АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska
10 August 2022
24-years old Anastasiia Chukhno together with relatives and a friend’s family left Kyiv and went into a village Vyshehrad in the Kyiv region on the second day of the full-scale war. They hoped that it might be safer than in the capital. Anastasiia Chukhno has told a project “Monologues of the war” the very details of what it is to be under the muzzle of a machine gun while covering a child with your body, be locked when Russian occupiers were robbing houses, missiles flying over your head.
I live in Kyiv. I woke up because of explosions at 5 am and right away checked my phone. I learned from the news about some special operation and called my parents to ask what I had to do.
On the first day I was packing my stuff such as documents, listened to the news and then together with my neighbour, a friend Diana went to a shop.
“People were not panicking, but the queues near shops and ATMs were quite long”. We bought some products and I spent the first night together with my parents in the bomb shelter at the school. And in the morning of the following day, as soon as the curfew was over, we were already on the Zhytomyr highway towards Vyshehrad. This is a village a stone’s throw from Makarov. Our neighbors’ dacha is there. We often went there, always celebrated holidays, just rested.
Already at 7 o’clock in the morning, there were many cars in a traffic jam on the Zhytomyr highway. When you are in a stressful situation, the feeling of fear somehow dulls, you understand that you need to save yourself, and you just do it.
“Nobody knew that it was actually safer to be in Kyiv”. We came to Vyshehrad on Friday. There were nine of us: me, my parents, my friend Diana with their parents and a younger 6 years old brother and one woman with her 9 years old daughter who was goddaughter of Diana’s father.
The following day Saturday and Sunday everything was calm. But, a power plant was blown up at night in Makariv. From that moment we didn’t have electricity as well as heat and water supply. That was also the last day when I had the internet connection. We heard news from our neighbours or got in contact with our friend who told us about the whole situation.
Some time we were cooking soups and cereals in a cauldron on fire. On the first night we were at home, it became cold so we went to the neighbour’s house as they had heat and electricity. Since then we spent the night and cooked at their house.
Then the events developed very rapidly. Acquaintances from neighboring villages began to report that the convoys were coming. We understood that they would either bypass our village or go through it. The worst happened.
“We heard explosions, and one evening our soldiers shot down a fighter in a field and the whole sky suddenly turned red…”. It was restless and getting more and more unsettling. We saw Russian vehicles drive in. Houses in Vyshehrad stand along the forest. In the reserve, the Russian military made their base and from there they fired Makarov, in the direction of Stoyanka (a village in the Kyiv region ).
It happened on March 4th. Diana and I heard a loud explosion and gunfire nearby. We went down to the basement. Diana’s father’s goddaughter and Diana’s 6-year-old brother were with us. Parents were in the basement of another house. And then at the door of our shelter, Russian soldiers began to bang loudly on the door and shout: “Get out! We know that you are there! Everyone get out quickly!”.
“Diana hid her younger brother, and I hid the girl, because her mother was not with us, and she was afraid. We started saying that we are peaceful. They ordered us to open the door, jumped into the basement with machine guns and took us upstairs”.
They lined us up in front of the house, and they started asking us various questions, like “Why are you here? How many of you are here? Hand over your phones.”
“I remember that Diana’s brother stood silently and tears welled down from his eyes”. And I told the girl that everything will be fine. But actually I was shaking. She also asked if I should give my phone to the Russians? I said: “No, you don’t have a phone! Forget at all that you have it.” They didn’t pat us down, some gave phones in, some didn’t. I said I don’t have…
The Russians did not find my parents, Diana’s mother and that woman. And we did not talk about them. And then we were ordered to follow them, because they said they would take us to a safe place. It was a building on the outskirts of the village. Many residents of Vyshehrad were driven there.
We were told to take our own water. In the evening, the Russians gave the children some applesauce and chocolates from their field ration.
“We were kept in a closed room for a day. We tried to be calm, we supported each other. But we had no idea how long it would last, what would happen to our relatives and whether we would survive this night…”
Sasha, a 14-year-old girl, was together with us. The Russians killed her father and shot her mother, provided first aid and took the mother to their headquarters, and then sent her to a clinic in the Belarusian city of Mozyr. I found out later that the girl was taken there to her mother. And at that time she was with us. And she was in complete shock from what she had experienced.
A day later we were released to our homes.
When we returned home, we realized that the Russian military had looted our houses. At our neighbours, who sheltered us, the Russians ate something, smoked in their rooms, and put out their cigarettes on the floor. They stole equipment, phones, money, food, backpacks and even a frying pan.
We are lucky. Laptops and tablets were lying in a prominent place, but they were not taken away.
“The next day I saw a Russian soldier wearing new Nike sneakers.” A man approached him: “These are my sneakers on you.” And the Russian answered him: “Shut up!”
And that’s all. That is, while we were sitting there, the Russians went to other people’s houses and took what they wanted.
Or there was another such case. A Russian soldier entered the basement, as if to his own home. He said he needed a backpack. He took what he wanted, shook things out of him on the floor, took them and left.
The Russian military was clearing the area; three cars were parked in our yard. One was in the garage. This saved it, because the rest of the Russians had slashed the tires of those 2 cars right in front of our eyes. When the neighbour asked why they were doing that, a soldier answered: “We are protecting you. So that you can’t go anywhere. Because your Ukrainian soldiers will fire at you.”
Meanwhile, there was no way without a car. Even the nearest store had to be reached only by car.
We really wanted to leave. But we did not know what to do without wheels. The Russians were constantly walking around the yard and if they had seen that we had replaced them, the probability that we would not have gone anywhere then was very high.
On March 8th, we went to the neighbours for water, talked and decided that we should leave and that was it. We learned that they have summer tires. We checked that it fits the size, the condition is not perfect, but it was possible to drive.
We, the women, had to go pick up the wheels. Because men were not allowed to go outside.
“We went half way back when a convoy of Russian vehicles started to drive. It was impossible to run and hide somewhere, because the Russians could start shooting. So we just stood on the road with white rags, showing that we are peaceful. And they waited for 10-15 minutes, remaining an ideal target for the occupiers”.
We did bring the wheels of a car home. One car had to be left in the garage because there were not enough tires.
The Russians had a certain schedule – they fired in the morning, afternoon and mostly in the evening, and on March 8th, the shelling simply did not stop. There were also flights from the Ukrainian military.
I remember going outside and seeing a missile flying over the garden. It was kind of a greeting from our soldiers to the Russian ones.
But the men still changed the wheels, we formed a column and ran away without stopping. And on the Zhytomyr highway, we have already encountered the first checkpoint of the Ukrainian military.
And then there was Poland, where our friend sheltered us. My world will never be the same again. I don’t want anyone to go through what we went through.
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: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska