Today, a traffic jam has formed on the way to the Ukrainian city of Gostomel, aggravated by the fact that the bridge over the Irpin River was destroyed when the Russians advanced in the first days of the war. Now this is an ordinary trip from Kyiv to Gostomel, Irpin as well as Bucha – sites of some of the worst atrocities of Russian troops in Ukraine.
In Gostomel, life resumed among the ruins, broken windows and blackened buildings. The local street market has returned to the Gostomel glass factory, which is now destroyed and closed. The sounds of impacts echo down the street, where a corner store is being remodeled with new plywood and colorful lettering.
“People live here on suitcases, many have lost their jobs,” says Mikhail Neymet, 48, the shop owner.
He watched wearily as the work was done. He only opened a store on the second day, which, according to him, was destroyed by the Russian army.
“I hope everything will be OK. Hope dies last,” he said.
At higher prices, it is more difficult to buy and sell in the market. And all the quality fruits and vegetables from the southern regions of Kherson, Zaporozhye and Mykolaiv, the traditional harvesting areas of Ukraine, are now inaccessible, lost under Russian occupation.
Neumet has family in the US and Europe. According to him, he can always go there and leave the country.
“But for what? This is our homeland, we must restore our homeland,” he said.
Katerina Titova, 35; Alexey Titov, 36 years old; and her family in the future. They fled Gostomel on March 4, the day after the Russians bombed their garden, destroying her brand new jewelry workshop as well as the neighbor’s house. Windows were shattered in the main house, leaving huge holes in the brick wall and pieces stuck inside among family photos.
After that, the couple left the house on foot along with their two children, 10-year-old Makar and 5-year-old Taisia, and eventually reached the relatively safe Kyiv. When they returned at the end of May, they could not believe that their house was still standing and that the Russians had not penetrated inside.
“I went around, stroking him like a cat, calling him “my dear, we will fix you, my dear,” Titova said now, laughing at her love for this place, which she calls home.
There was never any question that they would not return.