Taxi driver and father of four.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


In the early hours of 24 February.

He was driving his taxi in Kyiv and heard explosions.


He struggled to believe it was actually happening.

His first thought that morning was to get the family’s IDs.


If they were going to have to flee, they needed passports.

He quickly drove the 40km towards Brovary where they lived.


From Brovary to Bucha where his wife and children were visiting her mother.

That was where the family would stay until they could make a plan.


“Different rumours were circulating that ‘orcs’ were approaching Bucha.

We started arranging shelters in the cellars, bringing things there.”


Three days later, ‘orcs’ arrived nearby.

Immediately ‘orcs’ suffered a devastating ambush by ‘elves’ artillery.


‘Orcs’ had taken up position on Vokzalna Street.

When the shells came screaming in, but they retreated temporarily.


Some ‘elves’ were forming in Bucha a militia in time of war.

He and his friend, who was the godfather to his two-year-old daughter, joined up.



He found himself defending a suburban street.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


“We were doing duty at checkpoints, checking documents.

And making sure people didn’t carry arms.”


“We were helping to organise people’s safe passage out because we knew the area.”

Among nine men, sharing just one rifle, a grenade and a pair of binoculars.


He and his comrades worked shifts on a checkpoint on Yablunska Street.

“The street of the apples”, for the trees that line much of its 6km length.


For the time being he and his wife decided the family should try to shelter in Bucha.

“There was no fear. No fear. There was a desire to unite, to get together.”


“We were on our feet all the time.

There was no time to be afraid.”


“When we were off duty, we would distribute food around cellars.

To those who were taking shelter there, the women and children.”



He narrowly avoided death at the hands of ‘orcs’.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


On 3 March, “in the second half of the day, around lunchtime”.

From the ‘orcs’ advance, he and the others began directing cars away immediately.


Indiscriminate firing, Rockets landing, and a white Renault being struck.

And a woman and her children trapped inside the burning car.


With ‘orcs’ rapidly approaching, eight men at his checkpoint decided to try to hide.

Directly opposite the checkpoint, at number 31 Yablunska Street.


The owner of the house had given them hot drinks and food.

Now offered shelter. Soon ‘orcs’ were outside.


“We could hear them. We were surrounded.”

The men whispered to each other. They could not run.



All the other ‘elves’ with him were not so lucky.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


By 11:00 towards number 144.

The men being led across and then down Yablunska Street.


Each had one hand on the belt of the man in front.

And the other hand on their own head.


Lined up against a wall next to the ‘orcs’ base and made to kneel.

Forced their shirts and sweaters over their heads.


He remembers beatings and shouted questions.

Mobile phones and shoes were confiscated.


‘Orcs’ decided to intimidate the others by shooting one.

After this, a younger one panicked to tell ‘orcs’ that they weren’t civilians.


That was against the cover story they had prepared, so the beatings intensified.

He and another man were brought into the building.


A bucket placed over his head, he was made to bend and lean against the wall.

Bricks were piled, one after the other on his back, until he collapsed.


Beaten again and a brick was repeatedly smashed against the bucket.

He heard the police tell another man that they would shoot him in the foot.


After a shot, he didn’t hear another man any more.

He was then led back out of the building to join the other men.


By late afternoon on 4 March.

Two of the eight men captured with him had been shot dead.


The remaining men were led around the corner into a small courtyard.

The body of a man lying on a small concrete platform, clearly been shot earlier.


He recalls a final exchange of words with his comrades.

“We said goodbye to each other. That was it.”


Among those to whom he bade farewell was the godfather of his daughter.

The man decided to make a run for it but was shot straight away.


Then ‘orcs’ opened fire on the others.

“I felt a bullet go into my side. It wounded me and I fell.”



The urge to breathe out, just one big exhalation.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


But he knew it would be the death of him if he did.

Warm breath rising into cold air should create a small fog and alert the killers.


‘Orcs’ were already checking the bodies of the men they had just shot.

Making sure, firing a final bullet where they saw any sign of life.


He heard one of ‘orcs’ said: “That one is still alive!”

He wondered if they were talking about him?


He prepared himself for the bullet.

He was already bleeding from a wound in his side.


The other ‘orc’ said: “He will die by himself!”

But then there was a shot, and it stroke somebody else.


He fighted different urges in such moments.

The bullet wound in his side was agonisingly painful.


But crying out would be fatal for him.

All of this will come back later in dreams.


But for now, he should lie among the dead.

He should be as still as his murdered comrades.


He cannot remember exactly how long ‘orcs’ stayed.

But it was more like minutes than hours.


When he sensed they were gone, he risked a glance from under his jacket.

The courtyard was empty of life, so now was his chance.


He reached out towards a pair of feet near him.

Those of the dead man he had noticed when they first entered the courtyard.


He pulled off the man’s shoes to put on his own exposed feet.

He then crawled to a fence and dragged himself across into nearby gardens.


Another fence to cross before he made it into a house.

Abandoned by its owners during the shelling.


Inside the house, he treated his wound with some antiseptic liquid in the bathroom.

And he changed into clothes left behind by the householder.


He wrapped himself in a blanket and tried to sleep.

But he was disturbed by voices, by ‘orcs’ voices.



Several ‘orcs’ soldiers were resting in the house like him.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


“They saw me and started asking me who I was and what I was doing there.”

He persuaded them that he was the owner of the house.


He explained that his wounds were the result of shelling.

The ‘orcs’ soldiers believed his story but he couldn’t stay where he was.


Instead, they said they would take him to their base for medical treatment.

“I was terrified what would happen next – from one captivity into another.”


Back at 144 Yablunska Street, but his luck held.

At the base, combat medics treated his wounds.


He was placed with civilians sheltering in the bunker of the building.

After several days, they were allowed to leave the Yablunska Street.


Left lying the bodies of the murdered men who had been defending Bucha with him.

In the courtyard for the remaining month of the occupation.


He found his family, still sheltering from the war, at home.

They were able to flee Bucha, and at last Ukraine into Poland.



But not flee the legacy of the terrible hours at 144 Yablunska.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.


‘Orcs’ seem physically far away from him now.

But there is the terror that comes at night after everybody else is asleep.


“You wake up because you are anticipating that shot in your head.

I have this feeling. It comes like a wave.”


A teenaged boy plays with his son who is just a few years younger.

The child of his murdered friend and godfather to his daughter.


The boy and his mother moved to Poland with his family.

A perfect early summer’s evening in a small village.


The boys fishing, he leaning against a tree and looking on.

His wife shepherding their young daughter away from the water’s edge.


But for him and his family, for his murdered friend’s family.

The invasion of ‘Mordor’ has changed everything.


For all the families of the men of 144 Yablunska.

The massacre the ‘orcs’ invasion unleashed has changed everything.


The bruises on his face and body have healed.

But at night, the wounds of memory are open.



He is the man who came back from the dead.

He is the sole survivor in Bucha.



*Because I read “The sole survivor of a Russian shooting – he lived by playing dead” by Fergal Keane, on 5 July 2022, on the BBC News, and also “Why are Ukrainians calling Russians ‘orcs’?” by James FitzGerald on 30 April 2022, on the BBC news.
So, I wrote this poem as a story of Ivan.
Please read the original story on the BBC news:

The sole survivor of a Russian shooting – he lived by playing dead – BBC News


**My friend shows you this poem also on the Ukrainian website for their children and others!

Kurama (Japan). «​A poet back from 144 Yablunska twice» — a poem about the russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 – Мала Сторінка (storinka.org)

Please join them!