Ukrainians under siege reveal horrors of daily life

The 14th floor of the apartment block is too high when you can hear the explosion. Anastasia Kovalenko had to take her 4-year-old daughter Diana somewhere safely.

Before the war, the 33-year-old IT recruiter and his girl lived in Irpin, a simple suburb northwest of Kyiv with no shortage of playgrounds. Now its war scars are seen globally as a testament to Ukrainian resistance and Russian brutality.

“No one can imagine that anyone would be interested in this city,” she said. newsweek“But we could not have imagined that Russia would start a war like this.”

Waking up just before 8 a.m. on February 24, her priority was to take Diana to kindergarten. But missed calls from family and friends alerted him to a new reality – an invasion by Vladimir Putin’s army. “My hands started trembling,” she said.

Her thoughts turned to her parents who lived in Vasilkiv, south-west of the city. His home was built by his great-grandfather more than a century ago, when Russia was still an empire – which Putin has been accused of trying to restore.

With its pre-revolutionary-style wooden interior and filled with books and memories, the house was more than just a childhood home. “I always thought of it as the safest place in the whole world.”

Not any more. Vasilkiv has a military air base, the strategic importance of which made it the scene of a fierce battle. Along with Irpin and Buka, it was also a focus for an attempt by the Russian army to besiege the capital, whose retreat has revealed alleged atrocities.

In a hurry and oblivious to the prospect of never returning, Anastasia only managed to grab some documents, clothes, and a My Little Pony toy for her daughter, who loved the television series, from her apartment.

Behind them were the things she would now give anything she could to give—a diary of every day of her life since the birth of her daughter, and her first prenatal scans that marked Hope’s future. His life was now crushed in a bag.

They went to the ground floor apartment of a friend in another part of Irpin, where they had stayed that evening. “I was really scared, the explosions seemed so close,” she said via WhatsApp, “it’s really scary when you hear the sound and don’t understand what’s happening around you.”

Hanging humor was a coping mechanism. “We had a joke that as long as you can hear the explosion, it’s fine, because it doesn’t hit you. What you don’t hear gets you.”

The ominous approach of the Russian tanks at Irpin prompts his friends to decide that it is too dangerous to stay. Accompanied by their friends’ dog Reya, the group got into two cars and left, almost forgetting to bring food in a hurry.

As they drove through the night, their eyes were wide open to gas stations that had not run out of fuel.

The dog was a significant distraction for Diana, as was the My Little Pony doll. “If there is something scary, I can cheer her up a little bit with this pony,” she said, “sometimes when I take my bag I grab my things and when I see this pony I I start crying.”

Clothes thrown by Russian shelling from ruined apartments hang on a tree in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26, 2022. Michael Chernomorets told Greeley Tribune that he has been in town to help evacuate and feed people.
The Associated Press

anger not fear

Before the war, 33-year-old Michael Chernomorets owned three restaurants in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. His catering concern is now to provide food and support for his fellow citizens who are left weak and bewildered in their city.

“We have lived in this fear of an invasion for at least a few years, but in the evening you go to sleep as usual, charge your phone and go to bed,” he said. newsweek,

“Then you wake up at 5 a.m. with bombs and lights in the sky from the bombings and you don’t understand what happened and how.”

He moved his family but stayed and helped set up a group rescue now, which is in need of donation. On the first day he drove seven people more than 120 miles away, where he is safer.

Michael Chernomorets
Michael Chernomorets, seen in this screengrab, tells Greeley Tribune how he lived in Kharkiv to help the residents of his city after the Russian invasion.
defend now via instagram

The operation carried out by his team grew rapidly in size and scope, and within five weeks more than 2,000 people were sent to Poltava and Dnipro, which are further away.

Buses take people out and bring back provisions for the kitchen which now prepares 8,000 meals a day.

They feed on those who have not been evacuated, either because of their age, their frailty, or just their resilience. The phrase customer demand took on a whole new meaning.

“Every day we take care of people who can’t be evacuated and people who can’t go to shelter or people who are living in the basement of their building without any food or electricity.”

“Many people do what they can. We have many people who can’t handle a weapon,” he said, “they do whatever they can to support the military and civilians.” who can’t take care of themselves.”

“We have at least five or 10 air raid alarms per day and we have bomb attacks and we go to places where there are bodies on the road.” With silence, he said that these “are not casual situations, this is a real war.”

Kharkiv is primarily a Russian speaking city. Michael, also a Russian speaker, felt a strong connection to those who spoke his language on the other side of the border. He also supported Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest and the Olympics.

“We had many agreements with these people, we had agreements to protect each other,” he said, adding, “We didn’t feel any difference between us.”

The business of trying and keeping others alive is now at the fore of their mind, as is a sense of betrayal. “It’s not fear I guess,” he said. “We are angry, we are people, no one can feel fear because this is our country and we are not afraid of anything.

“We want our homes, our cities, our parks, our families, our kids. You know we’re very angry about it.”


Moving west, Anastasia and her group try to avoid large cities, which would clearly be the targets of bombing. they stopped first berdichev In the Zhytomyr region and then in the Carpathian Mountains proceeded to Polynitsa in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

They then took the train to Lviv from where they were driven to the Medica-Shehny border crossing with Poland.

Irpin Destruction
Ukrainian soldiers pass over a destroyed bridge at the entrance to Irpin, near Kyiv, on April 1, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Anastasia Kovalenko told Greeley Tribune how she fled Irpin with her daughter.
Ronaldo Schmidt/Getty Images

Through the stress of constantly passing military checkpoints and over explosions, air alarms and jets praying they were Ukrainian, Anastasia kept her emotions in check for her daughter’s sake.

“She’s reading me and her mood will be just like mine,” she said.

With heavy bags in crowds and trains, it was sometimes difficult to keep Diana close. The stories Anastasia had heard about refugees dying and was terrified of leaving her children to fend for herself. “You are ready that at any moment everything can change.”

She struggles to pronounce the name of Drogheda, a town in Ireland she is now in as part of a plan by the country’s government to welcome refugees.

But it is even more difficult to say whether she will ever be able to return to her country after fleeing for the future of her daughter. His father refuses to leave and lives in Vasiliev but his mother accompanies him in Ireland.

The trauma of her path to safety sees Anastasia revisited in unexpected ways. In Eindhoven on her way to Ireland, she took her daughter to a playground.

Spring had arrived earlier in the Netherlands than in Ukraine, and while her daughter was playing, she wept bitterly.

“My country is at war and everything is fine here – even the trees are in bloom.”

Anastasia Kovalenko And Her Daughter Diana
Anastasia Kovalenko and her daughter Diana flee the Kyiv suburb of Irpin after the Russian invasion. He feared for his life and that of his daughter by fleeing Ukraine.
Anastasia Kovalenko. supplied by

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