Kyiv is a big city about the size of NYC. So, walking to Bucha is about the equivalent of hiking from the Empire State Building to the eastern edge of Queens. About 15 miles.
Hiking has always been the plan for me to get around Ukraine. Originally, the plan was to stay in the west and hike from Lviv to the nuclear plants in Rivne, then to Khmelnytskyi, then back to Lviv. All that changed when the Russians relinquished their plans on Kyiv and its environs, at least for now. It also meant that I was going by train to Kyiv. So aside from some walking around the capital city, this hike to Bucha is my first real bit of exercise since I’ve been in Ukraine, so says my Apple Watch which clocked me in at 6.3 miles yesterday. "Woohoo!" says my doctor.
It’s a bit surprising to me that I have yet to see any real signs of destruction in Ukraine, though I’m certain that is about to change as I head deeper into the western suburbs including Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, and Makariv. I plan to arrive for the weekend, spend Easter in Bucha, then wait out the expected rain until hitting the road again. We’ll see.
Also surprising to me is how Putin ever thought the Russians would just drive into Kyiv on what must have been the same highway I walked along. It is flanked by one big building after another for miles on end. Apartment buildings, office buildings, shopping malls, etc. Not to mention the endless residential sprawl that makes up all modern cities. Just imagine the Russians trying to take NYC by coming up I-95 while being targeted by a well-armed, superiorly led, determined army all of whom are living by the New Hampshire state motto: “Live Free or Die”. An army that is equipped with Javelin and Stinger missiles, entrenched in massive steel-reinforced concrete buildings, raining hell on you as your column strains to come in past one fortified crossroad after another. I imagine Bruce Willis in Die Hard with thousands of professional soldiers on his side in high rises all along the way, everywhere they went. Then add in a Kyiv populace of millions that hate the Russians–especially now–with Molotov cocktail-making grandmoms, and their sons and daughters ready to try every possible guerilla tactic ever developed while evolving new ones.
In hindsight, I suppose the Russians never stood a chance here.
I’ve got another long walk tomorrow to get to where the fighting for Kyiv took place in earnest. It’s also where Russia’s viciousness is on full display.
I’m sure I’ve never experienced anything like it before.