‘Many houses have been destroyed, and people have nowhere to return to…’
I am Tymchenko Mykhailo Dmytrovych, born in 1948. I live on 4 Lesya Ukrainka Street, in the village of Moshchun. I am a builder but have already retired. I have lived in Moshchun for 22 years with my family: wife, son with his wife, and daughter with two children.
— Did you expect that there would be a full-scale Russian invasion?
— No! Nobody thought they would come here. There was no emergency go bag. I was sure that no one would come here. Even when we left, we did not have time to take anything with us. We took the dog but left the car. It was stolen later.
— How was the first day of the war for you?
— These memories will last a lifetime. Of course, I remember everything. Thirty helicopters flew towards Hostomel. My wife and I stood near the window and counted. One helicopter almost touched the antenna on the roof. It was clear that they were not ours. Because there was the letter “Z”, and on some — “V”. They flew to Hostomel, which is nearby across the Irpin River. Then we had shells and rockets flying. The roof was broken, but my son eventually fixed it. He was in Kyiv, and my wife and I hid in the basement. Sometimes I stayed home because I didn't want to always be in the basement.
— What happened in the village?
— On the 25-26 February, fires began in the town center. We haven't had anything like this yet. On the 5 March, twenty tanks passed by. I called my son and said the Russians were coming. He answered: “Let them come; they are expected in Horenka.”
— When did you decide to evacuate?
— I don't remember exactly when we left, probably on 6 or 7 March. The tanks had already passed, and they began constant shooting. Volunteers took us with the dog because I could not drive a car after a heart attack. First, we went to our son, then to the Zhytomyr region. Sitting in a car with a dog, I saw nothing, but my wife was beside the driver. We drove around checkpoints, and in Horenka, houses were already on fire. We left without problems, but the next day everything was on fire here.
— How long did you stay in the evacuation?
— March, April, May. Approximately three and a half months. We were in the Zhytomyr region and returned in June. First, our son brought us to his place, but then we came home and saw the ruins. Everything is more or less clean here now, but rubble was lying around before.
— What about your house?
— The roof is completely broken, and the balcony is also broken on this side. On the other side, the corner was knocked out but has already been restored. The roof and everything else were fixed with our money. Nobody helped. The roof was not replaced but patched up. The heating system in the apartment froze, and the windows were gone. The doors were opened as someone broke the locks. Possibly marauders. Some things were stolen. Shells hit nearby. Here's one hole, and here's another. The fence burned down, and trees and firewood. But we were lucky because the neighbor's house and all surroundings burned down completely.
— In your opinion, how many houses in the village have been destroyed? Are people returning?
— 90% was destroyed. Everything was on fire: houses, cars in garages, tractors. I think 30-40% of people have returned to live here. The thing is, people have nowhere to go back. So they set up wagons [temporary housing], but the conditions ... We have power two hours a day.
— What other crimes did the Russian military commit?
— I only know what others said. They took away food, dragged people out of the cellars, and beat them.
— What are you planning to do next?
— We will rebuild the house. Our son and daughter will help. If the government helps, that would be good. I understand that now with the war, there are other priorities. But I'm 75 years old and don't want to be homeless. So we will restore, but I don’t know how. You can't rebuild on my pension. I am a diabetic; I spend 4,000 hryvnias only on medicines, assuming they give me free insulin.
— Has your attitude towards the Russians changed?
— They say many things on TV, and I will say: I want each of them, young and old, to experience what we have experienced. I have nothing more to say. No one came out to support us! The wife's sister and daughter believe Ukraine is their territory, and everyone here is to blame. The wife does not communicate with them. They say Ukraine has betrayed them. And how did we betray? Katsaps [ethnic slur for Russians] came to Kyiv, and Ukrainians betrayed them?