When it comes to the western Kyiv suburbs, atrocities are at the extreme in Bucha. Building damage is at the extreme in Irpin.
It wasn’t easy getting into Irpin. I had to go through two checkpoints and then walk a few kilometers to the center of town. The damage is everything we saw on the news. Devastated apartment buildings and destroyed homes everywhere; the focus of weeks of Russian artillery bombardments, much of it from occupied Bucha next door. In particular, the road from Bucha was the scene of an armored assault that left block after block completely flattened. It reminded me of scenes from Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes, though here it smells of smoke.
Had the Russians gotten through they would have had a straight shot into Kyiv, though in many ways the challenges would just have begun I suppose. This place is still a half-hour drive from downtown Kyiv. Before the bridge was blown and fortifications installed in the middle of the highway.
It was a beautiful town with lots of parks. One of which I took a break in the center of town. I had the park all to myself–with three wandering dogs. Fortunately, most of Irpin was evacuated before the worst happened as citizens saw the advancing columns. Some are beginning to return to see how their homes fared.
Certainly, things are coming back. Electricity is coming back online. Markets will reopen. The main bridge that was blown already has a new workaround bridge. Traffic jams have returned.
When I walked through Irpin on April 18th, it was nearly a ghost town. A ghost town with spring flowers beginning to blossom juxtaposed to the deserted, extensively bombed-out realities that will take a long time–and great amounts of resources–to bring back. I saw power crews and workers trying to get markets reopened, but it is a far cry from what we would expect here in the West in the aftermath of such devastation. No FEMA here. In fact, over the course of the 4 weeks I was in Ukraine I can only remember one vehicle with a red cross on it.
It appears these towns and their citizens are on their own.