top of page

Cold spring in Bucha. Photographer Oleh Petrasyuk saw dead people and a ruined city on his way home

Warning: The material contains sensitive information and photographs of scenes of violence that may shock you.

Killed on the street in Bucha. April 2, 2022. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

Ukrainian troops entered the town of Bucha in Kyiv region on April 2, 2022. Journalists and photographers entered the city along with the Armed Forces. The pictures from Bucha shocked the whole world.

Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photos by Oleh Petrasyuk taken in the first days of Bucha's liberation. Oleh's family home is located in Bucha, so this story is quite personal for him.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in Bucha

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the actions of the Russian army a genocide of the Ukrainian people. According to preliminary estimates, more than 420 people died in Bucha during the month of occupation and a new cemetery appeared.

The city of Bucha has been under the threat of occupation since the first days of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war. On February 24, near Bucha, the Russian army landed a helicopter assault in the town of Gostomel, briefly taking control of the Antonov airfield. The next day, Bucha was shelled by Russian helicopters. Local residents trying to leave the city by car were killed. However, on February 25, the city had not yet been captured.

At the end of February, the Russian military made another unsuccessful attempt to capture Bucha and move on to Irpin. At the intersection of Yablunska and Vokzalna streets, the Ukrainian military defeated a column of Russian vehicles. Locals hoped that after this battle the occupiers would retreat. Instead, on March 5, Russian troops entered the city from the direction of the town of Vorzel. They set up their base in Yablunska, occupying the surrounding houses and evicting local residents to neighboring houses or driving them into basements. In March, Yablunska turned into a street of death. After the Russians retreated, bodies were found there. During the occupation of Bucha by the Russian army, dozens of civilians were killed or injured by the Russian military.

A mass grave was discovered on the territory of the church in the center of Bucha. Since March 10, 2022, Russians have been burying civilians there. The bodies of 67 people were found in the grave, some of whom have not yet been identified.

Exhumation of the mass grave on the territory of the church in Bucha. April 2022. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

He took a chance to visit the city

As a child, photographer Oleh Petrasyuk often visited his grandmother's house in Bucha. Twenty years later, from 2016 to 2019, he lived a quiet life there with his wife.

On the day Bucha was liberated, Oleh learned from his colleagues about a convoy of broken equipment in Dmytrivka and decided to go and see it. "I left for work quite late that day, in the afternoon. It was April 2, 2022. I arrived in Dmytrivka, saw the well-known broken Russian column there, took a series of shots, and met some colleagues," the photographer recalls.

Oleh says that after finishing the shooting in Dmytrivka, he decided to try to get to Bucha. He was curious about what had happened to the city under occupation and to finally see his home. At that time, entry to the city was still prohibited for civilians.

Destroyed Russian military equipment in Dmytrivka, near Bucha. April 2, 2022. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

"I decided to get to Bucha just for luck, I was curious to try it. I was driving on a beaten track: due to the wet weather, it was clearly visible on the ground that people were driving here, so I wasn't worried about safety. At the checkpoint, I showed my journalist's press card and they let me through," Petrasyuk recalls. When I entered the city, I saw the bodies of people killed by the Russians. They were lying along the streets on the sidewalks or right on the road.

"I arrived in Bucha quite late, around 3 pm. It was very gloomy. There was still no electricity in the de-occupied cities of Kyiv region. I took just a few shots of bodies on the streets. Most of them were removed so quickly that I didn't see them on my way back, an hour later," - Oleh Petrasyuk continues. - "Then I decided to go to Vokzalna Street to my house.

The bodies of the victims in Bucha. April 2022. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

Grandmother's house

The house belonging to the photographer's family, where he lived for several years, is located on Vokzalna Street. It is on the same street where the Armed Forces of Ukraine smashed a long column of military equipment. Oleh's house was almost not damaged, but there were burned Russian "tin cans" next to the house.

"I went into the house, the door was wide open, the inside was a mess, things were taken outside. I had very unpleasant feelings, it was a little scary because I did not know what "gifts" the enemies had left for me. I went into the yard very carefully, looked into the house. I didn't go inside, took only one thing I saw at the entrance and left. At that moment, an employee of the State Emergency Service came to meet me, carrying my journalist's press card, and said: "You lost it". And it was one of my old editorial credentials, which I had left in the house where the Russians had thrown it out into the street. I grabbed the rescuer by the arm and said, "Could you please check the house for mines? He replied that he was not a sapper and would not help, but he gave me some advice," says Petrasyuk.

Then the photographer took several photos of the burned column near the house, walked around the neighborhood, talked to the locals, and had to go back to Kyiv because it was getting dark. It was still quite dangerous to move around in the dark.

Graves of murdered civilians throughout the city. April 2022. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk


Oleh Petrasyuk is a Ukrainian photographer with almost 15 years of experience in photojournalism, working with many Ukrainian media, including the English-language Kyiv Post. For many years, he has been working with the EPA (European pressphoto agency), where he is currently a part of the team.

Social networks of the photographer:

As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.

The project is being implemented thanks to the support of ЗМІN.


bottom of page