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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Hanna Lazurenko

    Women prayed aloud and it was like witnessing my own funeral. It’s a story about people who dwelled in a cellar and fled Irpin

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Anna Shliakhova

    9 August 2022

    Hanna Lazurenko, a 45-year-old woman from Irpin, together with her neighbors, their pets and children lived for 10 days in the cellar hiding from shelling. Later she managed to evacuate together with her relatives. She told “Monologues of the War” about life under the occupation and the evacuation.

    I was born in the Luhansk region and happily lived in Luhansk till 2014. My son graduated from the 10th grade of secondary school at the moment. We dreamed and planned his future. But all our dreams were ruined when the first time war came to our country, to our city. We went to Kharkiv as on holiday, and then there was no chance to come back home to Lugansk, because I already had no more home, no favorite work and friends. That’s because Irpin became my home in 2014. In this city I rebuilt my life. Here I was calm, happy and felt protected. The city has a flavor of calmness, safety, harmony, beauty, nature, freedom and coffee. I’ve always met good people in my life, so I easily got accustomed to my new and safe life in a new place. Also, everything turned out well with the job. I’ve found a job in my specialty and now work at the Lyceum.

    I can definitely say that on the 23th of February I was a happy person in a free country. On the 24th of February my life changed in a moment as well as the lives of many other Ukrainians. It was so painful to find out about the beginning of the war. My son wasn’t with me. He was in Kyiv with his girlfriend. They were about to go to work. After our phone conversation he made an unfortunate decision to evacuate his beloved woman to our cozy Irpin, though it should have been safer here. So, all together we met the war. Nobody understood anything, we had no plan. The only thing that could calm me down a little was my son’s girlfriend’s cat. It was the only consolation for me in the everyday life of the war in the days that followed. We didn’t remember the dates, only counted the days from the beginning of the war.

    It’s still painful to recall the first days of the war in Irpin. There were explosions around from dawn to dawn, flying aircrafts caused great fear as we all understood that every moment could be the last one.

    My son's bride

    My son and his bride

    My son and his girlfriend went shopping for food. As the bridge was already destroyed, we worried about the food supply.

    It was scary, when explosions became closer, but we stayed at home as we couldn’t flee the city. I was sure until the last moment that I would never leave my home again. First four days and nights we often went to the basement, which is not suitable for living, but we were there not alone. I remember many things, and my soul still hurts.

    There were children, adults, senior people — almost all the neighbors who left at the moment. We set up places for us, connected the basement to the internet, and collected a first aid kit. People were silent or talked to each other, read and discussed the news, children played, pets stayed close to their owners. Also, there was a family of 4 that was not from our house. They moved to friends’ apartment as they lived on one of the last floors. As our building has a basement, though it was the safest place for them at the moment. First they slept on some mattresses in the aisle, then they found some beds.

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    A young mother of 2 children had panic attacks. It was mentally demanding for me, but we all supported this family. Once I asked her husband if she ate something warm or something at all. I asked, because all of them stayed in the basement all the time. We were lucky to live on the second floor of the basement entrance. So, we could go down quickly to the place that seemed safe for us. Her husband reassured me that everything was fine, but he didn’t refuse some broth. I brought them broth and was watching my new basement neighbors with tears in my eyes. Firstly, that man fed his wife a little, then he fed their two children, and at last he ate what was left. At that moment my heart was breaking with pain for this young family, not for myself. A few days later he found and brought a Raffaello candy box, and treated everyone with candy. I took one from him, but then I saw the senior lady who was already relishing one. I saw in her eyes that she wanted more but couldn’t take more. So, I gave my candy to her. At the moment all three of us were happy: he could thank me for my support and the broth, the old lady got the much-desired candy, and I was happy to please her.

    The basement life

    Our basement community

    In the basement everybody looked for support and for some sort of solution. As it was hard to sit for a long time, a woman helped me to make some kind of bed. We put down some old wardrobes, I brought some bedding and pillows and lay on them. I thought it would be more comfortable. This moment is carved in my memory, the moment I realized that I was losing my mind lying and could do nothing about it. I was lying on that “bed” and just crying and watching two women praying aloud under the lamp. It was like witnessing my own funeral. I was just crying and I started screaming at them at some moment. I asked them to stop, because I couldn’t bear it anymore. I’m strong, but I was broken. It’s the worst memory of my life. 

    I didn’t respond to my son’s proposition to go home, because I had already accepted the circumstances. Then his girlfriend came to me and said that if we wouldn’t have gone home immediately, I would have stayed like this for a long time. Thank God, I listened to her and went home. I felt better at home, and I didn’t think about fleeing the city. I refused to do it, anyway we had no opportunity to escape from the city. The evacuation train took only women with children and senior people and we wouldn’t have even thought about fleeing without my son. We learned to sleep while explosions happened around us. In the morning I cooked fresh broth, read the news, and chatted with neighbors. And so we lived.

    In 10 days we managed to evacuate because we couldn’t stand explosions anymore, and that became ever more closer. However, the most important thing was that I understood that here I would have risked the future of my son and his girlfriend, my still unborn grandchildren, though we needed to flee immediately. The Irpin Bible Church helped us to escape even without asking if we were its parishioners. Now I understand that God is one no matter what faith we are. We must do a good deed and help each other, especially if people turn to us for help, as we turned to the church. All good deeds return to a person with a positive response boomerang. These people of faith saved my family in return for all good deeds I’ve tried to do.

    Now Irpin is a Hero City I am proud of. It was a fortress for Kyiv and saved our capital and our country.

    Sadly, about 70% of its buildings experienced damage. My home, which is my castle, was also damaged. The roof is destroyed and the last floor is partly destroyed. The fourth floor is partly burned out. But all the neighbors banded together to chip in on rebuilding costs. We hope for help from concerned people and fight for our right to live at home in the same building that is worth surviving and happy life within its walls. It’s worth it for children living in it, that are born somewhere to come back here. We all have someone to live for.

    My son’s hair is almost gray at 24. He endured all the horror of war silently and with dignity. He made a proposal to his girlfriend and a new Ukrainian family will be born soon. I became years older during that time. My values have changed. I realize now that the most valuable thing is life, and all my belongings can be packed in one bag to carry on my back.

    What am I lacking in my life so far? I need a victory over our enemy who constantly tries to ruin our lives. I need a life in a free country. I need to rebuild our damaged house and come back home finally. I need to sleep in my bed and drink a cup of coffee in the morning in my own kitchen.

    Hanna Lazurenko

    Hanna Lazurenko personal photo

    Life is going on. I believe in God and the Armed Force of Ukraine. I pray for the lives of our defenders and try to support them as best as I can.

    After the war ends, I’ll adopt a French Bulldog, a sassy cat and take fishes. I’ll buy a bottle of wine and visit my neighbor from the first floor, and senior mad (I promised it to that senior lady with the candy). I wish we all can wait until the end of war.

    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: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Anna Shliakhova

    Life under fire

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