war crimes in Ukraine

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‘The rocket killed my father. This will never be erased from my memory or heart’

08.01.2024    available: Українською | На русском
Andrii Didenko
Ostapovska Nataliia and Iryna are residents of the Krasna Hirka village. Without holding back tears, mother and daughter tell their story. Before their eyes, the rocket destroyed the house, animals, and the most dear person — father and husband. “In memory of the victims, we must not give up and move towards victory,” the women say, despite the grief they have not yet overcome.

What we had to endure happened before our eyes. But, unfortunately, no one knows why this happened. Why did this grief come to every home? Everything happened instantly. In a matter of seconds... A rocket arrived very quickly. It hit the father and tore him apart. The house burned down from the shock wave. And everything he built also burned down. Animals burned: geese, chickens, pigs, rabbits. There were many animals. The equipment burned down. Poor thing, he ended up in a crater. The worst thing is he is not here. But he is always with us. We think he has protected us: we were his wards. But it’s a shame that he’s gone.

At that moment, we were at home, having breakfast. It so happened that we all left the house. The sister, niece, and brother-in-law went to the cellar, and the father went to the barn to check the animals. I was not far from him. But when I ran up, he was no longer in the crater, only his clothes and body parts — hands, legs. All this will never be erased from my memory or heart. Everything will remain. Of course, we always remember all this when we are home, remember with pain. We remember him. We have not recovered from all this. But we work, we don’t give up. We do what we can. Sometimes, we smile a little and remember the good moments.

Our settlement found itself under occupation. We are grateful to Sydorenko Nataliia Petrivna and Sydorenko V’iacheslav Oleksiiovych. After the Russians destroyed our house, they sheltered us, helped us, fed us, and gave us clothes to change. They helped bury my father and made him a coffin. We are very grateful to them for this. They help everyone now and helped at that moment. They took us out of the occupation.

Остаповська Наталія та Ірина — мешканки села Червона гірка

Ostapovska Nataliia and Iryna — residents of the Krasna Hirka village

All these events occurred on 27 February 2022. And on 4 March 2022, we left. On 3 March, my father was buried in the cemetery. Nataliia Petrivna and her husband, V’iacheslav Oleksiiovych, gave us a car. Of course, it was terrifying because the Russians were shooting and flying. But despite everything, they helped us do everything humanly. They left on the fourth of March, and we were able to leave, too. We didn’t know where we were going, or should we leave? Shock, loss... We didn’t understand anything. But thanks to them, we left.

We returned home on 16 April 2022. We took my father from the morgue again because there was an exhumation. We arrived from the direction of Makariv. It was terrible. When we were driving here, we did not see houses destroyed. Along the road, we saw burnt-out cars. It was clear that there were missiles or cassettes. There were mines and tripwires. When we entered the house, we saw a completely different picture than the one we saw in a state of shock. We recalled everything again. We didn’t clean up for a long time because we thought maybe there were tripwires, but thank God, there was nothing. There were no tripwires or mines in our yard. Therefore, we rested a little, as they say, mentally and physically, and began to clean the territory of our house. Little by little, the yard was cleaned up. Thanks to the people who helped us. These were relatives and acquaintances from my father’s side. That’s how everything was cleared out.

We hoped that we would restore the burned house. But, unfortunately, the walls began to collapse. My father made minor repairs and built a new stove before the New Year. This all, unfortunately, collapsed. We had to dismantle the house. Now, we only have the foundation. But the foundation also began to crumble. We look at these ruins — there are no words, no emotions. We hope that the Russian aggressors will be punished for this and there will be reparations. We hope there will be victory soon.

We rebuilt a summer kitchen, which survived. It wouldn’t have happened if we had delayed it a little. They gave us trailers. There was no light, and, of course, it was cold outside. But we have firewood, so we heated the potbelly stove. We don’t give up, and we are determined. Ukrainians are a strong nation. The main thing is not to give up. As they say, life lies ahead. Everyone still remembers their family and friends. Our [decised] relatives still see us, look after us, help us. In memory of them, we need to persevere and go to victory.

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