АвторAuthor: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Yuliia Demchuk
15 October 2022
22-year-old Iryna was born and spent her childhood in the city of Izium, Kharkiv Oblast. Later, she moved to Kharkiv, where she studied and worked, not even thinking about what might happen. Together with her family, the girl fled from the occupation for a month, but still had to come back to her hometown, which was captured by russian troops. Iryna spent half a year in occupied Izium, and told Monologues of the War about the horrors of the occupation – looting by the russians, constant shelling, military equipment on the territories of schools and kindergartens.
Information constantly appeared in the news that russian equipment was being pulled to the borders, but somehow I didn’t want to think about it. After the declaration of recognition of the LDPR, my mother said that the war would start, of course, I objected, saying “Why would he do that?” If only we knew then what awaited us…
On February 24, I was in Kharkiv. I didn’t sleep well that night, I fell asleep somewhere around three o’clock in the morning. At five o’clock I heard something strange: a bang, and the windows were shaking, again a bang. I lay and listened to what was happening. Then I took the phone, because I decided that something was wrong. The first news on Telegram is “It has begun!”. It was awkward, there was a feeling that I’ve never felt, I can’t explain… Then I heard the screams of my neighbor from above. She was on the phone and asked what she should do. The road began to liven up – cars drove one after another. I lived on the first floor, my window was near the road in the yard. At nine o’clock my parents called and told me to go home.
The roads were already closed by then, and I was in no hurry to leave. The very next day I decided to go by train. That was the only option then. I remember being on a tram and a missile falling in front of us, people panicked, got pale and ran into the train. At first I didn’t see what was there – there were many people. As we started to drive by, I saw it. When we arrived at the station, they took us down to the subway because an air raid siren was announced. Having waited for the train, I left for my hometown.
I came to Izium the next day, everything was calm there. Dad called acquaintances from neighboring villages and towns and found out what was happening there. For four days everything was calm. We even began to forget that something was happening outside the window. One day dad came and said: “Prepare the cellar, food, water, because there will be an offensive, they will wipe out everything.” At first, my mother and I didn’t believe that this would happen, we wondered if they would really get here…
The last days of the month, we began to hear loud explosions. At that time, we didn’t understand yet if they were launched at us or from us. We were sitting in the basement, whitewash was falling on our heads, it was scary. And you don’t understand where it is flying and who is shooting. The explosions probably lasted for an hour or more – I don’t remember exactly. Usually, everything started in the evening.
On March 1, my birthday, we also ran to the basement. There were even more explosions. The sound when shells fly from tanks and Grads can’t be put into words. We sat there until morning. The next day, jets started flying. A terrible feeling that I will never forget – when dad says “Aviation!”, we run to the cellar (it’s in our house, not outside), fall on the floor and hear this noise – how missiles are fired from a fighter jet. The body at this moment gets simply numb. A missile flew, we didn’t know where to, it fell, shock waves reached us, the gates were hit with such force, as if someone drove into them at high speed. We understood that it could fly anywhere.
Aviation has been working on us for several days in a row, but the russian army has not yet come very close to Izium. On March 5, we packed in five minutes, took the most necessary things and without changing clothes left for “2-3 days until they pass Izium.” We went to Barvinkove (a city in Kharkiv Oblast – ed.), then to Yatskivka near Lyman (Donetsk Oblast – ed.).
We stayed there for about a month. When the russian troops were still in Izium, we thought that they had moved on and left the city. We had to come back to Izium, where we spent the next six months.
We didn’t leave the yard, we sat at home all the time. When the orcs started handing out humanitarian aid, it was something. 2 tablespoons of oil for 4 people, 100 grams of sugar, a centimeter of toothpaste, 200 grams of flour – we were given the remains of what they looted from the shops. Then the orcs began to steal people’s property, cars, even forks – they took everything to russia in Urals. Looted washing machines, hair dryers, microwaves were sold on the market, and then they bought vodka with this money. People had only boxes left.
Enemy equipment stood in the yards of all schools, kindergartens and other large territories. They shot from there. It was very scary when a tank or a cannon fired, and the projectile flew above the roofs of the houses. This sound, as if the shell hits the edge of the slate can’t be forgotten. Also, when the jet flies very low, and you hear the release of 500-1000 kg missiles, and you don’t know where they will land.
I couldn’t dare to evacuate for a long time, I didn’t want to go, to be honest. I was waiting for our guys to come and free us from this “evil”. I wanted to go outside the yard and see the blue ribbon on the helmet, hug everyone and thank them so much. Eventually, my mother and brother took me out of the occupation.
As we walked along the road that leads to the Great Land, I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. Everything was as if in a fog – 5 km of road, bridge, levee, yellow and blue flag. I looked and went on. Can you imagine, I didn’t understand a thing. Then I see a post – soldiers, volunteers… There were tears in my eyes, but I held them back. I couldn’t believe it.
Then we were taken to Chuhuiv (a city in Kharkiv Oblast – ed.). Examinations, questions from the police, and then we went to Kharkiv. We were driven by volunteers, I’m sincerely grateful to them – they’re cool. We were fed in one of the Kharkiv cafes, then registered, had a conversation, and went further on our own.
When you are in the occupation without the Internet, connection, light, etc. – you feel like a primitive person . Orcs jammed communication with special machines with radio waves, which also affected us. Over time, the brain can’t think at all. It’s like there’s porridge in your head. That’s why we’ve been recovering from it for about a month.
It’s an unsurpassed feeling when you open Instagram or Telegram after six months since the last time you were online. We couldn’t stop enjoying the Internet, and I had already forgotten how to use the phone then.
Now I’m abroad, my relatives sheltered us here. But, of course, I really want to return home to Ukraine as soon as possible.
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: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Yuliia Demchuk