АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska
28 July 2022
From the first day of full-scale war, a 33 years old Konstiantyn Suchko together with his wife decided to stay in Chernihiv. They are both doctors so they didn’t want to violate the civic duty. When the last bridge was blown up, the city became under siege. How did they survey without electricity, water supply and gas? Was there an opportunity to escape from the trap under enemy’s fire? This is what a doctor from Chernihiv is going to tell you.
I was born in Lutsk and studied in Chernivtsi. My major was Obstetrics and Gynecology. More than 4 years ago I moved to Chernihiv and started working in a local maternity hospital.
On February 24th, I got up early because I had an operation scheduled for that day. While drinking coffee, I saw horrible news.
Frankly speaking, I couldn’t believe my eyes as there was so much information lately. I tried to take a taxi to work but it was impossible. I called my boss and said that I was going to be late. He said there was no need to rush, the war was outside. Anyway I came to work that day and was on my usual duty.
From the very beginning, shots were heard. My wife and I made a decision to stay until the Russians dropped a bomb on last road bridge which connected Chernihiv and Kyiv. On March 23rd, the city was under full siege – food and transport routes were blocked…
How did we live? Some people were constantly hiding in basements, some only going there during shelling. We decided not to leave our apartment that was on the 9th floor.
Maybe it was silly, but we decided that if we were going to die that there was no need to run, anyway it would happen …
If we had a shelter, we would be a bit safer, but our building was new and the walls of it were thin. So, imagine we were sitting there and a missile hit right into our multi-storey building, nobody would rescue us.
I have doubts if I did the right thing. On March 5th, we saw an enemy plane shot down. It fell down within walking distance.
The plane fell, but the bombs it was carrying did not explode. So they lay for 2.5 or 3 weeks. Those were the so-called FAB-500. I read upon them. It was written that the FAB weighs 500 kg and when it hits a house directly, it completely destroys it, leaving a sinkhole 3 meters deep and up to 20 meters wide.
And then I thought that our basement would not save us from anything at all. Therefore, we relied on God’s will. I told my wife: “If God has to take us, He will.”
The light was cut off on March 5th. And in our new building, everything depended on electricity: the boiler is on electricity, if there is no light – no heat, the pump does not work – there is no water supply. Only the gas on the stove remained. And then it was gone. We had to figure out how to survive. My brother-in-law’s house had gas, it was not available in the city, so we went there to cook something to eat, and lived there for a while. Then we returned.
There were almost no problems with food as I had stored some up. I was proud of myself for buying products before the war started. I could not buy everything, but there was enough.
For the majority of people it was a real problem as they had money but there was nothing to buy or it cost a fortune.
It was not easy with water. The private sector was a 20-25 minute walk from us, mostly cottages there. So people left those cottages open, and there were wells. There were also standpipes around the city, but they either did not work or people for some reason put locks on them. I don’t know why. But what happened, happened. Half an hour there, half an hour back and you can bring 40 liters of water at a time.
The neighbor across the driveway got fuel somewhere and often collected empty bottles from around the house in his car and went to fetch water. I went with him to help.
We lived on the outskirts of the city, high-rise buildings were damaged in our neighborhood, but the private sector was destroyed the most.
About a kilometer from us the Chernihiv Border Guard detachment was located. We saw how they were attacked on the first day of a full-scale war. Later, when we walked there to see if the detachment was really destroyed.
The Russian planes mostly flew at night. We already knew when they would be: midnight, 2 am., 4 am., and 6 am. Sometimes I fell into something similar to a dream, I heard them flying. Lying on the bed, I was holding my wife’s hand and thinking if a missile was going to hit us or not.
From our window we could see how Chernihiv was burning. Black smoke was seen after the flights.
I went to work from time to time as all operations in the gynecology department were canceled, only the midwifery service was on duty.
My father-in-law was a truck driver. He didn’t sit back, he drove to Kulykivka 40 km.
Medicine and food were delivered there. He was the one who under fire transferred them into the town when there still was a bridge. But, when it was blown up, my father-in-law stayed on that side of the river. Luckily some volunteers transferred food by a boat to Kulykivka that was off the beaten track.
My wife was going through all this hard, and I tried not to panic, because then it would be more difficult for everyone.
I will say this: we had the opportunity to leave the city with my father-in-law. But I work as a doctor, duty does not allow me to flee. We must stay here, help in case of anything.
I was the only doctor in our house, so everyone came to me. Our house is new. We don’t all know each other yet, so I wrote a note. The first-aid kit at my house was packed, so there was some medicine that could help my neighbors.
Last road bridge that connected us to the world exploded. The following day we tried to leave. There was only one option – a pedestrian bridge across the Desna. We stood next to it in the morning. Heavy mortar shelling began and we had to leave and waited for two days in the private sector on the outskirts of Chernihiv with friends.
On March 26th, there was a second attempt to get out. We were waiting to be allowed onto the pedestrian bridge, and an enemy drone was flying over us.
“We did not have time to realise how the enemies dropped a cluster bomb on us. That was a scary thing, I’ll tell you. Apparently, the Most High needed us to stay alive, because the debris flew around and the last ones fell 5 meters from me, my wife and mother-in-law”.
First, the drones explored the area, and then they dropped cluster bombs. But it happened that the drone hovered, and our guys from the Armed Forces of Ukraine shot it down. Therefore, the bomb fell a little away from us. And if the drone had hung a little longer, then the bomb would have flown right at us and broken into small fragments and cut everything around.
We were lucky. We were the closest to the explosion and were not hurt. Later, when everything was over, we walked there on purpose and saw that the trees were cut by debris. Departure was postponed again. We returned home.
We couldn’t call volunteers. My wife accidentally dialed one of them on April 4th and there was an answer. We were given 10 minutes for packing, a cargo minivan arrived, my wife and I were put into a trunk without windows and doors and taken to the same pedestrian bridge. Then we walked for about an hour, trampling mud with our feet. A volunteer Christian organization helped us.
If before the full-scale war the road to Kyiv took 2 hours, that time we reached the capital in 8 hours. We spent the night in Vyshneve in the Kyiv region, we were given shelter in a church. And then we took BlaBlaCar to Lutsk. We stayed there for a week and returned home.
The search for a job in Chernihiv did not end. As the mayor reported, the population had decreased several times – from 290,000 people to 87,000. And the wife herself is from the city of Semenivka, the Chernihiv region. I had been working in Semenivka for one and a half months.
I am an optimist. Yes, it was scary, I don’t argue, but probably the specifics of my profession are such that I learned to control myself in critical situations.
You get used to everything. If in the first week we reacted to every explosion, then later we did not pay attention to ground attacks. Tanks, “Hrad” in principle do more damage to buildings, for pedestrians, airstrikes are the worst.
There were people who didn’t realize anything. For example, it was not necessary to lock standpipes, but they did. Maybe they didn’t want to share it. Some even took 20 packages of cereal per person and said that we should have come earlier. It didn’t matter to such people that the queue was long. You can’t behave like that…
But in the majority, people rallied and helped each other. If they brought some humanitarian aid and you were not there to take it, they also took the package for you which was very pleasant.
What after the victory? I haven’t thought yet, I just want to wait for it to come. But there are no plans. The war taught me to appreciate something completely different. The main thing is that everyone is alive.
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: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska
“Before the invasion of russia, the special services called me and warned me that I should pack and be ready to leave as soon as the war starts,” — the story of a journalist who evacuated from Bakhmut