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.

‘A woman died beside my husband. Her leg was blown off’

13.11.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Taras Zozulinskyi
“We made a fire outside to cook food or drink tea. We were hungry all the time,” says a resident of Vuhledar (a town in Donetsk Region).

My name is Hanna Ivanivna Nuflik. I was born in 1954 in Chernihiv Region. I finished eight grades of school, and then studied at a vocational school in Chernihiv for two years. Later I moved to Crimea. In Crimea I lived in Sevastopol for five years and worked in the post office. Then I met my husband. In 1975 I gave birth to a son. Then we moved to Pryluky (a town in Chernihiv Region). My husband studied in Luhansk region and worked in a mine. There it was easier to get a flat from the government than in other regions, so we moved there. We lived in the village of Kostiantynivka for five years. But in 1983 we finally got a flat in Vuhledar. We lived there with our son and daughter. My daughter died of oncology seven years ago. I have four grandchildren: two granddaughters from my son and two grandsons from my daughter. They make me happy. My grandsons are now in Ivano-Frankivsk, and my two granddaughters moved to Hungary to escape the bombings.

What were the first days of the full-scale war like for you?

At the moment we have nowhere to live because our flat is severely damaged. The flat itself is intact but the windows and doors are broken. I don’t know what it looks like now because we left on April 15 (2022). We couldn’t make a decision for a long time. We lived in the basement for over a month but we were bombed so hard that the ground was shaking. We made a fire outside to cook food or drink tea. We were hungry all the time. I couldn’t take it anymore and we left. One day I went upstairs and there was such an explosion nearby that a cupboard in the kitchen fell down.

Once I went to receive humanitarian aid. When I left the house, it was quiet outside. Halfway down the road the explosions started. I fell to the ground and mines exploded near me. It was a real horror.

I was lucky that the locals let me hide in their basement. Otherwise, I would have died on the road. When I returned home, my husband was gone. I realised that he had gone to look for me. God really saved me because that day a woman died beside my husband. Her leg was blown off. I think there was a spotter in our town because as soon as people came to get humanitarian aid or water, the bombing started. I am really lack of words to describe my feelings. That day a bomb hit school No. 1 where people were receiving humanitarian aid and bread. Two women were killed and two men were injured by shrapnel.

Have you witnessed any crimes against the locals?

We were bombed all the time. There was a boy in our yard who was heating water to make some tea. Shrapnel hit his leg. That’s what I saw with my own eyes. I was lucky to be in the house at the time. All our doors were damaged by iron shrapnel. The boy fell and it was very scary. My son served in the army in 2015 and had experience with wounds, so he tied a tourniquet on the boy’s leg to stop bleeding. Volunteers took the boy to hospital, then to Kurakhovo (a town in Donetsk Region), then to Pokrovsk and then to Dnipro. My son stays in touch with him. The boy is in Lviv region now. So, this was our daily life under the bombs.

The constant bombing was terrible, especially the cluster bombs which were really dangerous. On April 15 I said to my husband: “They say there will be evacuation today. Let’s go, I can’t take it anymore”. I was hysterical: we were dirty and hungry. I couldn’t take it... All our shops and a local market were completely destroyed. There was nothing left. Instead of doorways in houses, I saw burnt black holes.

A piece of shrapnel hit the block of flats where I lived. The roof collapsed in a flat on the fourth floor, just above mine. It is terrible, the windows in all the flats are completely shattered.

As we drove past the village, it was as if no one had ever lived there. The village seemed dead: everything was destroyed and burnt out. We passed a mine that used to be beautiful but now it’s black and empty. I have nothing and nowhere to go back to. My husband and I are homeless. I lived on Trifonov Street, my son-in-law lived on Trinadciaty Desantnykiv Street. The bomb hit their basement. If they had been there, my grandchildren would be dead.

Perhaps you would like to address the Russians?

I want to tell them to stop the war. They should ask or persuade their sons not to come to Ukraine. It is wrong for brothers to fight. I ask them to stop this bloodshed and not to come to Ukraine. I can’t tell them anything else. I just want the bloodshed to stop. I want peace and I want to live on my own land!

Hanna Nuflik, Vuhledar

Translation: International Society for Human Rights (German Section)

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