АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Nataliia Zadorozhna
6 July 2022
Liudmyla Melnyk and her husband spent the first 10 days of the war in Chernihiv, where they were under fire and bombardment by russian troops. The family decided to evacuate from the city after a rushists’ missile system ‘Tochka-U’ hit near their house. During the shelling from ‘Grads’, they managed to escape the city and moved to Western Ukraine. The family returned to Chernihiv on May 10.
I have lived in Chernihiv for ten years, and before that, I lived in the small town of Kamianske. I have been working as a pediatric dentist my whole life and two years ago I retired.
I had a feeling that a war might start, but I could not believe it at all. Before that, I even managed to travel to Egypt with my friends. Even then the situation was tense, so we took extra money, in case something would happen on the way. We came back on February 11, and I was uneasy at heart. I felt that something was going to happen, but I didn’t believe in it until the end. When in two weeks our close friends told us: “Leave the city, the war will begin soon!” We decided we would not go anywhere, because Chernihiv is our home.
Shelling began on February 24. It was clear: ‘The war broke out!’ My daughter-in-law immediately called and said she was leaving the city. She came to our place and tried to persuade us to evacuate. But where could we go? We already knew that many people wanted to leave the city, there were huge traffic jams on the roads. So, we decided to stay. The first day was half-bad, but on the next day, they started shelling from all sides. The battles were very fierce. We learned how to distinguish the sounds of ‘Grads’ and tanks, as well as the distance of shooting – were they far from us or not? There were times when I was standing in the kitchen, frying cutlets, and heard shots. At first, it seemed that they were far away, but soon they were getting closer and closer. Then I shout to my husband: “Kolia, run to the cellar!” We have a cellar in our house, so we were hiding there. That’s how we lived for the first 10 days.
It was so scary when the first 500-kilogram bomb was dropped on Chernihiv, just near the cardio centre. At first, I didn’t understand what was rumbling so loud that even the double-glazed windows were shaking. We have a summer kitchen in the yard, and above it, there is a small additional storey. When I opened the door, I saw how the bomber flew right over this structure. He was so low that it seemed as if he was “lying” on it. Words cannot convey the fear we felt at that time! It seemed that the sky had darkened, even though it was the middle of the day. I hastily closed the door and just sat down. Then, my husband and I heard how this plane turned around, flew over our house and dropped the first bomb on the cardiac centre. Even now, when I have nightmares about the war, I can hear these sounds.
When we decided to leave, ‘Tochka-U’ hit right near our house. After the explosion, the blow was so strong that it seemed as if the house rose up and stood again in its place. Relatives started calling us, asking to leave. So, at 11 o’clock we decided to evacuate. Then my daughter-in-law called me and asked to pick up the woman with a child. When they arrived at our place, we were standing in the yard and getting ready to leave. Suddenly, the shelling began (or a rocket hit again). It was so strong that we even squatted down. After that, we quickly got into the car and drove away. My husband and I knew that there would be no light in the city soon. So, we decided that we would give some of the products from the fridge to our guys at the checkpoint. We drove up to our bridge and my husband tried to give products to the military, but they only rushed us: “Hurry up, leave quickly. The shelling will start soon!’ As soon as we crossed the bridge, we heard that the shooting of ‘Grads’ was already launched.
We reached the village of Kolychivka, but the central road to Kyiv was already blocked, as russian troops were located nearby in Yahidne and Ivanivka. Therefore, we went to Kulykivka. There was also a checkpoint with a large number of vehicles. On the same day as we passed it, this place was shelled, some people even died. After that, we drove on byroads for about 2-3 hours, and then drove to Krasylivka. At first, we didn’t even understand where we ended up. Then we stood for a long time near Skybyn (byroad to Brovary). It took us 9 hours to get to this byroad from Chernihiv. Then we went to Kaniv, and from there to Myronivka. There we were stopped by Territorial Defense Forces because it was already late at night. They offered to stay in the city until morning. We spent the night in a kindergarten, where people gladly sheltered us and gave us some water and food. We set off in the morning and reached Zolochiv around 1-2 a.m. We didn’t get there as quickly as we had planned, because we got into a big traffic jam outside Vinnytsia.
We took the family that was travelling with us to Zolochiv, spent the night with them there, and went on to Kalush. There, we had an apartment rented in advance. We didn’t sit idle, we participated in volunteering. Then we went to Poland, and from there to France, to my second daughter-in-law. So, we spent three weeks abroad and returned back. On arrival we stayed in Kalush until May 10 and then returned to Chernihiv. Before that, all our neighbours called us and said that it was safe in the city and we could go back. Moreover, the water supply and electricity have already been restored. As not long after we left, russians dropped a bomb on the stadium, cutting off the water supply. This left the whole city without water.
As soon as we returned to Chernihiv, the greatest joy was that all the neighbours were able to gather together again. We sat down and shared our stories because everyone had something to share with others. I recently went to the regions of Chernihiv that suffered the most – Bobrovytsia and Novoselivka. What I saw there was just terrible, I couldn’t even take a photo of it. There is a lot of destruction in the area, but I know that now modular houses are being built for people whose houses were destroyed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of such people as more than 100 high-rise buildings cannot be restored. How many smaller houses were destroyed – probably no one knows for sure. Chernihiv is a compact city, and it ends on all sides with villages that were attacked by russians.
“russians brought a lot of grief, everyone has their own.” My husband’s co-worker was standing in the line that was shot. A shell hit there, and as a result, many people were killed and wounded. This is how she told me about it: “We stood in this queue, and when it all started, we fell to the ground. When we got up, we realized that not everyone was able to get up…” Also, a friend told a story that happened in the first days of March. I called her, and she said: “God, I’m speechless, the house next door was bombed and the owner was killed.” When his body was found, it was difficult to believe that it was a human! Just a grey cocoon without hands and legs. His body lay like that for several days, because people couldn’t even understand that it was a human being!
On the second day, when we returned to Chernihiv, everything around had been cleaned and flowers had already been planted. When you take a look at all this now, it seems that there is no destruction. However, if you look closely, you can see that some windows are broken and some balconies are destroyed…
There are areas where you can see houses that have burned from the ground to the top floor. However, it is pleasing that our city is well maintained and clean. If you come here and walk through the streets of the city, you will see that all the roads are cleared, flowers are planted in the alleys, and the central square is always cleaned.
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: Nataliia Zadorozhna
“Before the invasion of russia, the special services called me and warned me that I should pack and be ready to leave as soon as the war starts,” — the story of a journalist who evacuated from Bakhmut
“I don’t have the right to go abroad, because I promised the boy with a disability and myself that I would bring him to the Ukrainian record.” The story of the evacuation of the Kharkiv athletics coach