The gravediggers of Bucha - 60 Minutes

The town of Bucha lived in relative obscurity on the international stage until early spring when Russian occupying forces retreated from the town and left behind devastation and death that shocked the entire world.   

Over 27 days, Russian troops killed more than 400 civilians in the Kyiv suburb. Some of the victims were discovered bound and tortured. Many were left to rot in the place where they were killed.

60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley visited the town after it was liberated following his early April interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He saw the devastation firsthand and witnessed a mass grave dug behind a church in the town center. Pelley vowed to return to learn more about the people who were killed and buried in that mass grave.

Scott Pelley first reported from Bucha in April 2022 where he visited the mass grave next to behind St. Andrew’s Church

Eric Kerchner/60 Minutes

In September, Pelley returned to Ukraine for a story on Sunday’s broadcast titled “The Lost Souls of Bucha.”

While in Bucha, Pelley interviewed Serhii Kaplychnyi, Serhii Matiuk, And Vladyslav Minchenko, the three men who buried the dead in the mass grave behind St. Andrews Church. Kaplychnyi, the town’s funeral director, negotiated access to bodies with the Russians. Minchenko and Matiuk retrieved the bodies.

“I understood one thing – if not us, who else will do it?” Matiuk said to Pelley through an interpreter. “We had a lot of thoughts. But the main thought was – this has to be done…you had to move all your bad thoughts, all your weaknesses to the side.”

Serhii Kaplychnyi stands over Bucha’s the mass grave in April 2022, weeks after the town was liberated.

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Trenches for the mass grave were dug in the shadow of St. Andrew’s Church. Kaplychnyi told 60 Minutes the town chose the church because it was within the perimeters set by the Russians during their negotiations. St. Andrew’s was the only logical location. There were no other options.  

“We wanted to do it in a better way,” Kaplychnyi said through a translator. “In a human way, in a Christian way. I hope God can forgive us, but in the end we just had to stack bodies on top of each other and just bury them. There was no other way.”

Father Andriy Halavin, the priest at St. Andrew’s, gave Kaplychnyi and the team permission to dig the grave on church grounds. More than 100 people were buried there. Since the occupation ended last spring, the bodies have been exhumed and burials have been conducted – some by Father Halavin. He told us the world must not forget what happened in Bucha.

Father Andriy Halvin presides over a funeral in Bucha

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“The grass is growing. There are no trenches. There are no bodies of killed innocent people,” Halavin said speaking through an interpreter. 

The priest said after the atrocities in Bucha were uncovered, Americans reached out to help. St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Minneapolis was among those who sent medicine and funds to repair damage in the town. “We will never forget their help,” Halavin told us. He’s now working with Bucha officials to build a memorial at the church to remember the victims. Until then, Halavin has created a display of photographs capturing some of the most graphic and shocking images of the war.   

“We left the photographs hanging up for people who come visit,” Halavin told Pelley. “They look at these buildings and ask what happened here…We are doing everything we can from the bottom of our hearts to show the world what has happened here.”

You can watch Scott Pelley’s full report on “The Lost Souls of Bucha” below.

“Could humans really do this?”: Stories of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine | 60 Minutes


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