‘During the evacuation, the Russians pointed machine guns at us’
Before the war, I was a receiving controller at ATB [retail market]. I rented a lodging, but I don’t remember the address. I came to work at ATB on the third of February, and a full-scale war began on the 24th, so I lived in a rented apartment for three weeks.
On the 24th, I was on the night shift. At five in the morning, the child called and said: “Mom, the war has begun.” I didn’t believe it. Honestly, until the tanks entered Kopyliv, I did not believe the war had started. I told the child not to worry; maybe something else was rumbling. I come from the Zhytomyr Region, Korostyshiv district. We had a military unit there. Previously, gunpowder was periodically exploded there. Well, there used to be “gup-gup-gup” even before the war. We didn’t pay attention to this. But the child told me: “No, Mom, the explosion was deafening.” Then I visited my brother, who confirmed that the war had started. However, he said, they won’t come to us.
We continued to work — they called me because other people could not get there. We have people from all different places, from Fastov, Brusylov, and Kyiv. So, I went to work on the 27th in the afternoon, and at ten in the morning, the management called and said, quit your job, quickly leave the warehouse, and go home because tanks are coming towards Makariv from Borodianka. I ran to my brother, and we still had time to drink coffee. Then, the guys called him, he went somewhere, and we closed in with the family. Children, mother-in-law, father-in-law, his wife’s sister and children... We locked ourselves in the house, sat and waited. At first, the father-in-law and mother-in-law were not there because they had gone to feed the chickens. And then they returned, and Viktor said: “The tanks were following us.” They ran into the corridor, and I stood at the door to see what equipment was coming in and how many units to provide data to the military or the village headman. When they came in, I counted 27 units.
There were tanks, armored personnel carriers, cars with people. I called my brother so that he could pass on the information further. He was at the collective farm and counted the second column.
And on 1 March, there was such shelling here that it was frightening. I was scared, not for myself but for the children. We fed the children, the elders sat in the kitchen to eat, and I decided to rest a little. I turned on the music on my phone, put on my headphones, and woke up because a brick fell on me. I opened my eyes, and the corridor was covered in dust. There was a strange sound and then the second wave: the blow was such that the front door was torn out. It was lucky that the children were in the bathroom. But they were scared. Then, a friend called us and invited us to her basement because the cellar here wouldn’t hold up. One more wave like that, and we would all be buried there. We ran to them, for which we are very grateful. We sat there when they bombed us with rockets and hid in the cellar. They attacked more than once. The store was nearby, and we heard the post office being robbed. They broke down the door to get inside. They boldly walked around the courtyards. One day, we stood near the entrance; we went out for a smoke break and saw them. We ran away because it was scary.
And on the fifth, I was cooking food for us. One neighbor had a summer kitchen and allowed us to cook there. There were 23 of us, and we had to eat. I was cooking in the kitchen. Usually, someone was with me, but this time I was alone. And then nine men — Russians — came in. I lost my tongue when they addressed me.
They asked: “Mother, do you have a weapon?” but I couldn’t say a word in response. I just showed them my fork because I was frying pancakes.
“Do you have children?” I waved: “Yes.” They said they wouldn’t touch us. And I told them: “Yes, I understand, but I think you will... I know what you really are like. My brother went to feed the chickens, and you shot at him.” He didn’t expect them to rob the store. He fed the chickens, then left the yard, and they saw him and fired a burst from a machine gun. He said that he just miraculously survived. He jumped up and ran behind the house. Maybe because he served before saved him. I don’t know.
It was 6 March, and I left around eleven. The store owner picked me up; she drove the car to the 51-kilometer. I decided for myself that I would get out of here to the children! Because the children were there, but there was no phone connection. She took me to the 51st. The column from Kopylov consisted of 30 vehicles. The 51st kilometer is where the bridge was blown up, at the turn to Makariv. We couldn’t go straight from Kopylov, so we drove along the streets. In front of Kalynivka were three tanks in the bushes and one in the middle of the road.
It was scary because there were about 12 of them in these tanks. They pointed their machine guns at us.
I just started praying. Dasha said: “I forgot my prayers.” I responded: “You drive, and I will pray.” And she: “If only we weren’t shot on the way.” But they didn’t touch our column. Our guys were already standing on the 51st. I was getting ready to go on foot because Dasha went to look for her grandparents; they didn’t respond to the calls from Makariv. However, our guys asked: “Where are you going?” — “On foot to Korostyshiv.” — “Wait, we’ll give you a lift with someone.”
I went to work again on 29 April. While I was here, it seemed scary, but not too much. That is until until these nine men burst in. And then I was terrified of explosions. Thinking about how to get back? I raise children myself, God forbid... Children are children! I couldn’t overcome the fear.