• uk
  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    The house of a family from the Kharkiv region

    Karyna Ryzhkova: “A bullet stopped short of the body, pierced a jacket and a shirt, and scorched my mom’s back”

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    18 May 2022

    Karyna Ryzhkova is a 20-year-old student of Kharkiv National Medical University. Together with her big family she lived outside of Kharkiv, in a village of Rus’ka Lozova. This territory was occupied since the first day of the war. The girl tells a story of their miraculous rescue from the enemy’s bullets while fleeing from the occupied town.  

    On the evening of 23rd of February my father told me to pack “just in case. Who knows what’s going to happen.” He refueled the car and bought extra groceries. As if he felt what was about to happen. But while all was quiet and calm, nobody wanted to leave the house. 

    And at the notorious hour, at 5 o’clock in the morning of the 24th of February, I woke up to the sound of the “Grad” rocket explosions. Having never heard the sounds of war, even through the sleep I realized – it had begun. 

    Since 5 o’clock we were thinking through our action plan: it was more dangerous to leave, because they were shooting at us. Our neighbors dared to flee, but they didn’t succeed and had to turn back. Few hours later a rocket struck the bridge we used to get to Kharkiv.  

    From that moment on we were truly occupied. On the evening of the 24th we decided to go to our neighbors’ basement. Next day a local grocery store was looted. They even found a damaged enemy tank, took grenades out and threw them at houses. We saw Russian soldiers, who said they were lost. On the 28th of February my dad’s friend called and suggested going abroad with him. We agreed immediately, packed and waited until the morning to leave right after the curfew. The only thing that can open people’s eyes is the truth that they will not see on  TV. That is why I’m sharing the story of my family.

    Escape from hell

    On the first day of spring we decided to leave our hometown. At 6 o’clock in the morning we hit the road. My dad and my sister Anya were in the lead, behind them was my mom’s car with me and my two brothers. It was terrifying to even look at the abandoned military equipment, “Grads”, and all the devastation around. At about 6:30 we were driving on the ring road. The road, which was so familiar, was absolutely empty. We were driving very carefully, not rushing, with white sheets on our cars, symbolizing a white flag. I was lying on the back seat, next to the driver was a car seat with my baby brother Hlib. Suddenly we hear shots. It seemed like an ordinary sound after living under bombing for 4 days. We didn’t know if it was rockets or grenades, but the sound was getting closer and closer to us. Everybody started panicking and screaming. There was an awful smell of burned rubber and metal. It turned out to be machine gun fire. It seemed to last forever. 

    In a moment like this you don’t control your movements and the only thing left to do is fall down and pray… Those awful shots hadn’t stopped until my mom walked out of the car, yelling that there were kids there. 

    After that there was no fear nor anger, nothing at all, as if in a dream. The shooters told us to approach without any questions or sudden movements. The only thing we heard was “Why the hell were you standing there?” and the excuse: “Sorry, we didn’t know.” They let us pass.

    Few kilometers later we arrived at a blockpost. The soldier who examined our cars, saw the fear in our eyes and the bullet traces. There were bullet holes in the backseat doors and the right front door, where my baby brother was. The glass of his window was cracked. Hlib was scared that a glass could fall on him, but thanks to the tinted windows it was alright. A bullet pierced my mom’s seat. 

    A footprint on a woman’s back

    They asked us if we needed medical assistance, and my mom said her back hurt. It was a God’s miracle that a bullet stopped short of her body, pierced a jacket and a shirt, and scorched my mom’s back right at the heart level. I found the bullet on the seat, where my mommy had been sitting. Medics treated her burn, gave juice and sweets to the kids. Everybody said that my mom was born under a lucky star. And you know what? It is unbelievable! How could a bullet have stopped right next to her skin? It all reminded me of a Hollywood action film, where a main hero is dramatically hit but doesn’t die. We all love happy endings, but such things are hard to believe. That accident made us think that God is watching over us. 

    After passing the first Ukrainian blockpost, we met families that were also escaping Kharkiv. All together we went to safer towns where we could spend the night, and after that my family and I went abroad.


    Right now my family is out of danger. Everybody is safe and sound. We are in the USA, in the state of Washington. Our father was allowed to cross the borders because we are a family with many children. We managed to get over everything that happened to us pretty fast. But what is happening now in Ukraine is heartbreaking. You can’t help crying while reading stories of people who tell about lootings, murders and rapes. All Ukrainians now share a dream of a peaceful sky, our victory and Putin’s death. 

    “Of course, we want to come back home very much, but for 2 weeks invaders had been living in our house, using it as a base. Then it was hit by a rocket.”

    There is nowhere to return. So now my main goal is to adapt to a new life here, and later to come back to studying dentistry here in the 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: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    Life under fire

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