Bucha residents try to reclaim their homes amid war

(BUCHA, Ukraine) — Bucha, Ukraine is getting back to normal, but residents are still living with trauma from the war.

ABC News correspondents returned to Bucha to witness its rebirth.

In April, it took over two hours for the ABC News team to travel from Kyiv to Bucha, with bombed out bridges and checkpoints slowing their momentum. Now, the trip has returned to its swift 45-minute length.

Where charred tanks and burned out trucks littered Bucha’s streets a few weeks ago, flowers now color the city, and thick grass replaces mine-planted meadows.

The ABC News team headed to an apartment block that they remembered as bleak and frozen in April. There, they reunited with Mykola Pavlyuk, who had shared his story with ABC News in April. He had shown where he had buried his three friends in his backyard.

After being forced out of his home by Russian troops, Pavlyuk had lived underground with the other residents in his building.

One of his friends was killed by a grenade, and Pavlyuk had been in charge of picking up the pieces of his ruined body so that they could be buried.

Pavlyuk told ABC News that he left Bucha for a while after the April visit to live with his sister. Since then, doctors in the family have prescribed him medication and he has found help through his church.

“Eventually I had to get up and move on,” he said. “Thankfully I got a new job. I’m glad I have a job. I only just started. So life goes on. I try to think about the bad times as little as possible. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out. Everything reminds me of the past.”

Despite hearing about the power Pavlyuk’s April interview had over people all over the world, Pavlyuk is still struggling with what he has endured.

“I don’t feel great,” Pavlyuk said. “I start remembering. And it’s hard. I try to calm myself down. I saw my friends, my family but I feel bad.”

Outside, standing by the homemade grave of his friends, Pavlyuk acknowledges the regrowth around him.

“It helps that it’s summer,” he said. “All the destruction is hidden by the greenery. It’s hiding the terrors of Bucha.”

Like many of Bucha’s residents, Pavlyuk can’t forget the mass graves, torture, execution and alleged human rights abuses that have now defined the city.

A mass grave site has reclaimed a churchyard in the city. Small memorials are the only markings seen, and dried flowers wrapped in Ukrainian colors sit sadly at its base.

Pavlyuk doubts there will be an investigation into the atrocities.

Bucha is not the only place which has had to endure alleged war crimes inflicted by Russian troops.

Last month, a 21-year-old Russian soldier pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in another town. It was the first war crimes trial since the war started.

As the war continues in Ukraine, citizens have no time to grieve. With Russian forces persevering in Donbas, the flowers of Bucha look frail.

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