‘Just lower the water!’ Flood fatigue in the village that brought Russia to a standstill
DEMYDIV, Ukraine: More than a year after the Ukrainian military flooded his village to stop Russia’s lightning march on Kiev, Ivan Kukuruza’s basement is still flooded and his patience is at an end.
Authorities sacrificed his hamlet of Demydiv, 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Kiev, last February by blowing up a nearby dam to stop the invading Russian army.
And while the last-ditch effort helped evade the capital from a Russian takeover, the authorities’ clean-up efforts have proved far less ingenious and far less quick.
“Just lower the water level by half. Even then, no tank could drive through here,” Kukuruza, 69, told AFP.
Ukrainian officials were reluctant to intervene, fearing a fresh Russian attack from the Kremlin’s further north allied Belarus.
Locals have left that to themselves, but with little to show for their efforts. For example, the pumps Kukuruza bought to drain his property broke because of the cold winter weather.
And the 20,000 hryvnia ($540) he received in compensation ultimately didn’t change the fact that his basement, whose shelves are lined with canned cucumbers, is still filled with semi-frozen, stagnant water.
Despite the difficulty of living in waterlogged moorland, like many older residents of Ukrainian regions scarred by the Russian invasion, Kkuruza says he’s not going anywhere.
– ‘People suffered’ –
According to Demydiv Mayor Volodymyr Podkurganny, none of the dozens of residents of Demydiv and the surrounding area whose houses were damaged accepted a government offer of resettlement.
And he sees both sides of the story.
“The initial goal was to hold Kiev, to defend Kiev,” he said in a recent interview with AFP.
The Ukrainian military did just that, detonating explosives mounted on a barrier on a huge reservoir near Kiev and sending millions of liters of water into the nearby Irpin River, which burst its banks.
It took two attempts – one on the second day of the invasion, February 25, and a second attempt two days later – to smash the dam and make crossing the river all but impossible for Russian troops pushing into Kiev.
The move bought Ukrainian troops just enough time to regroup and fight back Moscow’s troops, who were trapped in the heaving swamp around the river.
Officials in Kiev are campaigning for the waterway to be recognized as a “Hero River” — a reference to Soviet-era “hero cities” that fought back against the invasion of Nazi Germany.
While the strategy worked, Podkurganny realizes that there is another side to the story – the one where victory came at a price.
“There were consequences for the population. Two hundred households were flooded. It’s clear that people have suffered as a result,” he said.
And it is clear to him that this suffering continues, as locals ask Podkurganny to act.
“I could show you the stacks of letters I got and ask me to do something about it,” he added.
But not everyone wants action.
Environmental activists say leaving things as they are could have huge benefits for the region, which was originally a vast wetland that was drained during Soviet times.
The River Irpin, it is said, is only now coming back to life.
“Vegetation and real wildlife have returned in the past year,” says Oleksiy Vasylyuk, biologist and founder of the Ukraine Conservation Group (UNCG).
“The best thing would be to leave the valley as flooded as possible and let nature recover,” he said.
– ‘Paradise again’ –
For Valentina Osipova, it was painfully clear that the flora and fauna of her homeland had changed dramatically.
In her now barren garden, which used to grow berries and cauliflower, the 77-year-old vividly recounted how beavers took up residence there last summer.
“Beaver! You have sunbathed! In the end we actually became friends,” said the retired language professor.
The quiet idyll of their humble home, connected to the outside world by a dirt track, has been replaced by the roar of motorized pumps striving to dry up their corner of the world.
Still, she has hope for the future.
“When all the water is pumped out and our country returns to its former state, it will be a paradise again,” Osipova said.
And he believes that while the rising waters did their part in holding back Russian forces, they ultimately have nothing to boast about.
“The Ukrainian people rose up and stopped them,” he said. “It’s not the water that did that.”
Source: Crypto News Deutsch