HAVRONSHCHYNA, Ukraine — Driving past nondescript fields in the countryside near Kyiv, it’s easy to miss a small family car abandoned by the side of the road. But the vehicle — riddled with bullet holes, strewn with baby clothes and spattered with human remains — is a microcosm of the horror that has befallen Ukraine. “It was chaos. I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb. Some people were trying to hide in my house. I was trying to pick up wounded people,” said Yuriy Patsan, 42, a mechanic, in describing the incident on March 15 that ended with the car being stranded outside his house on the edge of this small village of about 1,000 residents around 30 miles west of the capital, Kyiv. Patsan said Russian troops who had been occupying Havronshchyna had agreed to allow civilians to leave in a convoy. He said he and his wife had packed their car and were ready to join the end of the column of vehicles as it passed by. “They were trying to escape. Men, women and children. And the Russian vehicles came up behind them and started to shoot,” he said. He added that none of the vehicles were driving erratically and he had no idea why the Russians opened fire. “People were running away, and they were being shot at. I saw an old man get shot. I fled to my house. Then slowly I came back and saw the bodies,” Patsan said.
He added that when he approached the Volkswagen hatchback outside his home, he could see it had a piece of white cloth attached to it to mark it as a civilian vehicle. He could also see a woman bent over a toddler trying to protect it in the backseat, and an older woman and a teenager in the car, he said. They were all dead. A male driver had lost an eye, fingers and a lot of blood and was barely alive, he said, adding that he got him out of the car and took him into his home. As Russian patrols, guns cocked, scoured the area near his house, Patsan said he waited for opportunities to drag the bodies from the car and bury them in a shallow grave in his yard. He made a makeshift cross, he said.“It’s tradition. Everybody deserves respect,” he added. Alexander did not speak much about the incident, Patsan said. But he said he came to understand that the teen in the car was Alexander’s son, and the mother and child were not related to him. The older woman was not related to anyone else in the car and the toddler was too disfigured to know its gender, he added. NBC News saw that the vehicle was still outside Patsan’s house on April 14, just over a month after the attack occurred. A baby bottle and baby shoes were still in the car, as well as a notebook with a shopping list for staples like milk, eggs and butter.