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 were driving and everything exploded around us’

12.11.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksandr Vasyliev
Olena Petrivna Kulynovych lives in the village of Horenka, Kyiv Region. Her house was hit by an enemy shell. She left Horenka for a while but eventually returned. Now she lives without electricity, water and gas supply...

My name is Olena Petrivna Kulynovych, I live in the village of Horenka on Sadova Street, 22. I am retired.

Before the war started, did you ever imagine this could happen?

No, I never thought about it. Even when the war started, I didn’t believe it. It was a regular day, my daughter was on her way to work. Then she got a text message saying that the war had started. But I didn’t believe it, I thought it was just a joke. But earlier we had already been warned to find and keep in mind the nearest bomb shelter, so that we could hide there if anything happened. We didn´t take it seriously but anyway we prepared all the documents in case we had to leave.

We lived on the fourth floor (of the apartment house), and we could see the Hostomel airport from our windows. And on the 24th of February at 14:00, we saw that the airport was on fire. And in the evening, it got really scary. We and our friends didn’t know where to hide. So, our close friends took us to their garage (to hide there in a cellar). There were 11 of us. We spent five days there but then the grandchildren started to panic. And on the 1st of March they left for Kyiv.

Were there any evacuation problems?

At first there were. It was already impossible to call a taxi. But then our friends came and took my daughter and her children to Kyiv by car. But we (Olena and her husband) stayed. We were there in the first days of March... But on the 4th of March there were huge, loud explosions. We cried and panicked... A shell hit one of the houses nearby. It was a real horror.

We were in the garage cellar, and there was a car in the garage itself. So, the car was damaged by shrapnel, even the walls of the garage didn’t help. The men quickly repaired the car and we decided to leave. There were five of us in a small car. We were driving and everything exploded around us. We were driving at a very high speed... And when we finally reached Kyiv, we didn’t know where to go next. We called our friends and they told us to go to Vinnytsia Region. We were driving without a navigator and without lights. It was very scary and difficult. And when we finally arrived in Vinnytsia Region, only then we calmed down a bit.

Did you have time to pack?

You know, I didn’t think the war could start, so I wasn’t prepared. I just put the documents and the underwear in my bag. We didn’t take almost anything because there was no time to pack suitcases.

What happened to your house?

We left on the 4th (of March), and on the 5th our soldiers evacuated everyone who hadn’t left yet. On the 7th of March a shell hit our house and destroyed it.

Olena’s house

What happened to your apartment?

We lived on the fourth floor. My daughter’s bedroom is completely destroyed.

But when we came back to Horenka, we have managed to clear out our room and live there now. There is no electricity, water or gas supply... But we are very grateful to the volunteers for providing us with food. They are the ones who save us every day. A local church also brings us hot lunches, and volunteers bring us drinking water. We thank them every day. If they didn´t help us, I don´t know what we would do...

Those who had nowhere else to go stayed here (in the destroyed house). Young people come from time to time. But we have nowhere else to go, so we stay here. Soon the local authorities will build public showers for us, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to take a shower... So, that’s how we live now...

But I don’t know how we are going to survive the winter. I don’t know what to do. My family don’t live here: my daughter and grandson live abroad, and my eldest granddaughter rents an apartment with her friends in Kyiv.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t know. We’re waiting for help from the government. But I don’t know what else to expect.

What kind of help is available now?

They provide food and water but nothing else.

Has your attitude towards Russians changed?

Well, what can I say... They have caused so much pain to us... They want to crush and destroy us. They envy us because we live in a good and prosperous country. Though I am retired and don’t work anymore but I lived well. We didn’t starve or suffer, we went on holidays. I think they call us fascists and “Banderas” (Russians call Ukrainians or pro-Ukrainian people “Bandera(s)” because of the surname of a famous Ukrainian politician and activist Stepan Bandera) out of envy. Do they even know the real story of Stepan Bandera? They just don’t know it.

Is there anything you would like to say to Russians?

Let them (Russians) think how much pain and suffering they have caused to us! Because of them, people don’t see their families. Why are they doing this? They destroyed themselves and they want to destroy us as well. We have lost so many good people! Why did they invade us? They just want to destroy us. But they won’t succeed. We’re still strong. We are a prosperous country. We will always fight for our land and we will not give it to anyone. We will defend our country no matter what.

Olena Kulynovych, Horenka, Kyiv Region

Translation: International Society for Human Rights (German Section)

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

The article was prepared by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group within the T4P (Tribunal for Putin) global initiative.
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