return home.