АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk
25 August 2022
Iryna Yevchenko is a resident of the Korabelny district of Mykolaiv. The one that is fired upon almost every day. She deliberately refused to be evacuated, because she did not want to leave her husband. The couple gave their children the freedom to decide for themselves whether to evacuate with their relatives or stay with their parents. They preferred to spend a difficult time at home with their family. Iryna told the journalists of “Monologues of the War” about her feelings during shelling, her fears, dreams and plans.
We live in the Korabelny district, in a high-rise building on the fifth floor. Two blocks from us, the private sector of Balabanivka begins (just across from school No. 48, which has recently been destroyed by the Kalibr). Everything that the rashists have reaches us. A missile recently hit a bus stop in our district and killed people. My friend’s parents died there, and then his brother died in the hospital too. The director of “Nibulon” (translator’s note: one of the biggest Ukrainian agricultural companies) was killed by shelling at his home. He was a decent person who cared about people. He could have left, but he stayed. Until the end of his life he was a patriot of his country. On June 1st, there was a bombardment with high explosives. One projectile flew into a neighboring yard, killing a man there near his car. Our windows flew out. It’s good that the children were already trained, so they gathered all the animals and went to the hallway. They stood there until the end of the alarm. I only had time to run to the store that day. My husband was at work. We made it fine.
One morning the shelling began, although there was no alarm. I was walking the dogs. The saleswoman quickly dragged us into her store. There we sat on the floor with the dogs between freezers with ice cream. The shelling lasted for about 40-50 minutes, every 3-5 minutes. We heard shrapnel hit the shop. At home, we sit in a corridor without windows, we follow the rule of two walls. The corridor is already like a second home. Not a day goes by without us sitting there. It’s scary only at the moment of a hit. Then comes anger, even rage at those scumbags who came to kill us.
In the evening of February 23, I was visiting a friend. We were sitting together, chatting, until around 2 am. I remember discussing the training of russians on the border, and we agreed that war was impossible in our time.
I wake up in the morning, and see a message from my husband: “Kulbakino airfield was bombed. It seems a war has begun.” I’m trying to wrap my head around it. After last night, it doesn’t work very well. Shock, rejection, I don’t understand what is happening. I’m afraid for my husband. I text him: “Where are you?” He answers: “I’m going home.” I looked out the window. There are a lot of people with suitcases, backpacks. Someone carries a cage with a parrot. I immediately thought about humanity. A message from my son’s teacher arrives: “The children are not going to school today.” I opened the Telegram app — and it blew my mind. THE WAR! How to make sense of it in our world? My husband came home, we hugged, stood there for a long time, supporting each other.
I said: “Well, we should walk our dogs. I will go, you stay with the children. Pack your emergency bags. Necessary clothes, documents, bags for cats.”
I called my parents, relatives, friends – everyone was alive and well, so I felt better. There were a lot of people on the street in a state of shock. With suitcases, backpacks, with children, with pets. I came over to my friend to have a cup of coffee. We stood together, had a smoke, and my brain started processing the situation.
I came home. There was some mincemeat in the refrigerator, so I decided to fry some cutlets. While frying, I read the news and thought a lot. We have no money, no car, and a huge responsibility. But could we have prepared for such events? I decided to go to work. Before leaving, we all hugged and said goodbye. My daughter cried (she is 12 years old). I calmed her down as best I could and left. A bunch of people were already waiting for me at work, they were happy that I came. Almost all ATMs were down. Customers had to top up their mobile accounts through banking applications. It was scary to sit in the kiosk – I was standing outside, it’s good that people know my face.
At noon, I realized that I was terribly hungry, and bought some pie. I chewed it, but physically could not swallow. The stress was at such a level that the only thing I could do was drink water and smoke. Everyone was rushing around, shopping. I didn’t understand what exactly I needed to buy, and I didn’t have much money. My parents came to find out what I needed. They were 64 at the time. We went to the store and bought the essentials: cereals, sugar, vegetables, meat, animal feed, and bread. My heart skips a beat when I remember those days.
I wished I could turn into a child to rely on adults, but I am 42, and I myself have two children, two dogs (one without a back paw), and two cats. I was at a loss and had no idea what to do.
I closed the kiosk and went home. It was only 2 pm, but it felt like a month had passed. At home, I sat in the kitchen and smoked a lot. I forced myself to chew a piece of bread and run it down with some water like a medicine. Food is necessary for the body to work. I took the dogs for a walk in the evening. Total darkness because of blackout, plus curfew. It was scary, but dogs need a walk. I was sitting in the kitchen watching the news until three in the morning. Kherson was defended. I prayed. Kyiv was holding on, thank God. Kharkiv, Sumy, Mariupol. How to explain it all? My brain tried to grasp what was happening and did not believe that it would last for a long time.
You’d think the russians would definitely take to the streets, it can’t be that they support this horror. My mother is a pure russian, I have friends in Russia, my brother’s wife is from Moscow. And so? Kim gave faith, Senkevich, Marchenko… Strong boys and girls. When Kherson was taken, there was a strong decline in morale, but our people… it surprised me. I had no idea that we were such strong people. They charged me with their will, strength and indomitability. My mom and dad were pushing so hard that we left. I did not agree to leave without my husband. Until death do us part, isn’t it? I will go only in case the rashists are at the border of our city. I definitely do not want to live under occupation.
The children took the situation very well. We tried to raise them as people who can think for themselves. To be able to analyze and have their own opinion, and not to simply repeat ours. From the very beginning, nothing was hidden from them. We talked a lot, joked, said that we were also confused and didn’t quite understand what to do. But without hysteria and panic. When my parents decided to leave and invited us to come with them, or at least send the children, we sat down in the evening and discussed it for a long time. No one wanted to go without each other. We all made the decision together. I still believe that I didn’t make a mistake.
Why did we decide to stay? I can’t even answer this question for myself. First, I really love my neighborhood. It is so homely, cozy (at least it was) – a kind of independent city within the city.
Second, I work here. Since the beginning of the war, I have had only four days off. I can’t express how happy people are that I go to work. Almost the entire clientele is elderly people, they need help. They do not really understand these mobile phones and stuff. I have been with them as a lifesaver for many years. My husband also has a very good job here. He did not work in March, but then they called and asked if he wanted to go to work. Of course, he wanted to, as we need the money. There are two of us, two children, two dogs, two cats. Everyone wants to eat. Rented apartment, loans – same as with many other people. So where would we go? Who would need us there? I’m not used to begging. We earn everything by our work. Not only that, I have three siblings and all of us have stayed. Only our parents left for Romania. The company in which my older brother works evacuated the team and allowed each to take up to eight relatives with them. Completely free, but no animals. But they aren’t just animals – they are our family members. We would never leave them. That’s how we stayed.
My life before the war was awesome. Honestly. I love my job. I have a great husband, the best children, a lot of dear relatives and friends. Yes, there were some minor problems, but not this shit… Work, rest – I still love discos at the age of 42. We went to my husband’s mother in the Cherkasy region once a year. This year, we wanted to go to Zaliznyi Port, as we had not been there for a long time. I love my animals – they are my comfort. I took a little part in the animal volunteer movement. I used to read a lot. We had a very simple and good life before the war.
What’s missing is a basic thing – sleep. Peaceful, quiet night. To go to bed and not jump up from fear and explosions. I miss my mom and dad. My sister, who lives in Odesa with her family. Our large, noisy and cheerful gatherings. You should see them!
You can get used to shelling. We already know what they shoot with and how close it hits. Only something new scares us. Like those Kalibrs that hit our school. This sound… I can’t describe it. And you’re sitting in the corridor, silently praying that they do not aim at the high-rise building. It’s a residential area, there are a bunch of houses around the school. This is very sad. I have lived here for 35 years and know almost everyone here.
There were also problems with water. Now it’s more or less okay. From the beginning, volunteers delivered it from Odesa. People who had wells gave it away for free. The local authorities organized the delivery of technical water and promptly began drilling wells in various districts. We are waiting for the liberation of Kherson so that we can restore the supply of drinking water.
I would like to say to the world, stop being afraid! This monster will not stop! If he suddenly manages to defeat us (which is unlikely), then in a while you will have your own “Mariupil”! And bombs, missiles, murders, violence and looting. Supply us with everything you can. We are not rashists, we do not need someone else’s. But we will not give away ours.
My plans for the future are to survive and get my life back. We submitted our son’s admission documents– he graduated from the 9th grade. He decided to follow his father’s steps and become a general machinist. We have a very cool Mechanical Engineering Lyceum in the city. My daughter has entered the eighth grade, so far online. I have a dream, I want to travel all over Ukraine. It is very sad that I haven’t had time to see how beautiful it is. And some cities I will no longer see the way they were before the war.
I will jump us high as the sky from joy when we win. And then I will visit my kids’ godmother – she is across the river from us. We haven’t seen each other for three years. She promised to butcher her pig. Poor animal: it will survive the war, but not our victory.
I sincerely thank all the residents of Mykolaiv who go to work – they are real heroes. And those who take care of the city, electricians, water supply people, elevator maintenance people, drivers, doctors, sellers, hairdressers. Special thanks to the volunteers. I am very happy that I am surrounded by such courageous and wonderful people.
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: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk