Trip to Kyiv: A chronicle from Ukraine at war

By Rubén Tzanoff

A delegation of the International Socialist League (ISL) traveled to Kyiv to participate in the Conference of the Ukrainian Socialist League (USL). The comrades of the delegation met with: leaders of the “Zahist Pratsi” Independent Labor Protection Union, social organizations, working class and student activists, and the population. They visited bombed cities and felt the will of the Ukrainian people to resist against the Russian imperialist invasion. They also saw first-hand people’s growing suffering caused by the war, capitalist greed and the government. We share with our readers the experiences of the trip made by Alejandro Bodart, of the leadership of the ISL and the Argentine MST in the FIT-U, and Rubén Tzanoff, of Socialismo y Libertad – Spanish State.

The trip began on Wednesday the 22nd in Warsaw, Poland and ended in the same city on Tuesday the 28th. A short stay in the Polish capital was long enough to visit the site where the Warsaw ghetto was located, the last stop of the Jewish population before the Treblinka extermination camps. A reminder of the barbarism to which imperialist capitalism leads, in this case, in its Nazi version.

A long journey full of difficulties and contrasts

We departed from the Warszawa Wschodnia station on a train arranged for the transfer of refugees to and from Kyiv. Along the way there were long stops at the border, both for documentation control and for the cumbersome change of the bogies where the wheels of each wagon are fixed, an operation that allows transit between tracks of different gauges. On the way, with the naked eye, we perceived the contrast between Poland and war torn Ukraine. Once inside the territory of the “breadbasket of the world” we crossed large extensions of fields destined for agricultural production. After almost twenty hours of travel, we arrived at the Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station, where we were received by our comrades of the USL.

A city prepared to defend itself from the invasion

In Kyiv, flagged in blue and yellow, the brief moments when life returns to “normal” abruptly fade with every step. In the streets, civilians mingle with young soldiers. At gas stations there are queues to load the scarce fuel available. Public buildings are protected with sandbags. At strategic points there are casemates with armed soldiers and Czech hedgehogs. Several times a day the sirens sound announcing missile attacks, forcing the population to take refuge.

Fighting in the south and east, the entire country under threat of fire

Our visit coincided with an upsurge of fighting in Donetsk, Luhansk and other regions. And with the intensification of the bombinsg of the civilian population in cities far from the combat fronts, such as Kremenchuk, Kharkiv and Odessa. Kyiv was also bombed. We were able to closely perceive the smoke and the smell of gunpowder caused by the impact of Russian missiles in a neighboring apartment building in the Shevchenkivskyi district, as well as the operation to rescue the wounded from the rubble. The battle fronts are in the South and East, but all of Ukraine is under threat from Russian missiles.

Destruction in Irpin, massacres in Bucha

We visited the cities of Irpin and Bucha which, located just 30 km from the center of Kyiv, had been occupied by Russian troops before they regrouped in the South and East. On the road to Gostomel, city of Irpin, we heard the sad testimony of the locals narrating the destruction of the residences that we were observing.

We then left for Bucha. We were on Vokzal’na street, where Russian tanks shot at defenseless people, like a man riding a bicycle, an image that went around the world. And we went to the San Andrés Church, where mass graves were dug to bury the corpses of executed people, who were collected from their homes or from the street.

A rich exchange of opinions, with a strong working class and student presence

The most important activity in which we participated was the USL Conference, with militants, long-standing union activists and young students. Comrades who could not get to Kyiv participated via Zoom. In the first place, Rubén Tzanoff and Alejandro Bodart, whose speech you can read at the link: “Excerpts of Alejandro Bodart’s intervention,” were invited to speak. After a short intermission we returned to the hall to hear a report by comrade Oleksandr Paly, editor-in-chief of the Aviation Workers Union’s “Ukrainian Aircraft Builder” newspaper. He gave an in-depth report on the social situation and perspectives, reflecting a great knowledge of the labor and trade union movement. He pointed out the neoliberal measures carried out by the Zelensky government, inspired by the ideas of Soros, and provided data on a serious economic and social situation, tainted by capitalist greed. His report was so rich that we conducted an interview with him to deepen it. You can read it at the link “Interview with Oleksandr Paly.”

Several young people who have been organized for a long time and others who are just joining participated in the Conference. The USL has some comrades who unfortunately couldn’t make it to the event. It was a rich exchange of ideas in which all those present expressed their opinions, some of which we have published in “Postcards”.

The ISL, present in the world’s major events

We took advantage of the trip to continue, through different channels, the difficult contact with other comrades in Eastern Europe. They provided us with valuable reports on the current situation in Russia and Belarus since the war broke out, which we share in the links: “Will Belarus go to war?” and “Russia: Gagged unrest.” We shared our final hours in Kyiv talking with new friends. In short, we witnessed a people willing to fight for their freedom. We left satisfied with the activity carried out and with the conviction of being in the correct trench. Optimistic about the presence of the ISL in the great events of current global reality.

All articles below

Trip to kyiv: Excerpts from Alejandro Bodart´s intervention

Trip to kyiv: Interview with Oleksandr Paly

Trip to Kyiv: Postcards

Trip to Kyiv: Will Belarus enter the war? Will it be annexed by Russia?

Trip to Kyiv: Russia, gagged unrest