АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
22 July 2022
Russian Daria Fedorova has been familiar with Ukraine since she was a child, because she visited her grandmother in Chernihiv every summer. Later, she met a loved one and stayed to live in Ukraine. And even fleeing from the bombing of his own home, she considers this decision the best in her life. The girl told how she ran away from shelling, where she is now and what she tells her friends from the aggressor country.
My name is Dasha, I am a citizen of the Russian Federation and have been living in Ukraine for two years. With my almost zero knowledge of the Ukrainian language, I visited almost all corners of this country and never once met with negativity in my direction. None. Even in western Ukraine, where everyone “hates Russians” so much. You know what they answered when they found out that I was from St. Petersburg: “Oh, it’s a very nice city. I would like to visit there, if not for putin”.
I have lived in Ukraine for two years, but our history with it began much earlier. I first came to Chernihiv when I was one year old. Although not, probably even earlier. My parents were classmates at Chernihiv School No. 3. They are not Ukrainians by nationality and were not even born in Ukraine. Military families often moved, and they were simply lucky enough to be in the same city at the same time in a series of countless moves.
Then my mother brought me every summer to Chernihiv to my grandmother, so that I “wouldn’t rot in wet Peter.” Well, I didn’t mind. During these years, I found many close friends with whom we are still friends, and I met my beloved person.
He lived in Ukraine, I lived in St. Petersburg, and the dilemma of a long-distance relationship resolved itself in March 2020. I really wanted to celebrate my birthday in Odesa. I wanted so much that I entered Ukraine a few hours before the borders were closed due to the height of the pandemic. And I was not at all worried about how I would return. Then the quarantine due to the coronavirus “stretched” for several years.
Yes, I had the opportunity to go back to Russia even if the borders were closed. But I decided to stay and I still consider it one of the best decisions of my life.
On February 24, we were in Chernihiv, renting an apartment in a nine-story building. I woke up at 5 in the morning because a guy woke me up with the words: “It’s started.” Shots were heard outside the city. On the first day, the Shestovytskyi airport, located in the Chernihiv district of the Chernihiv region, was blown up. Huge queues appeared in the city at gas stations, shops, and pharmacies. Many people left the city for the village; there were huge traffic jams on the way out of the city.
We tried not to panic, quickly packed our things, refueled the car the day before and drove out of town. At first we thought of going to western Ukraine, but we realized that this is a bad idea, because we don’t have any relatives or acquaintances there, and it is not clear whether there will be housing there.
For the first week of the war, we lived on the private territory where the greenhouses were located. Friends let us live there, and there was a large, reliable basement. There were no sleeping places, the basement turned out to be very cold, so the first three days we spent the night in the car. During this time, they equipped the basement, made a small house there and slept there. Explosions and machine gun fire were constantly heard in the distance. Every night I woke up in the basement, looked around and thought: “After all, it didn’t dream”.
I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t some terrible dream. It was scary that they would start shooting directly at us, because this was the Chernihiv region, and considering the volume of the automatic rounds, the hostilities were not far away. But it was even scarier to go.
A week has passed since we lived in the basement. Because of the constant cold, we started to feel bad, and a strong cough appeared. We decided at our own peril and risk to move to a private house, even though it was located even closer to the hostilities. But we spent only two days there, because on the second day they started shelling our private sector as well.
Then, on March 3, the worst day of my life happened. It was just the day of negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian parties, and then the heaviest bombing took place.
There was a feeling that it would fly right into us now. We were in a country house when the private sector began to be shelled with artillery. It got into our territory and demolished part of the fence. Neighboring houses were on fire, others were partially destroyed. Sitting in the basement, we thought we were going mad with fear. You hear the sound of a volley, the whistling of a shell approaching you, and a deafening roar. Such that the earth trembles, walls and windows tremble. The most terrible thing for me then was helplessness. When you just sit and pray that a rocket will not fly into you. Nothing depends on you in this situation.
At that time, the Russian army was shooting at us from the occupied village of Mykhailo-Kotsyubynske, in the Chernihiv district.
In the lull, we literally ran out of the house in our socks, loading things into the car.
Chernihiv was already bombarded by aircraft and “hail” day and night. Everything was shelled in a row: from oil depots and roadblocks to residential areas, summer cottages, cinemas, hospitals and kindergartens.
Acquaintances who stayed in the city to volunteer at the beginning of the war said that there were many corpses of civilians on the streets, who were hit by debris from nearby explosions.
I no longer had the strength to explain to my friends and acquaintances from Russia that this is not a “special operation”, that Russian troops destroy peaceful cities and kill ordinary people.
We were able to leave only on March 8. Until the end, it was not clear whether it would work: the bridge was sometimes closed and not released. Many acquaintances did not make it because their cars were shot on the way.
It was very scary to go, but it was even scarier to stay in Chernihiv under blockade. At that moment, the electricity and water had already disappeared in almost the entire city, and there was only one bridge that had not been blown up, so we decided to take a chance. I was lucky because the road was calm.
I exhaled only when we moved to the other side of the Dnipro. We arrived in Cherkasy. We were allowed to live by friends who had time to leave for Poland. When we arrived, we were shocked by how calm it was, as if nothing was happening.
I am a Spanish teacher by education. I taught Spanish and English for several years. I have been an editor and translator for the past couple of years. Due to the war, I was laid off in the company I worked for.
After moving to Cherkasy, it was difficult for me to find a job, so I received benefits for displaced persons.
“Dasha, you are an excellent specialist and a good person, but our team does not want to work with a Russian woman,” a recruiter told me in early April after three rounds of interviews when I was looking for a new job. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate, but you don’t even argue.
Then the job search moved from a standstill. I have already received my first salary. For the time being, I remain living in Cherkasy. I am preparing documents for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship.
After the Russian army stopped shelling Chernihiv, I visited home for a few days. When I returned, it was very scary to look at the city. I cried when I saw the debris, destroyed residential buildings, burned military equipment. The area of the private house, where we were almost all the time, was destroyed. We were familiar with all those neighbors, I don’t even know if they are alive. But we are very lucky that our house survived, because only ashes remain from the neighbors.
A shell also hit the nine-story building in Chernihiv, where we rented an apartment.
I wonder how much of an idiot you have to be to not realize that a terrible crime against humanity is taking place. I don’t understand how you can justify war and say “yes, but…”.
I don’t understand how many more photos and videos from the bombed-out Ukraine need to be seen to believe that these are not fake, but reality? But how badly do people need to be “brainwashed” so that everyone, as one, repeats the phrases: “peaceful people are not touched”, “putin is saving Ukraine from neo-Nazis”, “otherwise we would be attacked by NATO”, “it’s all for the sake of saving Donbas”.
Hatred of all Russians is a normal phenomenon today. In a situation where civilians of Ukraine are being bombed, killed, tortured and raped, no one will understand whether you are a “good” Russian: whether you spoke out against the war or not, whether you live in Russia or not. And there is no injustice in this. This war was unleashed by the Russian president, a representative of the Russian people, and all people with a burgundy passport are also responsible for his actions.
And to all Russians who do not understand where the harassment and discrimination of Russians in the world came from, I advise you to look through the photos from Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Bucha, Kherson and other destroyed cities. I hope it will reduce the number of questions.
I also advise my friends from Russia to read not only official Russian sources, but also Ukrainian sources. Read what the world’s leading mass media are writing. They should ask themselves the question: “Could it be that different world publications, which are not designed for the Russian audience, conspired and broadcast the same thing?”. And most importantly: “Why is the whole world sounding the alarm and talking about a full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine, and the Russian authorities deny everything?”.
I am accused of inciting hatred towards Russians. Not at all. I condemn people who support or ignore the absolute evil of waging war, invading a sovereign country, and killing civilians.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk