With the White Angels in Bakhmout, evacuating Ukrainian civilians from the front lines

For several weeks, Pavlo and his two partners returned to Bachmut every day. Without worrying about the intensity of the fighting or Russia’s bombing of this part of the Donbass front in Ukraine, they are looking for the last residents who want to leave the city. Every invasion is dangerous.

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Pavlo is part of the “White Angels”, a police unit in Donetsk province that works to free civilians from the towns and villages closest to the front lines. His mission that day was to find 7-year-old Alina. The city’s police commander, Oleksandr Kolomiyetz, estimated that 5,000 to 6,000 people remained in the devastated city of the city’s population of 70,000 before the Russian invasion, including about 200 children.

The previous day, Pavlo recalled, he had taken Galina Donilehenko, an eight-month pregnant woman, from Bakhmout to the hospital in Slovyansk, who was trapped in the fighting. Now it is safe if Russian missiles are regularly targeted in these cities of Donbass. Galina begged Pavlo to return to Bahmut to bring back her daughter Ariana, who has been separated from her since war broke out in Ukraine a year ago, when the little girl fled the city for western Ukraine with her grandparents and ex-husband.

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After reaching the designated area, Pavlo starts looking for Aryna. He first searched a dark, dank cellar where some residents of the area would take refuge when the bombing was intense. That morning, the cellar was empty. There was a rumble of gunfire in the distance, but the suburb seemed to be spared the bombardment for now. Several elderly women hustle between buildings, lugging shopping bags to humanitarian aid distribution points. A man comes in and complains. He reluctantly admits that he is Erina’s grandfather.

tough negotiation

Pavlo burst into the apartment, a cramped one-bedroom apartment where Arina lived with her grandparents and great-grandmother. They huddle around a wood-burning stove, where the outside temperature is around -5°C. “I have to take Aryna to her mum, to a safe place”, He said. He was greeted with a barrage of expletives from his grandmother. “Alina will not leave! We lift it. She is fine here. »

Pavlo patiently recounted why a little girl could not survive such a bombardment, and, moreover, why the law required her to be taken to her parents. “It’s better to kill me!” », Grandma shouted. “It will end badly, this story!…”, Prophecy Grandpa, with a peaceful appearance, suddenly came to threaten people. “you’re drunk! Throw Pavlo to Grandma. You pretend you want to babysit a child, but not only are you leaving her on the battlefield, but you also stink of vodka. » Elena wept silently. She holds three teddy bears and wiggles her fingers.

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