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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Tetyana Dovgan

    “I fell to the ground, and after 5-7 seconds there was an explosion and my dog was thrown 5 meters away” – the story of a woman who evacuated from Kramatorsk

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentina Mykhaylova

    24 September 2022

    Elmira Solovyova from Kramatorsk, has been forced to flee the war for the second time. On February 24, she saw with her own eyes a rocket, the explosion of which made her fall to the ground. The woman decided to leave Kramatorsk after the Rashists shelled the local railway station. Together with her family, Elmira went to Western Ukraine, where she first lived in a dormitory for refugees, and then settled in an empty house, where she had to start from scratch. The woman shared her story with the project “War Monologues”.

    My name is Elmira, I am 37 years old, I am from Kramatorsk. I have two children – a boy and a girl. The girl is 14 years old, she is professionally engaged in boxing. This year she was supposed to go to the European Championship. The boy is 8 years old, he is also engaged with boxing, but this is just the beginning. Before the war, I worked as an instructor engineer in the best team in the world at the Novokramatorsk Machine-Building Plant. I loved my work very much. In addition to work, I was also engaged in chemistry with children. It started with my daughter when she was in the seventh grade. I told her then: “Nastia, my classmate will be your teacher, so let’s remember something together, everything that mom knew or forgot”. And so it went, the child finished the first semester with 11 points(А). Parents began to ask who she studied with, who helped her? And so I put all my aspirations into her, because I always dreamed of being a teacher. I also love to embroider with beads and cook. I like cooking because after cooking all the dishes, I can feel how my family liked it.

    In 2014, I was pregnant and was due to give birth at the end of June. I refused to leave the city until the last moment. We live on Rumyantseva Street and when the base of Shcherbakova Street was shelled, there was a water cut off throughout the city. Then, for the first time, I thought that I will give birth to a baby – and what will we do with it? Firstly – where will I give birth to it? And, secondly, how will I wash it? How will I wash it? My sister was working in Crimea at that time. When she went there, Crimea was still Ukrainian. She offered to come there, because she had an apartment and could help us financially. We went to Crimea and on June 25th I gave birth to a child in Yalta. At that time, birth certificates were still Ukrainian. On the child’s certificate it was written: “Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Yalta, Ukraine”. Some time after the birth of the child, on August 8, we returned home, to free Kramatorsk.

    “The blast wave threw the mother-in-law, who cannot walk, from the sofa into another room”

    We were sure that this horror would not happen again and everything would be fine. But somewhere on a subconscious level, we felt that the war could start again. We were very scared and hoped that this conflict would bypass us. Before the 24th of February we did not feel anything, because on the 23rd we paid in full for the building materials to repair the apartment. Of course, I saw the news, and we talked about it with my husband, but we convinced ourselves that this could not happen and everything would be fine. We thought that everything would resolve by itself and just could not believe in a full-scale invasion. On the 24th of February in the morning I was walking my dog and saw the first rocket flying to the airfield. We have a round-the-clock shopping pavilion, near which the guys were standing. I looked up and told them: “Oh, look, guys, the plane is flying!” One of these guys was a military conscript, he pushed me to the floor and said: “That’s not a plane!”. I fell to the ground and he covered me with himself, and after 5-7 seconds there was an explosion of such force that my dog was thrown 5 meters away. That’s how we first saw and heard the war. I want to say that the first two weeks I believed that it would end soon. After that, there were two weeks of depression, and then the fear began. 

    Railway station in Kramatorsk

    Shelling of Kramatorsk railway station Photo – TSN

    We live near school 15, which is located not far from our house. When it was hit, my sister offered me to move to the nearest village, to the house where her colleagues left. We stayed there until April 19. While we stayed in the city, the most terrible thing was the hit to the railway station. My mother-in-law lives in the old part of the city, just near the railway station. She was unable to walk because of a broken hip neck and as a result of the blast wave she was thrown from the sofa into another room. I also heard those explosions because I was outside. It was a real horror when I saw the photos from there. Even hitting the 15th school, which is located about 500 meters away from us, was not so terrible. Although, then the earth was slapping the windows of the fifth floor from the crater that formed after the explosion. But it was not as scary as the shelling of the railway station, especially when you see these photos of dead children and adults. 

    “Children’s health is the most precious thing for me”

    For a long time I believed that all this would end soon and believed that my house is a kind of protection and it is safer than a nine-story building. The main thing for me was what my mother used to say: “I am not going because you are not going,” and I would say: “I am not going because my mother is not going”. I have a younger sister who worked as a medic and took the wounded after the shelling of the railway station to Dnipro. She looked at all this, called me on April 24 and said: “You have 24 hours to get ready”. I found out through my friends and volunteers that there is a town of Mizoch in Rivne region, where there is a boarding school for internally displaced persons. Very good conditions, free accommodation and three meals a day. After weighing all the arguments, seeing that the children were scared, that during each siren they ran to the basement, I decided that their health is the most precious thing for me and packed my things. There were not many things – a tracksuit, a vest, two pairs of socks and underwear for me and the children. We were driving in a car with an unable to walk grandmother, me, my son, our little dog, which I could not leave, because it is a family member who has lived with us for 4 years, and my husband driving. My daughter was riding in the car with my sister. 

    Read also: “I felt shame for fleeing, but I reassured myself with a thought that children are the future of Ukraine and I had to save their lives”

    It took us two days to get to Mizoch. First, we got to Kropyvnytskyi. Volunteers told us how to get there and where to stay. There was a sewing shop where people arranged a room for people who are traveling and do not know where they can stay for 2-3 days to rest. There was a kitchen and mattresses with bedding. Then, in the morning, when the curfew ended, we went to Khmelnytskyi. They also promised to meet us there, but when we called, they said that we were going with animals: my sister and mother had a cat and we had a dog. When we arrived there, there was a conference hall for 120 people in that hotel, but animals were not allowed there. There was a terrible downpour, we saw that we were in time for the curfew and decided to go to Mizych. We arrived there around 21 o’clock. We called the village head, whose number was pinned on the village council. We were given all the documents, recorded all the data, registered and taken to this boarding school, where we were met by the commandants and the person responsible for internally displaced persons. It was a two-storey building with classrooms on the ground floor and rooms for children on the second floor. There were children of different ages, so the beds were also different – both small and large. We lived in this boarding school from April 21 to July 1. When we arrived there, we were told that we could live as long as the war lasts.

    “Thanks to my daughter’s coach, we found an empty house where no one has lived for a long time”

    Since my child is engaged in boxing, her first question was whether there is an appropriate club here. She found a club that was founded by an athlete. He rented the premises, which is a private, not a public institution. There was a fee affordable for everyone so that children could attend. When my daughter went there, the coach looked at her and said: ” Hey, you’re a real star!” He sent her to Rivne, where the regional coach looked at her and said: “Now there will be a selection for the European Championship. Do you want to go to Vorokhta?” But there was no funding from the state, it was self-financing. It was the hardest thing for us, because we came without money, we had not received any help yet. But, thanks to the power of Facebook and the help of colleagues and friends, we collected the necessary amount – six thousand hryvnias and my daughter went there. She joined the national team of Ukraine and met a coach from the Khmelnytsky region. He talked to her and said: “Look, you will not be able to live in the boarding school forever, because whether you will be studying or not, you will be told to leave one day. Give your parents my phone number, let them contact me and maybe you will move here. I will help you find housing and work”.

    At that time, I was afraid to change anything, but we consulted with my family and decided to go with my husband and see what was there. After all, we have a mother who does not walk and did not want to take her, not knowing where. We arrived in the Khmelnytskyi region, in the village of Chemerivtsi. We were shown the house that was offered. We stayed there for the night, but it turned out to be uninhabitable. There was no water, no toilet, the roof collapsed, so in the morning we told the coach that we could not stay there. He took us to the village council where we met with the deputy village head. She was a polite and kind woman, who said that there was a beautiful house in the village nearby, but no one had lived there for a long time, because the owner had left for Italy and offered to give the keys to people to live there. But, it was necessary to put a lot of effort there.

    They brought us there, showed us the house, it was actually very nice. The only thing was that there was no gas, electricity and water. We decided that my husband and I would return to Mizoch, he would take my daughter, she would start training, and my husband would make repairs in this house. The light was connected immediately, and it took a week to connect the water, because the pipes were damaged. Then the Mayor of the city also helped us. Nice women came and washed and painted everything, so we could move in and live. 

    Selection for the championship

    Daughter at the selection for the European Championship with European champion Tanya Dovgal

    Then, when my husband was here, the director of the boarding school in Mizochi came and said: “You have until July 1 to leave here”. Because they planned to start teaching children in August, and before that they had to make repairs there. It was 10 days before the 1st of July. I knew that we would move to this house, so I did not worry, but other people were shocked and did not know what to do. Then the city council decided that people would stay there until August 1. But, since July 1, we moved to our house and now we live here in Khmelnytsky region.

    Every day that you have lived – is the greatest joy

    In general, we dreamed of our own house, so we decided to make repairs in the apartment in Kramatorsk in order to sell it at a higher price and buy our own house. Of course, it is very hard to start from scratch when you need to buy everything – from a teaspoon to a saucepan to at least start cooking. I was impressed by the fact that there are very kind neighbors here. Of course, they were looking at us for about a week. They were looking to see if we would start doing something. When my husband was here with his daughter, one neighbor cooked lunch and brought it to them. The second one brought dinner. People were helping. When we arrived here, the house was already painted and whitewashed. There was only one bed, a wardrobe, a sofa and a table. Then the neighbors also started to help – someone read that people were giving away the kitchen: they called the village head, said: “help to take it”, and we will help to move it. I looked at the house, painted it completely, updated it, and bought flowers. So to speak, we made it cozy. We did not have time to plant a garden, so we started farming – we took 30 chickens.

    The neighbors saw that we are not lazy, we do not sit idle. We cut the grass, started to prepare firewood, because there is no gas here at all. The house is cut off and they said that it can not be done in any way. 

    The husband got a job right away – on July 4, he went to work in the communal service, it’s something like housing and communal services. He got a job as a driver of a fire truck that goes to the field and makes sure that combines do not catch fire. But, this car broke down after the first trip. The husband received a monthly salary – 4180 UAH. For this money we bought a chainsaw to cut firewood. I did not look for a job, because I was scared because my child is in the second grade and will not be able to study remotely. My neighbor, a second grade teacher, asks me: “Do you want to work?” I answered that I did. She said that I should look for a job, and she would be like a class teacher of my son. If there are distance lessons, she will take him to her, or pick him up from school if the training is full-time. For about a week I was looking for a job and got a job as a sales assistant in the chain of stores “Kopiechka”. Of course, it is hard, but life goes on and children must have food and clothes, so we work. I really want to go home, but when I hear on the news that there will be no heating, no gas in the city, where should I take my children? I dream of returning home, but now I think first of all about my children.

    Since the beginning of this war, I realized for myself that I need to live for today. Previously, you thought that joy is when there are some weekends or holidays, and now you realize that every day you live is the greatest joy. When you lie down in your bed, when your family is around, when you can hug your friends and communicate with them, when you can hug your mother – this is the most important thing!

    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: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentina Mykhaylova

    Life under fire

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