When the sky is blacker than the Earth — the battle for Dmytrivka
I am Tokii Olha Mykhailivna, born in 1954, and I am 69 years old. I live in the village of Dmytrivka, Kyiv Region, at 26 A Lisna Street.
Do you remember what happened on 24 February 2022?
My daughter told me at six in the morning: “War!” I immediately looked out the window and saw a red flame from the side of Vasylkiv. It was terrible. On 5 March, my daughter took her children and went to the other side of the village to her godfather: they have a deep cellar, but we don’t. So I stayed at home alone.
What happened in the following days?
In the following days? The first destroyed house was the house of the teacher Liudmyla Ivanivna. But I don’t know where they were shooting from and with what — I couldn’t say for sure. Some people who evacuated from the village left me the keys to their houses. So I fed their cattle and their dogs all this time. My friend and I baked pancakes and handed them out to people. I don’t know how many people remained in the village during the occupation, but no more than twenty were on our street.
I want to talk about 29 March. On this day, I went to feed the cats on the street, and suddenly I heard a roar, a terrible bubbling ... Three cars drove around the corner; I looked — “Dushmans” [slang for enemy]. I stopped and crossed myself and thought — that’s it! And they stopped, and one shouted: “Glory to Ukraine!” I said: “Glory to the Heroes! And who are you?” "He said that they were Georgians and treated me with sweets. These were ours. Then they left. I had not yet managed to return home when the tanks moved down the street: they didn’t even drive — they flew. I counted nine. Whether they were ours, or Russians, I did not know then. I looked and saw one tank go right into a neighbor’s garden. It turned out that they were ours. I immediately ran up to them, and they were young guys. You know, they smiled so much, you can’t even say they are fighting. I offered them food, but they refused, treating themselves only to salo [salted lard].
They stayed for a few hours and left. We knelt before them in gratitude. That night, terrible shelling of our village began. It was horrible. A lot of houses burned down. And on 30 March, our fighters again arrived in cars, drove them into the yard, and politely asked me to give them the keys to the neighbor’s house. They wanted to rest there. And imagine, when our soldiers were leaving this house, they gave me eight thousand hryvnias, which they found on the table. They didn’t steal or take it for themselves but handed it over to me so that the neighbor’s money would not be lost, and I would keep it. The guys are just golden and very decent. In our village, in almost every house where people did not live, there were our soldiers.
Did you encounter the Russian military during the occupation of Dmytrivka?
I have not seen Russians. They were on the other side of the village. Our friends who live there saw how the Russians were driving in tanks. And we didn’t have them.
Are you aware of the war crimes that Russians committed against civilians in Dmytrivka?
I have a friend here, they took everything from her house, but this is not the worst… They say there were rapes, but I did not witness this; I only heard about it.
Was Dmytrivka heavily shelled?
Very intensely! For example, we heard a whistle, then an explosion at night. We left the house and saw that it was burning somewhere, and somewhere there was smoke, and the sky was black. Blacker than black Earth. Sheer horror. It’s hard to remember. If they entered here, I would ask them to shoot me immediately. I am terrified of violence.
Why didn’t you evacuate?
Where will I go? Firstly, it is physically strenuous for me to travel far, and secondly, how will I leave my farm, house, and village?! I was born here, went to school, got married... Where will I go? The main thing for me is that everything is fine with the children, with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
How did you manage emotionally?
It was tough. I thought I couldn’t stand it. Fifteen years ago, I had a micro-stroke, and my blood pressure was still high. But the main thing is that all the children would return from the war, and peace would come soon.
Has your attitude towards Russians changed?
Very much so! I don’t even want to hear about them. And I don’t want to listen to the Russian language. I used to work as an accountant and kept the documentation in Russian, but now, by God, I don’t want to hear it. And I used to love their artists... What it all came to? I would give my life so the war would end as soon as possible!
This publication is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Human Rights in Action Program, run by the Ukrainian Helsinki Group on Human Rights (UHSHR).
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