YAHIDNE, Ukraine — The elementary school’s former custodian carefully turned the key to the green door leading to the basement and walked down the stairs, shining a flashlight. Finally, he stopped the beam. a Calendar written on cement wall and on the List of It also includes names.

This is how Russian occupiers kept the prisoners there. a Record of Who died when?

“People were dying, people couldn’t take it,” Ivan Petrovich Polhui, former custodian, stated the following: “There was not enough air. We spent a month there — 28 days.”

Mr. Polhui has been made into something of an unofficial keeper of The memories of The school of The suffering that Russian soldiers caused there in March, when he was held along with more than 300 others of His neighbors, including his children, were trapped in the dark and dangerous conditions. of The basement

The elementary school existed before World War II. a It is the center of the community. His grandchildren were students at the school before the Russian invasion.

Today, children from the region attend schools elsewhere or can take classes online. Even though the Russian forces have left, the trauma of those held captive by the Russians remains. a Daily reminder of They share their experiences.

Mr. Polhui stated that the Russians had gone from house to house, gathering every villager and anyone else who might be interested to help them get into the school. Many people, he said, have struggled to remember those terrible days.

“When we were in there, none of us believed we would stay alive. We were all preparing for our own death,” Mr. Polhui said. “A lot of people just went crazy,” He added that others had fled the village in April after it was retaken by Ukrainian forces and are yet to return.

Yahidne is the only one of Many communities across the country are still dealing with the aftermath of The war continues as the residents live alongside these sites. of oppression.

These were once occupied areas of The Ukrainian government has quickly moved to create memorials and repair physical scars from the fighting. In Irpin, a suburb of There are plans to build a new capital in Kyiv (Ukraine). a memorial at a Bridge a Number of During fleeing, civilians were shot and killed. At the moment, wooden crosses are all that is available. a You can make a tribute.

In Bucha is another suburb of After the fall of the Russian troops, human remains from Kyiv were found in mass graves. These graves were meticulously documented and identified. Small memorials have been built.

But in many smaller towns, like Yahidne, discussion about what to do with sites — once the hearts of Smaller communities, but better places later of horror under Russian occupation — has stalled.

“There is this tension between the scene of the crime, so to speak, and the necessity to preserve the evidence and to collect the evidence,” said Karen Remmler, a Professor at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, who studies how to commemorate atrocities. “And there is the question of how much time needs to pass before the community can own that space and decide what to do with it.”

Yahidne is approximately 90 miles north of On March 3, Russian forces occupied Kyiv, a northern Chernihiv area near the border to Belarus. Over 300 people, including 77 kids, were forced to leave their homes and into the basement at gunpoint. of Yahidne Elementary School. ​According to Ukrainian officials, at least 10 people were killed there from diseases and at least 17 more were killed by the Russian military.

They were used to provide protection for Russian forces that had been set up. a They spent the next four weeks in total darkness, with no base at school. The school allowed small groups to leave. a Mr. Polhui said that the time it took to fetch food and water was very short. They also had to use buckets in the basement because there was no running water. Many became sick.

The remains of those who have died were kept in a The villagers begged for the permission to bury their neighbours in a small room adjoining. Many were severely scarred by the time the last residents emerged on April 1.

The Chernihiv regional military administration stated that this was because a Pretrial investigations are still ongoing in, but it is too soon to discuss the fate of The school. It also noted that the school was aware of its full extent of As many as tens of thousands are still unaware of the crimes they were committed. of It is not something that victims want to talk about.

Some villages have moved elsewhere or fled the country. For those who stayed, however, they are still worrying about how they will survive the winter in severely damaged homes.

Nadiia Skrypak (66), was cycling past the school when Mr. Polhui appeared. She was eager to share her experience, despite the pain it caused. She recalled her confinement vividly, as if it had been just a day earlier.

“They were shooting, near the houses,” Ms. Skrypak spoke. “A mine exploded in the yard. It was terrible,” She said this and turned to her neighbor, overwhelmed by emotion. But it is when she talked about what happened inside the school’s basement that her voice grew pained.

“They gathered all of the villagers there,” She said this as she gestured towards the school, her voice breaking with emotion. Ms. Skrypak added that her mother, who is 86, was also held there. “in the room where we were staying, the most people died,” Before you start trailing off.

Hanna Skrypak, her mother, has been living in the village for 45+ years. She has no plans to leave. of leaving. Ms. Skrypak, an older woman, stated that she still questions why she was spared and others die in the same ordeal.

“I think, ‘I am old, no one needs me anymore’ — that’s how it seems to me,” She spoke. “And people died in that basement. But I survived.”

Mr. Polhui was school custodian for many years. This is why he still retains the keys. He described how much he enjoyed his job at the school before the war, as he led journalists from the New York Times around the building. The school is located in the only a Few minutes on foot from his house.

Now comes the good stuff. of Detention is like a cloud hanging over the happier times. He pointed out the many drawings that children had made on the walls as he walked through basement. He and a Few others were allowed crayons to be brought from the classrooms into basement, so children could have a Way to pass time.

Upstairs, where Russian soldiers had lived for weeks, children’s lesson books are scattered haphazardly across the floor, small heaps of They have cigarette butts atop them. The murals on the hallway and classroom walls, which are colorful but chipping, have holes left by shrapnel. Soldiers’ uniforms are still on the floor.

“Look at the mess they left,” He shook his head, as he pointed out the rations that the Russian army had left.

Outside the basement door is a Poster of a Photograph taken during the detention of the villager. Despite Russian forces seizing their phones, Mr. Polhui stated that one woman was able hide hers and secretly took some photos before the battery ran out.

This visual account with testimonies of Villagers were vital in early accountability efforts. In The immediate aftermath of The remains were discovered by Ukrainian investigators following the attack. of Residents outside the school buried those who had been buried by Ukrainian soldiers. They also worked to identify them.

The Ukrainian prosecutor General said in a statement Eighteen people were in attendance this month of The Russian soldiers believed to have held the villager in the basement were identified and summoned. a pretrial investigation. A logbook With photographs of One of The military units that occupied this area were discovered after Russian troops fled and became crucial evidence for investigators.

Like so many other wars, this one has inspired thousands. of No criminal investigation of The Russians who were identified as perpetrators are, or will be, in custody.

Mount Holyoke doctor Dr. Remmler stated that accountability is essential for healing. of She had observed communities in which similar violence has occurred. Even more important is the creation of a Memorial is the ability for people to deal with and confront trauma together, she stated.

“It’s the process that really matters,” She stated, “not necessarily the outcome, or the actual mortar and cement of a memorial itself.”

She stated that the only way forward was to be a One of the most complex. a The stain is a problem for the community of They now associate violence with a once-beloved school.

“People might disagree on what to do with the space, or some people might just want to move away,” Dr. Remmler explained that while some may wish to honor the bravery or resilience, others may not. of survivors.

“I don’t think one size fits all,” She spoke. “These are very messy processes.”

Mr. Polhui stated that so far, no one from the village knows the plans for the school building. But his family’s attention is more focused on getting through the worst of The war.

He now spends his days harvesting apples, tending to his livestock and preparing for the future. a His damaged home was cold in winter.

“This is the way we will survive,” He stated. “We are just focusing on how we can survive.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn Contributed reporting