From Jamie Peipon: YESTERDAY- In the space of 24 hours, I was in Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne, Hostomel, Bucha, Irpin, and Kyiv. Over the following two days: all the way back to L’viv and then Krakow. That’s about 930+ miles of travel. There are a lot of things to unpack from the trip and a lot of pictures to sort through. I hope to share some stories over the coming days. In the meantime, here is a short news roundup from the past several days.
For the second day in a row today, air raid sirens in Kyiv have seemed to conincide with kids arriving at school. A new school year is already a daunting task, this year will have its own special challenges.
The US Department of Defense has reported that they are seeing Ukrainian progress in the southern counteroffensive. Some Ukrainian officials are also reporting that the US actually participated in the planning of the operation itself. But over the last couple days, that hasn’t been all. There have been confirmed reports of a counter offensive in the occupied areas near Kharkiv. This is the total opposite end of the frontline. Analysts are saying that it appears this was more an opportunistic counterattack than it was a planned one. Apparently, Russia moved so many troops down to the south that Ukraine saw an opening and went for it.
In other creative endeavors, reports have emerged that a group of Ukrainians registered fake female accounts on social media. They would use the accounts to “befriend” Russian soldiers and ask them to send fresh picture. After receiving the pictures, these Ukrainians were able to geolocate the pictures and send the information to the Ukrainian armed forces. At least one Russian base in Melitopol was destroyed using this technique.
Liz Truss was elected Prime Minister in the UK. Ukrainians are sad to see Boris Johnson go, but they are very optimistic about a hard line of continued support from Ms. Truss. As soon as it was made official, one Ukrainian official quipped on Twitter: “In Liz we Truss.” In addition, the reaction from Russia has been the opposite: harsh criticism. That is also probably a good sign for her support of Ukraine. One of her first acts as prime minister was to call Zelenskyy and set up a time to visit Ukraine.
“The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.”
TODAY: Day 196 – After driving a van with a team member from Ivano-Frankivsk to Rivne, we were on the road the next morning by 5 am. That was the earliest possible departure time because of the wartime curfew. On our way to Kyiv, we made sobering stops in Hostomel, Irpin, and Bucha along the way. Those three names (as well as others) will be names that will likely always cause the pace of this generation’s collective heartbeat to increase with anxiety. It is a suburb of Kyiv in which there is a significant military airport. As far as I can piece together the narrative from what I’ve read (and now seen), Russia assumed that they’d take Hostomel and its airport easily and then planned to quickly fly in all their equipment and reinforcements. Instead, they were met with such ruthless resistance that they had to pivot to “plan B” and drive everything in on the ground which led to the entire attack eventually bogging down. Looking back to the beginning of the war, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the main reason it was possible for me to be in Ukrainian-held Kyiv this week was the bravery and determination of Ukrainian soldiers in Hostomel.
As I walked along the streets of Hostomel, outside of the airbase that was so hotly contested, I can’t believe that any living thing could have survived what transpired there. Sheds, fences, buildings, cars… everything (EVERYTHING) had holes from bullets, shrapnel, and shells. If an object couldn’t be perforated, punctured, or pierced; it was bent, bowed, or broken. Sheds and storage units are still marked as “cleared” with chalk in Ukrainian. Just imagine the bravery required to walk systematically through all of these buildings and storage sheds, not knowing if an enemy is hiding there or if an explosive device has been rigged inside. The destruction was just shocking… and, because Ukraine has already been cleaning this area up for months, what I saw was the “sanitized” version. When in L’viv or Ivano-Frankivsk, it is possible at times to forget that you’re in a war zone. For a variety of reasons, there’s currently no chance of that in Hostomel.
Months ago, I wrote about visiting Auschwitz while in Poland. After walking through the living quarters (which are disturbing in their own right), you are led to the entrance of a gas chamber. You are warned that no talking is allowed once inside. The feeling that comes over you as you enter that chamber, where thousands upon thousands were killed in the space around you, is otherworldly and one that I had never felt before. But what had been an unfamiliar feeling up to that point returned as an unwelcome guest with whom I was now familiar. Only this time the results of the attacks were much closer in time and space. If a Nazi gas chamber feels cold and calculated, then this literal battlefield was burning and intense.
I think many people who see pictures of the destruction wonder whether or not the photographer is just zooming in on the damage for effect while other things remain unscathed nearby. I’m here to tell you that you can’t not see destruction in every direction on this battlefield.
More on Bucha and Irpin’ later.
“For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.”