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‘Words cannot express what we experienced,’ — a resident of the village of Zahaltsi

21.04.2024    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksii Sydorenko
Olena Shevchenko lives in the village of Zahaltsi, Kyiv Region. Together with her grandchildren, the woman endured several weeks under endless shelling. People were hiding in the basement, and everything outside was on fire.

I couldn’t, never in my life could I imagine that this would happen. I couldn’t believe it even when my son-in-law told us. He was taken away immediately because he was a fireman. Then, the phone connection was lost, and they started bombing. Bombs were falling into the garden. They probably aimed at the power line. I was here from 24 February to 17 March. The cellar saved us. My neighbors and I were hiding there. I lived in the house with my eldest daughter, son-in-law, and two children.

On the 24th, I heard something banging. My daughter was on the night shift. My son-in-law is a fireman; they called him from work and summoned him. Everyone left, but I and the children stayed in the house. There was no connection. I was still working then; I called my boss and couldn’t get through. I wanted to warn him that I wouldn’t go to work because there was no one to leave the children with. They said on TV that a war had begun and that the airfield was being bombed. While there was a connection, my daughter called and cried. She couldn’t get home, and I was alone with the kids.

Olena Shevchenko, resident of the village of Zahaltsi, Kyiv Region

It was scary, of course. Then a colleague came and said, don’t worry, the companies were closed because people couldn’t get to work. My husband went to the military registration and enlistment office to enroll in the terrorist defense. He signed up and was in Borodianka, but sometimes he came home. He didn’t say much about what was going on there. However, when the columns of Russians arrived, he showed how they knocked out KamAZ trucks with Molotov cocktails or something else. And then it began...

We closed the windows and hid all in one room. If there was an alarm or bombing, we ran to the cellar. Well, the barn door fell out when they bombed. On 1 March, it was my daughter’s birthday, and they started bombing us heavily. I will never forget how she wanted to fry pancakes, but we sat in the basement with the children all day. We were heavily bombed. My husband came and told me what was happening there. Absolute horror was happening in Borodianka. So we kept escaping to the basement until 6 March.

On 6 March, the youngest stood at the window, and a rocket fell behind the house opposite us. There was a light and an intense explosion. The granddaughter stood at the window and said: “Grandma, my heart stopped!” I was scared, but the elders laughed. “Polina, if your heart had stopped, you would no longer be alive.”

Then, we realized there was no other choice and asked the children to leave. My brother lives in Novohrad and asked that they go to him. People evacuated with white flags. It was impossible to go along the highway because the Russians started firing rockets. Where my house stands, the Grad shell was lying.

Olena’s destroyed summer kitchen

But we were in the basement when it fell. And when we came out, we saw this cartridge case. I then said: “Leave with the children.” After Polina got scared, my son-in-law took them to her godfather’s village in Myhalky. It was quieter there. He took me there for three days; he then was released from work and took the children to Novohrad-Volynskyi. I stayed here until 17 March. There was no connection, and then, one day, an SMS arrived. The daughter wrote that her husband, a military man, told her to get her mother to leave because there would be Armageddon. The neighbor’s house has already burned down by then.

What we experienced cannot be expressed in words. It affected my psyche in such a way that I have only now begun to recover. Then the news came that my husband was missing. The neighbor’s house burned down. My daughter wrote that Anatolii [her husband] would take time off from work and come for us, and I asked my neighbor to call and tell her not to come here because what was happening here cannot be described in words. And when our neighbors’ house burned down, we decided to go on foot. However, the neighbor across the street returned; he was in the neighboring village of Nova Buda and picked us up in his Zhiguli.

How he drove us away... He turns around, and our tank comes towards us. We understand that this is ours, but it turned out that we were under the gun. In short, it was terrible. When I arrived and saw the children, my daughter said: “Mom, you have aged ten years.”

This is what Olena’s house looks like now

My house burned down. A shell hit, and everything caught fire. You know, I don’t wish anyone to go through what we went through. But still, there must be justice. I never wished harm to anyone, but everything we experienced was terrifying. I cannot say anything good to the Russians. Let them experience the same firsthand.

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