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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Damaged house after a missile hit

    “During each explosion my dog would fall to the ground”. How a woman from Irpin evacuated herself and her dog, and lost a home

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    11 August 2022

    Olena Koliada is from Kyiv. For the last 10 years she’s been living in Irpin. On February 25 she decided to leave home and move away from the shelling to a safer place. As it turned out a month later, a missile hit her house. And 20 days ago her family’s home was bombed. Olena shared her story with “Monologues of the War”.

    I’ve always loved my Irpin, a beautiful and cozy town. After 10 years it became such a familiar place that I could walk around it with my eyes closed. I loved commuting Monday to Friday, loved coming back home to my family, loved walking my dog in the park every day. I’ve always loved my life. To someone it may seem boring, but to me it was filled with homely warmth and comfort. I’ve been to many cities of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhya, Chernihiv, Sloviansk, Zolotonosha, Smila… We have a wonderful country, but coming home to Irpin is the best thing for me.

    For me, February 24 started at 5:20 am

    My alarm clock rang quietly, I was lying in my bed, making myself stand up to walk my dog. That was when I heard two planes fly above. Neither my family nor I understood then the scale of what was happening. I even went on my traditional walk that morning. When we were in a park, my dog and I heard some bangs somewhere far away. I didn’t realize what was going on. Even after I read about explosions in Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv… I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. How could I? How can a normal educated person understand that something like that can happen in 21 century?

    On February 24 many of my neighbors spent the evening in a basement of the other section (the closest bomb shelter is a long walk away, so people arranged places in the basement rather quickly). The others were sitting on the first floor of my section. By the way, the mattress that people used to sleep on there was taken away only a week ago. 

    From February 25 people basically didn’t leave the basement. We were lucky living on the first floor, so we could stay at home for a while.

    Olena Koliada

    Personal photo of Olena Koliada

    It was scary when on February 24 helicopters flew towards Hostomel. It was scary when fighter jets were flying very low above our heads, when I was walking my dog. But it wasn’t scary after that, we all were simply waiting for this surreal thing to end. But the war was coming closer and closer to our home. Yes, russians had already tried to force their way into Irpin, but it was in the other part of it, so until March 4 our street was relatively quiet.

    On March 3 we learned that my husband’s parents’ house was destroyed after a direct hit by a missile. Later we would long be on the phone with all the governmental and non-governmental organizations, trying to evacuate my husband’s parents from occupied Bucha, from the Glassware Factory. Finally the war appeared closer, when it affected our loved ones. You always think it’s something far away and won’t ever hurt you. 

    Family’s house

    Our house hit by a russian missile

    We realized we must leave our home around March 4, at lunch, when shells started exploding around us. When walking around the house (we haven’t been to the park since the war began), our dog, usually very calm, started falling to the ground during every explosion. 

    As our town was shelled, we had to learn how to leave

    In the morning of March 5 I reached the phone of the territorial defense of Irpin. They said it was not clear if we could go by car through Stoyanka, and it wasn’t allowed to go on a bus with a dog (there were buses that took people to Kyiv and other cities). So we decided to pack our backpacks, prepare dog food for a few days, and go to the Irpin bridge, which had been bombed on February 25, and walk to Kyiv, where my dad was waiting for us. Maybe we still had a hope of going by car, so we stored some things there. 

    Read also: “Face up to the facts and rely on your own strength,” – Words of A founder of NGO “Our Battalion” about a good work plan which could help hold out the war

    That day it wasn’t only our family planning to leave, but some other neighbors too. We agreed to move at 9 am. Somehow we managed to leave at 8:40. But as it turned out, these 20 minutes allowed us to pass Stoyanka and go to Kyiv by car. Stoyanka was shelled that day, and if we had left at 9, we wouldn’t have managed to go by car. The only thought I had all the time until we reached Zhytomyr highway was “faster, faster”. My mom, my sister and my dad were constantly calling me. I don’t really remember what I was saying to them.

    Family’s dog, who was with them all the time 

    My dog, who was with us the whole time, was forced to evacuate from Irpin

    As soon as we crossed Zhytomyr highway it was silent. As if nothing was happening. We weren’t used to a silence like that. Only checkpoints every few meters reminded us that there’s a war going on in my country.

    It was terrifying to walk out of the house for a while, to stay in line in a store (because this is a crowd of people). It’s terrifying not to know what awaits you in the next 30 seconds. Even one second.

    After events like that you start seeing your life in a different way, your values change. You don’t forget and you will never forget it, but you live on and enjoy what you have.

    A missile destroyed the family’s house

    Our house after a missile hit

    We later found out that on March 23 2022 a first missile hit our house. The roof was completely destroyed together with apartments on the 5th floor. Communication lines were partially burnt. In the next few days there were two more hits, which damaged interfloor ceilings in two sections of the building. All residents of my building have a common goal now – to rebuild our house, because the rain pours into apartments on the second floor.

    That is why we are all working tirelessly to collect funds for the charitable account of our condominium.

    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: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    Life under fire

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