Anastasia (25)

May 8, 2022, Zilina. Day 73 of war. 

Yes, we will tell you our story - she answered my question without any hesitation. Like the other survivors, she wants everyone to know the truth. The truth about what is happening in their hometowns. About the horrors that everyone prefers to close their eyes at. These are stories that are not easy to listen to. However, it is even harder to experience them first hand when you know how those you love, those you care about suffer.

“Our home is located on the border of the battle line. It passes only 7 km from us, through the Donetsk region. 9 rockets hit our city today. When we left, the situation was much calmer. A maximum of 2 missiles flew our direction daily, but they fell close to us, just two streets down from our house. We were very frightened then. We were told that there would be an attack on us soon and that the Russians would capture our region. We packed our things and left. Grandma and grandpa are 75 years old, and they decided to stay at home. We try to call them every day. Waking up in the morning with thoughts whether they are still alive is awful. If our town of Barvenkovo ​​falls, we will become a part of the Donetsk region. The nearby city of Izyum has been completely flattened. They are trying to surround us, they are firing missiles, tanks are driving up and down there, we do not know what will happen next. Every day they talk about new offensives towards our city.”

“The front is not in our town yet but they are bombing us. The city is still holding up, there are only our Ukrainian soldiers. We have already been officially evacuated, only 350 people remained there (Note by the author: according to Wikipedia, the city originally had more than 8,000 inhabitants). We only hid in the basement when the air raid sirens went off. They roared almost constantly. We hid mainly at night.”

“We were warned that we would probably be overpowered soon, because we were a small town. We didn't even have a proper military unit and weapons. There were actually only 2 possibilities, either the Russian soldiers would not enter the city but would completely bomb it, or they would owerpower us and do to us what they did to the people in Bucha or Izyum. Now we see that our Ukrainian boys are working miracles.”

“All my friends lived in other cities. Most of them remained in Ukraine, they moved to safer parts. The latter have now been evacuated from Slovyansk and Krematorsk. We already experienced the war in 2014, even then they gave us weapons, but no one bombed us then. Fortunately, the main front bypassed us. We lived more or less peacefully for 8 years. The Russians now want to occupy the entire Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which are 7 km far from us. We are actually the last part of the area that has not yet been occupied. In Izyum and Balakley, there were people who collaborated with the Russians in exchange for the money. Compared to what is happening all around us, we are still doing well. Even if the water or electricity supply is interrupted in some places, our municipal services manage to repair it relatively quickly. We would not want even our enemy to experience what we are experiencing. Only Putin knew about this war. He brought all this hatred and horror. But then, after a few days, you see how the Russian nation supports it…”

“I will have to scratch out a lot of people out of my life. Also my ex-girlfriend who lived in a street around the corner. She moved to Crimea before the annexation, and today, when she sees the rockets hitting the places where her friends, her family live, she is posting statuses in support of Russia's position on the Internet. Her great-grandmother and I hid in the same basement. And then I read her comments asking why Ukraine exists at all. In her view, Russia is a country that has the right to interfere in the independence of those who fail to rule over their territories. She came to us on vacation last summer. If I met her on the street today, I certainly wouldn't say hi to her. This person no longer exists for me. We were a country that sympathized and experienced every victory and defeat with the Russians, and they are now treating us this way. In Mariupol, mothers with children sit in the basements, but Russians show some Nazis on television and massage the brains of the nation, saying that everyone must be killed.”

“I graduated from college, I wanted to find a job, we had big plans. I studied law in Kharkiv, I graduated in 2020. I was looking for a job, now I will have to wait for all this to end so that we can come back and rebuild everything.”

“How can you call an old man who has a bag of medicine in one hand and a cat in the other, trying to run to the basement a Nazi? I don't understand how Russians can have such foggy minds. I don't understand when I hear that Russian soldiers' women tell their husbands to protect themselves during rape, so that they don't accidentally catch anything. We do not exist for them! They want to kill us, they don't want us to continue to exist. This is called a "special operation". Even the photographs of all the atrocities are just a photomontage to them. They also accuse us of killing ourselves here. Those who fled to Russia often change their minds and say that everything is just a fake, and yet they saw it with their own eyes! Russia is not a country to flee to from the war! All those who do this and support Russia's position are traitors to me. This is not a question of relationship with your country, but with your loved ones. And if they don't realize it, they should have no place in the world.”

“I often see the phrase on Facebook saying: "Our boys use anything to defend every meter of our country in order not to give it to the enemy." They are true heroes who deserve respect, peace and tranquility. All we have to do is pray and believe that the truth will prevail. We have never fought, we have always been a land of peace, and we have expected it from others. Russia is an incredibly rich country, full of diamonds, oil, gas, they should live like in the Emirates. Instead, much of the nation doesn't even know what a toilet is. Why are they coming to us? What do they need from us? How do we explain this to the people who built the country together after the Second World War, that those with whom they lived together came one morning and declared war on them - because of one fool? Lives of 40 million people have changed from night to morning. We heard bomb blasts from Izyum. They called us from Kharkiv and said that the Russians had started bombing the city. We didn't believe it. It was 5 o'clock in the morning, we thought there was a wedding somewhere and the bride and groom are celebrating and banging firecrackers.”

“Two days after my friend gave birth, they bombed the hospital where she gave birth to her child. I can't imagine how we'll build all this. Schools, hospitals, roads, everything. You see the places you walked around recently on TV burned down, there are no more of them. Even in our city, the museum and library that survived the two wars had to be destroyed because of that fool. We were very proud of our museum, in my opinion it was even more beautiful than the one in Kharkiv.”

“Huge numbers of Ukrainians went to Russia before the war for work, and many remained living there. I wish they had revolted. But I understand that no one will, on the contrary. They want us to give up as soon as possible because they have sanctions and they can't buy a purse from Dior, all the while our people can't even get porridge for their children. Our lives have been divided into before and after. Today little things make us happy, we have a completely different value system.”

“I never realized how much I could hate people. I will do everything in my power so that my children know what has happened and that this must not be done. These are things that cannot be forgiven. I read about how a mother died of starvation before the eyes of a 5-year-old son. They buried her in front of the block of flats. Whenever humanitarian aid arrives, her son carries canned food to the grave.”

“My former boss lived in Izyum. We have a good relationship. She said they were bombing their city, but so far they were fine, hiding in a basement. Then, on March 6, we heard nearby explosions, it sounded like a howitzer. It occurred to me that I would write to her to see if it was not happening there. I received an answer from her at 11 o'clock in the evening, saying that her whole family had died. Her mom, her man, her son, she was covered in blood, with both of her legs shot. Only for a moment did they come out to warm up from the basement to the house, and a rocket exploded in their yard. I later found out that her husband and mother died immediately, but she still managed to dig her son out from under the ruins and that he died in her arms. He had internal bleeding and the last thing he told her was - mom, I'm cold! She spent the whole week with 3 bodies in a ruined house, with injured legs, in the cold, until help arrived. I couldn’t get in touch with her for a month. We saw in the news that street dogs ate corpses on the streets because there was no one to bury them. After a month, she told us about how they found her, how she was taken to the then destroyed hospital in Izyum, where only one doctor and one nurse remained. Her legs were already rotting, they had no anesthetics. They told her that they must operate on her in full consciousness and that she must not pass out, otherwise they have no way to revive her. She later asked one volunteer if he would go and bury the bodies she had hidden under the carpets at home. Throughout the city, people were buried in gardens, in forests, in cemeteries. It had to be done quickly until the shooting started again. This is the story of my acquaintance, a former notary in the main court, who has nothing left today. She was evacuated to Dnepropetrovsk. The children of her dead man, with whom she has lived for the last 3 years, are in Israel and are trying to get her away from Ukraine. I was struck by what she said: “I never thought I was so strong physically and mentally! I have to live on as a memorial to our family and I want to live to see the day when those beasts are killed! They "freed me" from my mother, son, my man, my future grandchildren. I'm ready to tear everyone's hands apart! I have to live to see those beasts burning!”