‘I prayed to God for my trees to resist’
My name is Liudmyla Oleksandrivna Lomeiko. I was born in 1939. I remember the Second World War and how it ended. I remember how the Germans, Romanians and Italians entered our village. And later — how they retreated. It was in Mykolaiv Region, near Southern Buh (Ukrainian river). Myhiia (village in Mykolaiv Region) stands on the bank of Southern Bug, so we lived and survived that war there.
How did you live before the current war started?
We bought a house in 2006 and I lived here (in Moshun). I am a pensioner. I worked in my garden. When we bought this house, there was nothing here. All vegetables and fruits you see I planted myself. I also saw firewood, prepare it and carry it to the house myself.
Have you ever imagined that Russia could attack Ukraine?
No, I haven’t. There were many interviews with Zelenskyi on TV, he said: “Don’t panic, Russia will not attack”. Everyone on TV said that there would be no war. And I was sure of it. I started to prepare the emergency bag already after they (Russian troops) attacked. The only thing I did before the war was to draw three angels and hang two of them on this tree and the third one — on that tree. And the third angel had a broken wing, I drew him like that. And I thought then: “Why did I draw him with a broken wing?” And later a shell hit my house. So, it was a prophetic angel. That’s all I did before the war, nothing else. I wasn’t prepared.
What did you do on the first day of the war?
I’ll tell you what I did. I did nothing. (She opened her notebook and read) “At 5 a.m. the war with Russia began...” You know, usually I get up very early. I get up at 4-5 a.m. So, I decided that I would be here (in the village) until the end of the war. I was sure that the war would not last long. And my neighbour was the first who brought me some food. And I said to him: “Oh, this is so much (food) — it will be enough for the rest of the war”. I was sure that the war wouldn’t last long. I prayed to God all the time. I kept reading the 90th psalm all the time. I prayed to God for my trees to resist because I had planted them with my own hands. And I prayed for my house as well.
“On the 25th (of February) at 6:46 a.m. explosions were heard. At 8:18 a.m. there was a loud explosion but I didn’t see smoke anywhere. Before the explosion, aeroplanes were flying. At 8:20 a.m. I heard an alarm — it was already near Kyiv. There was fighting in Hostomel and in Brovary (Kyiv Кegion). Five shots in Moshchun. Four more. Five explosions. At 20:51 there was fighting, shooting was heard. At 22:10 there was fighting for Hostomel. Everything was on fire. Smoke covers the sky...” My God! The shelling was heavy... They shelled all the time — in the morning, in the evening, and at night.
I remember how they were bombing Hostomel and the airport. Black helicopters came and started bombing. Such big clouds of smoke were rising!
So I was on the first floor. My son called me and said: “Mom, stay on the first floor, observe the shooting and call me then”. Because he is a military man. And I called him and told what I saw. I told him where those helicopters were flying. And then, after a couple of days or so, the planes started flying. And they were flying very low. They bombed something behind the forest. They bombed Hostomel.
From her window Lyudmyla also saw the “Mriia” (Ukrainian strategic airlift cargo aircraft) burning in a hangar at Hostomel Airport
The hangar was really big for it (for the “Mriia”). And they (Russian troops) were dropping bombs over that hangar, and it was burning. Everything was in terrible black smoke there. It looked like the sky was on fire. But it didn´t look like the northern lights. And at night it was very visible: I saw some blue lights, black, green, red, etc. I still don’t know what it was.
What did you say to your son when he offered to take you to a safe place?
I said that I wouldn’t go anywhere. I didn’t want to go. I thought the war would be over soon. But it was only the beginning. And then came tracer bullets, shrapnel, broken window glasses, etc. So I was sitting in the basement thinking: “What if a three-storey building collapses on me, and there’s nobody around to save me?” All neighbours left. I walked round the village looking for people. And I thought: “Why is there no one around?”
With a cup of coffee I went to my old neighbour Mykhailo to take some hot water, because he had a generator and had hot water. And the first time I came to him, there were seven Ukrainian soldiers in his house. And they were drinking coffee, and they made coffee for me. And one young soldier said: “I’m a professional bandura (Ukrainian folk-instrument) player”. His fingers were so thin. He himself looked so thin and fragile. He looked as if he was 18 years old. But he was already a soldier.
What happened to your house?
It was hit by a shell. There was a loud explosion. And I was in the kitchen at the time. And I didn’t go to check what was it. Only in the morning I saw that the house was extremely damaged. All the window glasses were broken, the door was smashed down and the ceiling was damaged as well. The roof and the ceiling had been punctured. It was raining a little bit, so it was leaking everywhere. Once a big shell hit nearby. Two window glasses blew out. They (Russian troops) were shooting something at windows. There were round holes in windows at first. And then, when window glasses were blown out, there were no holes anymore. I used to find iron rods in the house, pointed on one side. I swept them away. I didn’t know what it was. I took them and tried to understand what it was: either bullets, or bullet stuffing, or something else. Shrapnel stuck in the window frames. I’ve also got a shell fragment in my house. I swept everything into a pile. I couldn’t leave the house. I don’t know how but finally I managed to go outside in order to turn off the gas. I went through the garage and crawled out there on all fours. I felt like the shelling was 24 hours a day. It never stopped. Day and night. And everything was burning. The sky was full of smoke. I had two jackets on, warm boots, jumpers, two scarves and a hat. And so it was. I couldn’t even cook something to eat outside. Because all the time something was flying, something was hitting. If you look at my house and see how damaged it is, you understand how heavily they (Russian troops) were bombing. If I had gone outside, I would have been killed immediately.
When a shell hit your house, did you think about leaving the village?
No, I didn’t.
I don’t know. I thought I would stay in the village until the end of the war. And the shells were already hitting and it was hard. Rockets were flying everywhere, they made an annoying rustling sound. We knew as well, that somewhere were those orcs (Ukrainians call russian soldiers “orc(s)” сomparing them with monsters from “Lord of the Rings”), and somewhere nearby were our soldiers. And everyone told me on phone: “That’s it! Ukraine will be taken. Kyiv will be taken!” I answered: “No way! They (Russian troops) can’t even cross my village. How will they get to Kyiv? It will never happen!” I was so confident! And indeed they were stopped. They were gone.
During the occupation, Russian military came to Liudmyla’s house
Well, I saw them — five people — coming through my gate. Five were in the street, five were in my neighbours’ yard, and another five were coming to my house. And I looked out of the window and saw them. The smallest one went first and he looked so scared. It was funny, so I laughed and opened the window. And they asked: “Do you live here?” I answered: “I do”. They were all young, each was about twenty years old. One of them — tall and young — said: “We thought it is a church”. I said: “No, this is my house, I live here. Well, if I can call it a life”. And they asked: “Is there anyone else in the house?” I answered: “There’s nobody here”. — “Do you have water?” — “Yes”. — “Give it to us”.
I went inside to get some water. I came out with a bottle of water and they were already leaving. And I said: “Guys, surrender! And you’ll keep your lives”. And one of them — the tallest one — just waved his hand as if he didn’t care, and they went away. Until evening they were hanging around, and in the morning two guys came to me — Volodymyr and Yaroslav. And they said that they (Russian troops) left the village.
A few days later, Ukraininan soldiers persuaded Liudmyla to take her to a safe place
Yes, on the 13th of March our soldiers took me out. They took out one dead soldier and me. So, they actually came back here to take me out. They had to drag me out by the hand, because I didn’t want to go.
Has your attitude towards Russians changed?
Wel, what’s my attitude? I don’t have hatred in my heart. But that’s my opinion and I don’t impose it on anyone. They (Russians) are people with different brains. They are people with a thirst for other people’s blood. Someone say they are zombified, but no, they are not! You can zombify those whose brains work. And they were not zombified, they have thirst for others’ blood. When TV was still on, I saw them (Russians) being interviewed in their cities. And their old people and women like me said: “All nations envy us, Russians. We have a special soul”. That’s true! They have a special soul. They are not zombified. This thirst is in their genes. This is my opinion. I don’t impose it on anyone. I can say whatever I want because I am not scared to get into prison for my words. I am already 83 years old, I have less to lose.
Translation: International Society for Human Rights (German Section)