war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

We survived through the help of people…

07.04.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Taras Viichuk, Oleksandr Viichuk
In 2014, a resident of Bakhmut, Liudmyla Chyzhova, buried two sons and a six-year-old granddaughter, whose heart could not stand the fright. In 2022, Liudmyla and her deaf-mute husband were forced to evacuate. The swift “Ikarus” [a bus] maneuvered between shelling and picked up people along the way.

I am Chyzhova Liudmyla Anatoliivna. I came from Bakhmut. We lived in a private house. Our house was beautiful and large.

How did the events of 2014 develop in your region?

In 2014, I buried three. When the war began in 2014, one son died in the hospital, then another perished. And my granddaughter was killed. She was terribly frightened, and her heart could not stand it.

How did the war of 2022 burst into your life?

The son came and said: “Mom, did you hear the alarms?” — “I heard but did not understand what it was.” — “The war has begun.” He said we needed to hide somewhere, but our house had no basement. So we laid down on the floor, covered with mattresses. And my husband is deaf and mute, so I explained that he needed to lie down. The explosions were already very close.

Did the bombings damage your house?

The windows went into pieces. We also had a house extension. It immediately leaned over, fell, and pulled the roof with it. When my son was there last time (he has now left for the Dnipro), he said the house is no more.

Liudmyla Chyzhova, Bakhmut

Have you witnessed the destruction of civilian facilities?

A shell flew into the cemetery and is still stuck there. The post office was bombed. We were supposed to receive humanitarian aid there but did not because a shell hit it. Everything scattered to the sides. We fell and did not immediately realize what had happened. Volunteers took us home, and we ran to the basement. Then the volunteers brought food to us. A shell hit the store while we were there. My friend was killed there. He fell into a crater near the store formed after the projectile explosion. Many, many people died. The husband got scared and started screaming. What could I explain to him?

Did you have difficulty accessing food?

There was produce, but it was not the same as before. Everything got more expensive. We went to the post office to receive a pension. My husband has a small one, only 2100 UAH. Of course, it was insufficient, so we bought only the essentials. We survived thanks to people who brought us things: conservation or something else. People gathered and fetched everything they could. We had a friendly group of 11 people. One resident (not part of our group) had a large basement. They lived richly; they were engaged in tree growing. They were full of themselves, and no one was allowed into their basement.

We lived at my neighbor Zoia’s place. Her children took her to Poltava. I called her later, and she said that the house was no longer there, and I replied: “I know.” But I didn’t tell my husband about it. Nothing was left: ATMs did not work, and hospitals didn’t too. When I buried my friend, neither the ambulance nor the hospital worked. We buried him ourselves, and that’s all.

The shelled Bakhmut, photo: National Police of Ukraine

How did you evacuate from your settlement?

In March, we went to a neighbor’s basement and sat there. Then, on 3 May, the son came and said: “Mom, pack your things; I will evacuate you.” My husband and I did not immediately realize what was happening. So, he packed a suitcase for us, and we went to the draft board location and waited for a bus there. Finally, a huge ‘Ikarus’ arrived with volunteers. We left through Sloviansk. In Sloviansk, 11 more people were picked up.

The highway was shelled, but the bus somehow maneuvered between these shellings. We stopped and waited until everything was over.

We were immediately sent to the underground subway when we arrived in the Dnipro because two rockets were flying. One was shot down, and the second exploded in the city. We heard it well, even my husband. We just went down to the subway, and it exploded! The explosion was such that the husband jumped. Later volunteers put us on a train, and we arrived on 6 May. There were a lot of people and animals on the train. Cats, dogs. And how many children were there! I can’t put it into words, but there were so many!

My husband and I had one seat, and two more children sat beside me; their mother was opposite. She was coming from someplace, but I was not interested because I was frightened. We were treated to buckwheat with meat, rice with meat, biscuits, apples, drinks, and tea. We had good food on the train. But I felt sick because my blood pressure went up. Doctors paid attention to me, and I received an injection and pills.

Do you plan to return home after the end of the war?

I have a two-room apartment in a building on the fifth floor, but I do not know anything about the fate of this apartment. My girlfriend had a shell hit her apartment on the ninth [floor]. I know we will never return to our private home. And what will happen here? I don’t know. We are currently renting a house.

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