The day bodies fell from the sky...

ROZSYPNE (Ukraine) • A year ago, in this village deep in the sunflower-field outback of eastern Ukraine, bodies fell from the sky - and residents are still grappling to make sense of what happened.

In the first moments after he heard a boom, Mr Igor Tipunov, a welder, was confused. He glanced up. Then he dived for cover.

"Something flying very fast was whistling through the air" and falling towards his house, he recalled.

A living woman, or the body of a woman, he was not entirely sure, was falling - literally out of the blue. She went through his roof, scattering tiles about the yard, and landed face down in his kitchen.

Today, Mr Tipunov is still looking for explanations, and he is not alone among the people in the three small, rural Ukrainian villages where debris landed after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down a year ago yesterday. The catastrophe created a debris field of about 36 sq km.

Outside this village, a freshly whitewashed cross stands beside a cornfield to commemorate the 298 people who died.

Villagers whose homes were struck by luggage and worse were planning a ceremony with flowers and votive candles yesterday.

"Fortunately, nobody in this village suffered, but we had a big psychological stress," Ms Natalya Voloshina, the mayor of Petropavlivka, one of the three villages, said in an interview. "We were unwilling witnesses and, in a lesser manner, victims, too."

Ms Voloshina recalled how the father of one victim showed up in her office, where on the day of the crash Dutch clogs had bounced down outside.

"He expressed thanks" for the local people's help in collecting bodies and belongings, she said. "He took a handful of black earth and went back to Holland."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'The day bodies fell from the sky...'. Print Edition | Subscribe