As part of our recent trip to Ukraine, we wanted to see the war sites of Kyiv. Why did we want to go? The reasons of course are numerous, but mostly lay in our desire to see the affects the war has had on the people, but also because our partners in Ukraine wanted us to see it.
To read about traveling from Lviv to Kyiv click here.
The War Sites on the Road to Kyiv
As we know the Russians never made it to Kyiv, although whether it was due to a negotiated withdrawal, or a Ukrainian victory we do not know. We were guided in this endeavor by our local fixer Sergei who previously worked with us at Chernobyl.
You can see our Chernobyl tours here.
And he was very forthright in his views about the conflict, as were almost all people we met. And there are a lot more viewpoints than you would expect, revolving around not just the war, but the government and of course what en eventual peace might look like.
War Sites of Kyiv – The Car Graveyard
One of our first sites and really one of the most heart wrenching. Cars that were trapped during the initial Russian attack that have been put together, many of them bombed out, or with bullet holes in them.
There are also a number with teddy bears in them, meaning children died on board. The story goes that people would write that children were in the cars, but it made no difference and the artillery continued.
Visiting here also shows you just how close the Russians got to Kyiv and also adds more intrigue into their sudden departure.
The Bombed Buildings
Scattered along the outside of Kyiv are a number of bombed Soviet era, as well as new apartments and old houses that are also hit. That these are civilian domiciles makes it all the more angering to locals, as well as heart wrenching for those who come to see it.
Some of the houses have signs in English asking for money to help them rebuild, while others you can even go inside, which offers a Chernobyl like time capsule element. This is because people have been respectful and not looted, or the like.
Of course there is no suggestion that Russians did this deliberately, but it is further evidence that sadly normal people are the ones who suffer most in war.
Most shockingly though was again how life has gone on around things. There are fruit sellers outside of bombed out buildings, parks that survived the wreckage and people living next to, or in bombed out buildings.
We visited at least 5 sites such as this, with each having its own story to tell.
The Kyiv Tank Graveyard
There are actually two of these, with one being more of a display at Maidan Square, whilst the second is at the side of a random road,
The second one is quite strange, with it being burnt out vehicles of the Russian Army. Of course there are anti-Russia slogans and people see them as trophies, but when you see it up front you realize that these vehicles had people in them.
Is it ethical to visit the War sites of Kyiv?
There will be many that will look at this like war tourism, or dark tourism, but only is that not the aim here, but it is not the reasoning people visit. In fact we were far from the only “tourists” here, with many Ukrainians visiting from other cities and countries.
Their reasons much like ours were to see and often document some of the horrors this war has brought to their shores. In this respect we found kinship and gratitude. Ukrainians more than once came and thanked us for having the bravery to come and visit. It is very humbling to be called brave by people living through war.
And aside from ethics there is the economic angle. We spent money on food, drinks, vehicles, drivers, guides and much more. This is more than just ethical, it is practical. This is putting money back into the Ukrainian economy, slightly more meaningful than the little Ukrainian flag in your Facebook profile picture.
Again with anything like this the ethics largely goes to what your intent is. For our group at least they saw it as a humbling experience not dissimilar to say Auschwitz, to the Killing Fields.
You can read about dark tourism here.
Will YPT be running tours to Ukraine?
Ins short yes we will, at the behest of our Ukrainian partners, with the groups kept extremely small and the money largely going to our partners and the humanitarian groups they support.No money spent on a trip will go towards weapons of any kind.
Trips will begin in Krakow where we will spent one night before we travel to Lviv for one night, spend 2 nights in Kyiv, before one on the train and one at the end in Krakow.
We are aiming to publish these tours this week, but in the meantime please get in touch if you are interested.
A link to the previous tour can be found here.