war crimes in Ukraine

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A cemetery in the garden, looting, and drunken soldiers: Borodianka resident on Russian occupation

22.01.2023    available: На русском | Українською
Oleksii Sydorenko

Tetiana Klihunova and her family survived the occupation in the village of Borodianka. She had to communicate with the Russian military and bury her neighbors in the garden. She confesses that household chores saved her, and her husband managed to make a washing machine that worked without electricity.

— I am Tetiana, 57 years old and retired. I have a husband, daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. On 23 February, I talked with a friend, and she said: “Tania, do you think there will be a war?” I responded: “What are you talking about? No way! In our time, the attack is impossible... “. And on the 24th, I turned on the TV, and Kyiv was bombed. It didn’t even cross my mind that this could happen and that they will shoot and bomb us. Then our oil depot caught fire. It burned for three weeks. And then the Russians came to us. I am from Yakovlev, the Belhorod region, and my father is from there. He served there. I speak Russian well. When a Russian soldier came in and asked: “Are you Russian?” I responded: “I am educated.” Here, the Buryats stood near the gate. And imagine he stands there and asks: “Are you hungry? Maybe you need something? I answered: “No, thanks, we have everything."

My house had nine people: two grandchildren, my in-laws, and a nephew. The in-laws came because the Russians kicked them out of the house. They said, “Get out of here.” He asked: “Where?” And they answered: “Wherever you want.” The Russians dug a trench in his garden and set up an anti-aircraft gun.

Consider this situation: me, husband, daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, two in-laws, and nephew. What could I say to the Russian soldier? He asked: “Have you seen the policemen?” — “No, guys, we have a peaceful street here. There are only pensioners here.” “What about national troops?” — “Guys, you are smart adults. Where are the national troops here?”

Then it started, and we were afraid to go out because the armored personnel carriers were coming in the morning stuffed like cabbage rolls with machine guns. After that, this big vehicle, a radio station or something, and more behind. And so it was every morning. They drove through all the streets in the morning and the evening. Helicopters were flying. I told my grandchildren: “Guys, don’t interfere. How do we know what is in their heads? They could shoot you out of boredom.”

They drank all the vodka from the stores in about a week. And after that rushed around shooting.

Where Bucha and Irpin — there was a glow. We were hiding in the cellar. The kids were there most of the time. My blood pressure rose and did not fall; nothing could bring it down.

Have you thought about evacuation?

— We wanted the children to go, but the car was out of gasoline. On the 24th, my husband went to the gas station, and there was a three-day queue. We didn’t believe it yet. Also, we were nine people. Who should we leave behind? Whom? Grandfather said he would not go anywhere, as he had invested his whole life in this house. We collected bags, documents, and some money. But where to go? Even if we filled up the car. Where to go? Our vehicle will not reach Lviv.

How did you live?

— When they started bombing, we saved ourselves with work. When it flew overhead, I cleaned and cooked food. My husband made a washing machine. He dismantled the old washing machine, made manual control, and we took turns washing. I asked him: “Which program should I turn on?” And he: “For 40 minutes.” [shows a washing machine with a handle that had to be turned continuously]

Бородянка, наслідок російських бомбардувань

Borodianka, the aftermath of Russian bombings

Did you have the light?

— There was nothing after the bombings from the planes. Just imagine eight rockets attacked Borodianka. The first plane was flying, and we quickly took the children to the cellar. My son-in-law was the last to go. I raised my head, and above us was a giant rocket. And then the “owners” arrived here. At first, they were not present, but we knew they were rolling around the village. The snipers were all around. And then helicopters shooting everywhere. We had a morgue at the end of the garden.

My son-in-law helped me carry the dead from the streets and yards. Six people. Neighbors. We just piled people in the garden. Later, five were identified, but no one could place the sixth one.

What about your property?

— The windows in the summer kitchen flew out. The garage was damaged, and the chicken coop was. We went out in the morning (if you could call it morning), and the doors [of the chicken coop] folded like a book and fell. It rattled so violently, and they shot where they wanted. We were used to not being disturbed in the evening. The son-in-law and the eldest grandson carried out the bench and sat waiting: blue or red rocket? They already knew that depending on the color of the first rocket, they would shoot this way or that way. There was an intense glow in the direction of Bucha, Irpin, and Vorzel.

I have many former colleagues there. There was such a glow that I stood near the cellar and could not believe it. In the house, people were sitting in the basement. One family was on the second floor, and the husband came outside to look around. He said: “I’ll go out and look, but my family stays inside.” But then they started shooting and wounded him, he ran into the basement, but later, he perished. The hospital was still working, and he was operated on, but he did not survive.

Was there looting?

— I got out once and saw a truck driving up. Then they [Russians] kept bringing things and loading the truck. And so it went everywhere. Then another truck drove up again, and they loaded it again. And why not? Garages were all at their disposal. So come on in and take what you want.

Has your attitude towards Russians changed?

— You can change your attitude to a human, but they are bastards, not a nation! They no longer exist for me. Here we had neighbors, Tereshchuks: Igor, Ilona, and a boy. They lived nearby. When their house was hit, they moved to another place. Then a bomb hit that place, and they just weren’t found. We hoped they were somewhere for a long time, but it is obvious now they were wiped out, and that’s it.

Клігунова Тетяна, Бородянка

Klihunova Tetiana, Borodianka

The article was prepared by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group with the support of the "People in Need"
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