A photo of a curled, dirt-covered hand, lying on the street, with a still shining red manicure, has become one of the symbols of the inhuman massacre carried out in the picturesque Kyiv suburb of Bucha, by Russian forces.
The picture, taken by a Reuters photojournalist, has gone viral, bringing both the subject’s identity, and the overall tragedy of the murders, into the light.
The victim, Iryna, had been an aspiring make-up artist prior to the war. Her mentor, Anastasia Subacheva, was the first to identify her from the photo, after it went viral, thanks to Iryna’s manicure. Subacheva, who last saw Iryna the evening before the war, spoke about her memories of Iryna on Instagram. Iryna was also recognized by her daughter Olha, who expressed her own feelings, and recalled her own memories, with her mother, in a social media post.
Up until that photograph went viral, Olha had not had any news about her mother for about a month - the length of time that Bucha had been occupied by Russian invaders.
“Today is exactly a month from the day my mother no longer writes to me: How is mama’s little mouse doing? And if she saw that I hadn’t answered the message after a while (that is, taking more than one minute, as usual), she would immediately start calling and asking if anyone had hurt my feelings. “Mom, who can do that, everyone knows you,” I would answer. She loved me so much that she would beat up anyone with her bare hands, who had dared to offend her loved ones,” Olha wrote, detailing her mother’s fierce and protective nature.
“Today is exactly a month since the day they took offense against her. And all I can do is just cry, sometimes even that doesn’t work.”
Olha said that Russian invaders shot Iryna 15 minutes from her house.
“Coming back home, where for every person, as it seemed to me before, is the safest place ... she was shot, in the middle of the street, 15 minutes away ... with a bullet the size of my finger. To other people and those who watch the news, this information hits a little different. Some people even doubt that this was real. As for me, this is a living picture that rises in my head, again and again. The war came not only to my country. It came to my house and took, no, to be more precise, stole...my universe.”
“Every time I think about it, everything inside me aches so much that I want to tear it out alive. Everything is too open. I want to constantly lean on something, and my own body feels far too tight and wound, and probably because of that, it’s constantly sick.”
“Or maybe because of a sense of unfairness? That I don't have contradictory information to sift through, and to get revenge...Or at least find her. I'm still looking for you, mom...”
Olha added that she learned about her mother's death on Iryna’s birthday, but so far she can neither bury her mother nor take her body away, because a forensic examination first needs to be carried out.
Olha and Iryna’s story is just one of the hundreds of pieces of evidence that confirm the atrocities committed by the Russian invaders in Ukraine, and their genocide against Ukrainians.
“You made it possible to find you on your birthday, but I still can’t even take your body away, because there are so many (victims) there and they took you all together somewhere. They don’t say where, and they don't say if they have you. They don't know because unfortunately there are so many of you there. They need to know how you died.”
“Do you understand why I cannot be silent!!! Because having suffered from Russian invaders, I have to wait until some kind of examination is carried out, because they need time ... We have to prove to Europe what is happening here, because photos are not enough for them, words are not enough for them ... it needs to be on paper.”
“On paper, they will write that you really were killed, and this is genocide. And it will even be published someday in history books...But I think, maybe, if the history books didn’t just record cold facts and figures, but could deliver at least 1% of what people feel now...then no one would want these loud and mocking ‘We’ll do it again!’”
After the liberation of Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Vorzel, Borodianka and others, all on the outskirts of Kyiv or its suburbs, by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military discovered hundreds of bodies of civilians murdered and tortured by the Russian invaders. Law enforcement officers have already recorded 1,200 war crimes in Kyiv Oblast as of April 5, according to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Denys Monastyrsky.