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‘We walked around the mines and planted a vegetable garden’ — a story of a Moshchun resident

17.03.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksii Sydorenko
Mariia Mateitseva worked as a crane operator all her life. She and her husband built two houses in Moshchun with their own hands: for themselves and their daughter. Both homes were destroyed. Mariia now lives in a shack. She has nowhere to go.

My name is Mariia. I lived in Kyiv and worked at the plant as a crane operator. It is a cinder block plant on Borshchahovka. Here they allocated areas to build. The director was very helpful. We paid, of course, but he allowed us to get cinder blocks when asked. It was tough, as it was in 1998. We left that house to our daughter and bought another plot to build a second house. We have lived here since 2005.

Who did you live with?

I lived with my deceased husband. Together we built one dacha, then another with our own hands. I carried so many bricks and laid the floors. The neighbor used to say: “We are walking, and you are already breaking your back!” It was my home, and now, you see, I live in a shack.

Did you think there would be a full-scale war?

No! We didn’t prepare! Well, how? They are the so-called brothers. I still can’t figure out what they’re doing. They torment people.

On the 24th, they were already shooting. We woke up, and everyone was leaving, but we thought we wouldn’t go. We had nowhere to go, but on March 3, Aleksander Topalo took us out. He gave me three minutes to get ready. He is an ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) officer and has been fighting since 2014. He came to help take out one woman. And he told us we have three minutes to get ready. So, we rushed out as we were because the bullets were already whistling over our heads.

What happened while you were here?

Good Lord! There the house was on fire, and there was another. We looked out: Lord, the houses are burning; how come? How can this be? At first, we hid in the cellar. We brought pillows, blankets, and everything we needed, but when I got in, I couldn’t get out. My legs hurt a lot. So we went to a neighbor’s. We went there, and suddenly the planes were right above the houses. Zhuh-zhuh, they flew, they shot, and everything exploded around ... That’s when we become terrified. Everyone had already left, and my neighbor, Taisia Tymofiivna, and I were taken to Lesnaia Poliana to a bomb shelter.

Then Taia’s daughter and son-in-law found us. When we left for Kyiv, there were already defenses, and the soldiers were stationed. In Kyiv, we hid in a bomb shelter. A new kindergarten where was a very good bomb shelter. It was there my daughters told me that my house had been destroyed.

Actually, I discovered it by chance. They hid it from me, but I looked at the phone and said: “Wait, what is this?” They tried to calm me down, but I saw my daughter’s house was destroyed. She said: “That’s it, turn it off!” I answered: “No!” I looked more and saw my house was destroyed as well.

Then we returned home with a neighbor, and now we are not parting. We are like a family because we both are desperate.

Ruined house of Mariia Mateitseva, Moshchun

How long did you spend in the evacuation, and when did you return?

A month. Everything has already been cleared and demined. There were mines all around. Then, behind our barn, it exploded, and an apricot tree was blown away. We arrived in April to discover the ashes. It seems like it was 15 April. Lord, I don’t remember anymore. Our guys kicked them out and cleared everything.

What’s up with your house?

I think an incendiary projectile hit it. I had a wonderful house; a neighbor said: “You, Mariia, have the most beautiful house.” It was small and neat, with three floors and flowers around ... And now, you can see what has happened to it.

Everything was in the house — toilet, boiler, shower, and warm water. Just live and be happy. Never in my life would I have thought that I would have to go through such a thing. We built with difficulties finding the necessary materials, which was not easy. But this is how we slowly built and lived. Thanks to the Russians, well, OK — they came and “helped” us ...

Ruined house of Mariia Mateitseva, Moshchun

What are you planning to do next?

Live. Rebuild everything. Maybe someone can help a little. I now live here; it was a sauna. The gas stove is here, well, a hot plate burner with a balloon. And then the wood stove and two beds. There are dishes and everything else. But I’m not going anywhere! It is mine! Children asked: “Mom, maybe you will come to Kyiv?” I answered: ”No!” There are two families; where would I go? Either they would sleep on the floor or I. Nowhere to go! Oh, Lord...

Has your attitude towards Russians changed?

This is what I want to say. God forbid their families, mothers, and everyone else to experience what we have experienced. God forbid! We didn’t go to them. They’ve come to “rescue” us! From what?! From my hard work? I worked so hard, built a house, and I had everything, absolutely everything! How many tears I cried. I feel bitter because I worked hard two shifts on a crane to earn a penny and build it all. God forbid they lived through what we lived. I can’t say anything more because it’s trying. Very sad. Very painful. We truly believed them to be our brothers and sisters, but they say such things about us. But we are not lazy — we are Ukrainians. Although the land is mined, we go around the mines and plant a vegetable garden so that there is a crop. The winter is coming, and we need to eat something. I need to help my children.

Mariia Serhiivna Mateitseva, Moshchun

The article was prepared by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group with the support of the Prague Civil Society Centre
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