war crimes in Ukraine

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‘A bomb was dropped from a plane! We were left without a roof over our heads...’

22.11.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksii Sydorenko
Olha Smykovska lives in the Kyiv Region in the village of Kopyliv. In the first days of the war, the Russians dropped an aerial bomb near the woman’s house. Olha’s son went to war to defend Ukraine and was seriously wounded. And then she lost her daughter.

We looked, and two dark green planes were flying. I said: “Halia, these are not ours!” They passed by, it became quiet, and I heard them buzzing again. They were flying here. I said: “Let’s hide, just in case.” We ran to the bedroom. We just sat down when it boomed! How everything flew at us from the ceiling! The glass flew! And Halya was lying there: she was heavy and sick. And this glass was on her feet, and everything was on top of me. I didn’t even understand what it was because it was quiet before. Everything flew out: all the doors, windows. My husband was tossed up in the air! The stove was destroyed, and the pipe was broken.

And it was winter outside, frost, snowing. What to do first? Vova and I started pulling out these rugs strewn with glass. We pulled them out, but it was cold in the house. The clay and sand froze, so we went to our neighbor to get some clay. We mixed it up, and Vova climbed into the attic to fix the chimney at least a little. The wall moved a little, and we began to sheathe the roof with tin sheets. We were lucky that we had tin and slates. But the roof was destroyed entirely. Like this. Where to cook food? We stacked bricks on the street and cooked there. The stove in the house did not keep the heat up. The plaster crumbled — and the heat went nowhere, so we would heat some tea and quickly whip up some porridge. But mostly we cooked outside.

Olha Smykovska, resident of Kopyliv, Kyiv Region

The neighbor one house over had eleven cats. He called: “Aunt Olya, how are my cats?” He didn’t ask how the house was; he asked about the cats. What about cats? The windows were opened. There were no doors, and a huge dog was there…

I took pills for high blood pressure, and we ran to the pantry. What was in the pantry? There were no windows. We sat there and froze. When the light began to break through, we would get out if there seemed to be a lull... And behind us was a forest, and shells flying here and there. Cars were driving, the road was damaged, and my house shook. Everything was broken... That’s how we lived.

My sister and her son came to hide here. Many from Kyiv went to hide in villages, and they came here. Then he said: that’s no hiding. On the 27th, we heard some kind of transport roaring. We stood there, and I cooked food. Suddenly, they came with machine guns — tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other equipment. Vova [nephew] counted them and sent this data where necessary.

— Did you count a lot?

— I do not remember.

— Well, two or three cars or rather 30-40?

— A lot, about thirty.

Then, they moved on. What can you do? That’s it, war! That’s it. And when four bombs fell, we suffered too. Metal sheets, concrete fence, asphalt — everything was torn apart. That’s why they [the Russians] didn’t come to us. They walked at the end of the street. They were looking for food there but were afraid to come to us. Nobody came — none of ours, no one. The Russians passed there, and we peeked through the cracks to understand where they were going — here or back. We saw their empty car was driving, an armored personnel carrier. An hour later, they came back, and it was clear that they had taken the shells somewhere, refueled, and were on their way. We spied on them, and Vova transmitted information somewhere. That’s how it was.

Destroyed outbuilding

About evacuation

Well, how could we evacuate if my sister arrived? We needed gasoline, whatever, but they’ve already arrived. It was too late. And where? You can’t go in one direction, and in another, they said cars with white flags were being shot. We couldn’t leave. On the eighth [people] were going; we saw cars driving with white flags. I was collecting branches, as we needed to make a fire to warm up. I have a bad back, and I couldn’t bend over; my sister was sick, and my husband had a concussion after hitting a wall.

The water was flowing in. Vova climbed and covered the holes with plastic film and tin. The chickens began to lay eggs in fright, but there was nothing to eat, so we ate eggs: I boiled ten of them every day. I distributed eggs to the neighbors: the guys came there, and I gave them to everyone because they also had nothing to eat. That’s how we lived.

About my son

The son said earlier: “Mom, I won’t go to the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation], but if there is a war, I will go!”

— Did he go on the first day?

— On the second.

He went to the military registration and enlistment office in Makariv and then from the military registration and enlistment office to Bila Tserkva. From the first day, he defended Brovary. They have the 72nd brigade, and it’s incredible! First Brovary, then Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv. They were sent everywhere.

— How old is your son?

— He was born in 1980.

But he has no family. Later, they went to Bakhmut, Vuhledar. And an armored personnel carrier ran over his legs there. One leg was saved, but the other was crushed into small pieces. Well, imagine an armored personnel carrier ran him over. They took him, poor thing, everywhere. He almost died. They said five more minutes, and he wouldn’t have been saved. They sent him to the hospital in Bakhmut. They stopped the bleeding, and then — to the Dnipro, to Uzhhorod... The leg won’t heal, no matter what we tried. The injections cost eight thousand, and I looked around Kyiv for calcium: it’s expensive, it costs more than a thousand. His bone has already healed, but the iron they inserted is causing problems. The body rejects it. I said: Pavlo, contact other places.

In the end, almost all the metal pieces were pulled out, and foreign equipment was needed. The surgeon tried but still couldn’t pull out two fragments. They put him on antibiotics. He said that maybe he would come this Saturday or Monday. That’s it. But he will come for ten days on sick leave, and no one knows what will happen next. I feel sorry for all our soldiers.

It wouldn’t have been so hard for me, but my daughter died tragically. She got gas poisoning on New Year’s Eve. People felt sorry for me, and everyone brought money as much as they could. How else would I repair all this? Everything is so expensive now. I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. My son sent me money, so we built a chicken coop because there was nowhere to put the chickens. That’s how we live.

About Russians

I wish them demise. So that they experience everything that we experienced; I couldn’t get up or lie down for a month without a sedative. I want to kill as many of them there as possible. So that they feel what war is like. What it’s like to live like this. I wouldn’t wish them well, such bastards. What harm have we done to them? After all, nothing! There is a Russian living on our street, many of them in Kopylovo, but we had nothing against them. Such is our life.

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