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Tuesday, October 18, 2022


by Tom Cartelli

Volunteer cemetery workers loaded a large truck with 65 bodies found in April in Bucha. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times photo accompanying “Three Women of Bucha: Their Deaths and Lives,” by Carlotta Gall and Oleksandr Chubko, October 15, 2022.

“I buried her a bit in the night.
There was so much shelling I did not
know what else to do,” says the elderly
mother of Tetiana Pomazanko, who
lies slumped, head out of frame, torso
covered in plastic, knees bent, thin legs raised
in the photograph.  Child-like at 56, her
“woolen socks and galoshes poked out
beneath the boards,” beside the path where
she had stood thinking the tanks rolling
up her street were “ours” not theirs.
 “On Sunday afternoon, on a road leading west
out of Bucha, a man lay dead on his back,
his green bicycle toppled beside him.
Shot through the face, he bore a large hole
in the back of his skull,” the report states.
These dead are awkwardly posed, unready
for the defining shot, all that connects
to familiar sights and sounds asymmetric
to the cruel force that pounds them.
A man torn from life by shots from a tank,
twisted on the ground in a worn winter coat.
A woman serially raped and left for dead,
Naked on a basement floor, wrapped in fur.
Bodies of old women and men left to starve
in a nursing home, others lying face down,
hands bound, in courtyards and backyards,
scorched to death in burnt-out cars,
left to rot on pock-marked roads, or tumbled
into a ditch. “In one corner, two pairs of shoes
and an arm protruded from a thin layer of dirt,
in another, a hand stuck out,” the report says.

Notes: Drawn from reporting of Carlotta Gall, Andrew E. Kramer & Ivor Prickett in The New York Times, April 3, 2022, and additional reporting by Carlotta Gall & photographer Daniel Berehulak in “Bucha’s Month of Terror,” The New York Times, April 11, 2022, this poem was edited, reassembled, and elaborated on by Tom Cartelli. On October 15, 2022, an article in The New York Times identified Oksana Sulyma as the woman imprisoned in a potato cellar, raped, shot in the head, and found wearing only a fur coat.

Tom Cartelli is a theater scholar and emeritus professor of literature and global film studies. He is the author most recently of an essay on three recorded performances of New York's Wooster Group and of two politically driven poems in Politics/Letters. He lives in retirement in Western New Jersey (USA), where he spends his time reading, writing, walking, and altogether too immersed in the news of the day.