АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Violeta Shenkariuk
15 July 2022
Anna Ordynska is a 30-year-old interior designer from Gostomel. With the beginning of a full-scale war, she was forced to flee the city and leave the apartment precious to her heart, along with her family and pets. From the first day of the war, Gostomel was under the occupation of russian troops, and the occupiers visited the apartment, which was special for the young couple. How Anna saw her home after her return, what the occupiers did and how the attitude towards the russians changed, read on.
A few years before the war, she and her husband bought a new apartment in picturesque Gostomel, because, Anna says, when she saw this town, she fell in love with it at first sight.
I thought I was very collected in stressful situations, but it turned out that those were not stressful enough. Because when we got home, the only thing I took with me was the animals, their feed and nothing else.
After learning that a full-scale war had begun, we decided not to do anything, but to wait, because we did not hear any explosions, although we live very close to the Gostomel airport. In the morning we went to walk the dogs, the neighbors were already running up the stairs and taking their things to the cars, we still thought that somehow everyone was too worried. We wanted to go to withdraw cash and fill the car, but there were such queues that we could not do it.
After returning home, we sat down to drink coffee with our neighbors from the first floor. We lived on the third floor, and their spouses, also a young couple, lived below us, and our husbands rented one garage for two. There they had sleeping bags, tents, well, the boys were ready for any outing to the forest. After drinking coffee, we all decided to go to the garage to get gas burners. And if our house was 800 meters (if through the forest) from the airport, then the garage is even closer.
When we were going there, the first helicopters took off. But it was not as scary as the fact that they immediately started shooting. And you don’t see where they are shooting, you only hear what is above your head. We hid in a hole in the garage.
My husband has an audio recording on his phone, he recorded all these shots on a voice recorder. I still can’t listen to it. I couldn’t talk about it at all for several months, and then somehow I recovered, I talked to a psychologist, and now it’s a little easier, but still, there are moments when it’s hard to remember. The only thing I thought about at that moment, while I was sitting in that pit, was that my dogs and cat were alone at home, and how to get them out of there.
While we were sitting and thinking about what to do, the husband said that he could hear automatic gunfire. Only now I understand that you can tell what it is by the sound, but then for me, it was all just booming, and I didn’t understand what he was hearing there. Probably, the paratroopers that were flying above us had already descended, and we heard the first gunfire. My husband called his parents, who also lived in Gostomel, but on the other side of the airport, and said that we would try to get home and leave. After we had passed a third of the way, we had to turn back, because they started firing heavily again. My husband asked his father to pick us up in the car, and I’m sitting there and thinking: “God, how will he drive now if there’s shooting there.” Due to the fact that we did not see what was happening, but only heard it, it seemed to me that we will leave the garage, and there is no longer a city.
I thought I was very collected in stressful situations, but it turned out that those were not stressful enough. Because when we got home, the only thing I took with me was the animals, their feed and nothing else. As much as 30 hours later, when we had arrived in the west of the country, I remembered that I should have taken some equipment with me. Thank God my husband had some sense and took the laptops and my work tablet, because if we lost it, it would have been very bad.
What I was wearing when we went to the garage, that’s what I went from Gostomel. I didn’t take anything, I didn’t even think of taking some underwear or spare clothes. It seemed that it was only for a few hours, or even for a few days, that now it would be dealt with and everything would be fine.
First, we went to my parents, they lived in Chaika (one of the suburbs of Kyiv – ed), and people there were still so calm, and I convinced my parents in hysterics that we needed to leave. We had no one to go to. My mother’s parents live in an area close to Transnistria, and I definitely didn’t want to go there. Note for the English version: (Transnistria is a self-proclaimed unrecognized state located along the Dniester River between Ukraine and Moldova. Only three states recognize the sovereignty of Transnistria, which are themselves largely unrecognized states: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Artsakh. The heroine of our story meant that her family was afraid to go to the city, which is located close to the borders with the so-called Transnistria, because they were afraid of the attack of Russian troops from that side. Russia has still not withdrawn its troops from the region belonging to Moldova).
So we decided to go to my father’s acquaintance in the Chernivtsi region. The journey took two nights, one of which I do not remember, it has completely slipped from my memory. We drove in three cars: my husband and I, our parents, my mother’s neighbors, our and my mother’s dogs, this is such a big company.
People who do not know us, turned out to be people of great service. Dad’s acquaintances found people who did not know us, but allowed us to live in their old house. There was nothing at all, no amenities, but as soon as we moved in, we were connected to gas and water, a boiler was brought, and we already bought a washing machine.
During this time, the husband’s father even managed to make a little repair, because there was no bath in the house. So now there’s a nice bath.
It was so odd for me, because strangers accommodated us and said that you can take whatever you want and if you need anything, call and we will help. Fellow villagers brought a lot of food, their potatoes, and I’m a city person, and living in a city, you don’t know your neighbors, and that’s the norm, and here strangers turned out to be people of great service.
While we were in the Chernivtsi region, the men immediately registered with the Military Commissariat. My father, who comes from Russia and also has the surname Kalashnikov (just kidding), was very outraged by the situation that in an independent country you are kicked out of your home and they come with a war. Therefore, he decided to join the army. My mother almost had a heart attack.
The father has health problems, he had a complicated operation and now needs to undergo a re-examination, and he tells us that he wants to go to the Armed Forces, and he does not want to hear anything. Well, at first he was refused, and then he was accepted. They asked him what his motivation was, whether he was a patriot and therefore wanted to join the Armed Forces, and he answered: “no, I’m just so angry with them.” Father coordinates the guys who bring fuel, repair cars, he is located near Zhytomyr. But, unfortunately, his condition has become worse, and he needs to undergo an urgent examination, so now we have a challenge to take him from there for a health check.
Two weeks later, we went to Chernivtsi for the first time and there was a situation that threw me off balance: I am in the center of the city, life goes on there, children leave school, people carry packages, someone drinks coffee, someone walks, and I’m just sitting in the only pants I have, looking at all this and can’t believe that this is happening in Ukraine.
The first emotion I felt was that it would be easier for me if it burned down. It’s a very scary feeling, but it happened.
To be honest, I believed until the end that I had a perfect lock. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but it seemed to me that the lock could save the situation. Although I saw a photo when the lock saved the situation, but then the walls did not save the situation. They took out the door just with the walls.
When one day the residents of the house sent a video from our entrance to the common chat room, I saw the door of my apartment, it was open. They jabbed our doors, if I had known, I wouldn’t have closed them (ed. laughs).
Probably it is because our houses are close to the airport, they hid and lived in all these houses. The husband’s parents have the same situation. There is no apartment in any house that has not been opened.
When I returned home, I had already experienced this situation. The strongest emotions were when I saw on the video that the door was open. I cried, my mother said that the main thing was that the apartment survived, and it is fine.
But you earned these things, and for me, as a designer, our apartment was my first serious job, I did everything with my soul, and even started making Tik Tok videos about it.
I felt a wide range of emotions: anger, despair, disgust and resentment. But the first emotion I felt was that it would have been easier for me if it had burned, but they would not have been inside. It’s a very scary feeling, but it was.
Because they are such beasts, although it is not the right word, they are not worthy to enter normal houses and I did not want them to even see and know that people can live like this. I want them to go back to their shacks. I can wish them only one thing: continue to live the way they live, because it is worse than hell.
The human psyche is so arranged that you forget. You come back, put things in order and everything seems to be fine again. We don’t live there yet, I came there as a guest. I don’t know if that feeling of home will come back.
We got the impression that they came to us after they had been plundered by other people, or they were in a hurry. Maybe both. Because the occupiers lived upstairs, in our neighbors’ house, but not in our apartment. That’s why they walked through our apartment like this, superficially.
They took my only yellow gold earrings, because they don’t know about white “what is this?”, headphones, my husband’s camera, a stabilizer for the camera, rummaged through sex toys, now I don’t know where to dispose of them after that (ed. laughs), and some of it was even stolen. They left a mess behind. Jewelry was lying all over the apartment, they didn’t take any silver, Pandora, or white gold – they didn’t understand what it was.
I don’t understand what kind of dominoes they had, that they went between apartments and threw things from one apartment to another. Because some things that we were sure were stolen were later found by our neighbors at their home.
Not all neighbors have returned yet, maybe we will find more of our things. At home, we found a neighbor’s sneakers.
Many of my shoes and clothes also disappeared. I can’t remember what exactly, because some “hard” sclerosis started due to stress. My flip-flops were found in one apartment. I still haven’t found my crocs, but my husband’s crocs were found in someone else’s apartment. The husband’s work phones were taken away.
And yesterday my husband was at home, he called me and asked, where is our kettle? And I say: “no, seriously”? I even made a Tik Tok video about a kettle stolen by the russians. It was very funny.
There was a jar with chewing gum for the guests at the entrance, then the jar was left, and the chewing gum was swept away. Apparently, they had never seen “Love is…” chewing gum. And candy wrappers were laid around, even at the neighbors.
My fur coat was stolen from my mother-in-law. I gave her my fur coat, but she never wore it anywhere, she didn‘t want to go to work by bus in it. I was studying at the university when I bought it, and then the topic started that fur is not fashionable, and I gave it to my mother-in-law, because she liked it.
This is an ordinary fur coat made from a black goat. Well, in short, it’s a very nice outfit to bury an orc in a coffin.
I even had my underpants left, because all the underpants were stolen from the husband’s parents’ neighbor’s wife. I don’t know, well, how can you bring your wife “used” panties, well, “holy moly”.
Our neighbors’ equipment and televisions were smashed. Our TV is intact, and I have already begun to think, maybe our water was poisoned or the pipes were pierced, I don’t know. Well, they definitely had to do some “abomination”.
In one of the garages that my husband rented, we found a tanker’s pants. By the way, the garage in which we were hiding is the only one in the entire cooperative where a missile hit. And they rammed other garages with tanks, broke through walls, looked for generators and fuel. A man’s scooter disappeared from another garage, but our marauders stole it, because people saw them walking around with wheelbarrows.
I have never had a negative attitude towards russians, because it so happened that I myself am 75% russian. My father is from russia, my mother is half russian, and my grandfather, my mother’s father, is russian. Our relatives from russia did not ask us anything. And when parents sent photos and videos of what is happening in Ukraine to some of them, they sent pictures in response, something like “Happy first day of spring“ and “Happy Women’s Day!“.
One of my clients, a russian woman, as soon as the full-scale war started, immediately left the russian federation, wrote to me and asked how I could help, I sent her the relevant details. She is some kind of activist, and she seems to have her own community of more or less sober-minded people there. That is, it seems that they are there, but now the situation is so complicated that you don’t even want to try to distinguish them. Because, as life has shown, the majority there is not like that.
A few weeks after all the events, when I had already recovered, I really wanted to be involved in some assistance. I was fortunate that some of my clients started to design temporary houses for displaced people and asked me to design them. The first house will be ready soon, I’m really looking forward to it.
When I was returning from the Chernivtsi region to Gostomel, we drove through Bucha. And here we are driving through Bucha, devastation, broken houses, and utility workers are painting new road markings. And I was so surprised by it. I thought: “God, this city has only just come back to life, you can still see what was there, people have not yet recovered from all this, but they are already painting markings.”
This should have been filmed and shown in russia, we already have normal roads in Bucha. Although there is still a possibility that they will return, people have such a thirst for life and a desire to restore everything. Before that, I didn’t even know that there was such a gap and such a difference between us.
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: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Violeta Shenkariuk