11/23/2022 – War update and commentary: The screams of Kherson

From Jamie Peipon: In the picture, you can see a room that was used as a torture chamber in the city of Snihurivka, which is north of Kherson. Earlier on during the war, I drove a woman and her three daughters out of Ukraine and they were from this town. I wrote up a story on their experience months ago. They were leaving because they had been hearing of the atrocities occurring around Kyiv and they had russian soldiers and their equipment right around the corner from their house. The mom kept imagining those stories being about her daughters and that finally drove them to leave. Months later, I can still remember the feeling of relief from all of them in the car once we had crossed the border and were in Poland. It was like they had seen the sun shining for the first time in months.

If you wonder why the freeing of Kherson was met with such joy in the streets, this is why. When the occupiers come, they aren’t just bringing an alternative government. They don’t bring the same basic life with slightly different packaging. Occupiers come and bring death. This room was not a torture chamber before. Every place where russian soldiers begin occupying Ukrainian territory, torture and death inevitably follows. According to eyewitnesses, these are not isolated occurrences – this is russia’s game plan for occupation. As journalists have flooded into Kherson, they are reporting that stories of arrests and torture are so common that residents can rattle off one story after another as if they were listing the errands they had run on the previous day. There are also plenty of accounts from those who were actually tortured. One such victim, a man named Maksym, rhetorically asked, “Do you know what the scariest part was? It was hearing the screams.” That was life for eight months in Kherson and freedom from it is worth celebrating. This is also an extremely motivating factor for freeing more territory as quickly as possible. Ukrainians know experientially that their fellow countrymen in occupied territories are still screaming.

Shockingly (or maybe not at this point), russian soldiers even treat their own comrades as garbage. Ukrainian investigators in Kherson looked into reports at a local landfill. They found that as they retreated from the Kherson area, russians were burning the dead bodies of their killed soldiers at the landfill. Some were found just buried in the trash. There’s no need even to come up with illustrative verbiage to express how little regard russia has for its own people. They literally treat their own soldiers like expendable garbage.

There has been little movement on the front lines as Ukraine is in a very muddy season. There is a great word in Ukrainian to describe the current conditions: bezdorizhzhia. It literally translates to “roadlessness.” While unseasonably warm temperatures help prevent a deepening of the energy crisis, it also makes for impassable road conditions following the rain during the fall. I don’t anticipate a quiet winter as many analysts have predicted. I think that Ukraine will look to push forward as soon as all the conditions (including the weather) are just right.

“I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.”

One response to “11/23/2022 – War update and commentary: The screams of Kherson”

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