АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Violeta Shenkariuk
28 July 2022
Olena Hrystaforova lived in Melitopol together with her husband and daughter. Shortly before the war, the family finally finished the renovation of their house, the arrangement of which was done by Olena herself. On February 25, Melitopol was under occupation. The russians were based on the territory of the factory, which was located near their home. On the night of March 18, a rocket was shot down over the family’s house, the fragments of which completely destroyed the house. Olena spoke exclusively for the Monologues of the war website about everything that happened to the family and how Melitopol lives under occupation.
In recent times, I did not work, I was a stay-at-home mom. Ten years ago, we moved to Melitopol and built a house there. I was engaged in its arrangement, private yard and other household matters. In general, I had a lot of work. I was also engaged in raising my daughter.
A few weeks before February 24th, I flew to Dubai for a vacation and could not even think about the probable war. A few days before it started, my sister called me from Germany and said: “Everybody is saying that there will be a war!” I just laughed at this and answered her: “Tell the Germans to sleep peacefully, there will be no war!”. To be honest, this information seemed absurd to me.
Our house is near the airport, we can see it from the window. On February 24, we woke up to a “bang” that came through the window, which was open for ventilation. The husband got up to see what was bothering us to sleep. At first, we thought that these were sounds from the nearby metal base. We decided that something was being unloaded there. And then we heard the phone ring. The godfather of our daughter from Kropyvnytskyi called us and said that the war had started. I run to the window and see that the airfield is on fire, and black smoke is coming from it. This was on the first day of the war, and on February 25, the occupation had already begun.
Resistance was minimal because the military unit had only two tanks that could not stand up to the invaders. Although they tried to fight back, several buildings were damaged at the entrance to the city as a result of the collision. Then the mayor of the city spoke and said that our military command asked the troops to retreat from Melitopol, because it was completely surrounded. Therefore, in order not to harm the civilian population, the Armed Forces of Ukraine withdrew from the city. And the very next day, russian tanks drove down our street.
Of course, it was scary to live in the occupation. It’s like you’re in your own home, but you don’t feel safe. Russian soldiers were everywhere in the city. Although they did not touch us, their presence was oppressive. In addition, the supermarkets were immediately closed, then people started looting everything. It was scary, because we had never lived in such conditions. In a week, we were pushed back literally 30 years. On the street spontaneous markets returned, where everything was sold – food, household chemicals, books, video tapes… You look at all this and feel as if you have returned to the past.
On March 18, our house was destroyed. Opposite the house is a factory, on the territory of which already on February 25, the russian army entered with its tanks, armored personnel carriers and cars. They were based there. From my window I saw a sniper who was constantly sitting on the roof of this factory. Also across from us is a hotel where the chechens stopped by. And we constantly said among ourselves: “If they will be bombed, it also will come to us.” I don’t know exactly what happened, because I don’t have such information, but at 3:30 a.m. at night, a rocket was shot down over our house, fragments of which flew into our house and destroyed it. Fortunately, we managed to run out in time. But nothing remained of the house. We had a new house, which we had just completed and finished renovating. Fortunately, I, my husband, my child and even two cats survived.
After that, we received literally a million offers of help from people. For a while we lived in the apartment of an unknown girl, who has given it to us. And we left Melitopol on April 8, after learning what happened in Bucha. From the first days of the occupation, we had no communication, no Internet, and no Ukrainian television. The occupiers broadcast their russian television, so we knew nothing about the events in the Kyiv region. The godmother of our daughter from Kropyvnytskyi was able to call us and told us about Bucha. After that, we decided to leave. The man called friends who offered to go by minibus, because our car was destroyed by that time. So we left. My husband was driving, there were 18 people in the bus – women and children. The trip was difficult – we had to pass 17 checkpoints, bypassing road mines. It was very scary. But we were able to take out all our relatives.
We knew for sure that we would go to Kropyvnytskyi, because my parents live in the Kirovohrad region. I managed to find housing in Kropyvnytskyi, so I didn’t even have to go to my parents in the village. In addition, here I registered the child for school, where she finished the school year. Little by little, we are getting used to Kropyvnytskyi. I am going to submit a statement to the prosecutor’s office about the destroyed property. The eldest daughter even found a job here. Although our house in Melitopol is destroyed, we still plan to return there.
The people who remained in Melitopol are now trying to live a normal life as much as possible under such conditions. Fortunately, the occupiers do not touch them. Those who have work try to work.
Probably, this war changed the values of every person. Before the war, I was a shopaholic, it was important for me to have some expensive things. During the fire in the house, first of all, my dressing room and all the things that were there burned down. But, as it turned out, now I don’t need any of that, somehow it is possible to manage without these things. Also, the relationship with each other has become warmer. Our cats have become like family members for us: we took one out of the fire, and the other came home the next day. Therefore, war changes absolutely everything.
I believe that after the war our country will change for the better. Officials will understand that they are in their positions to work, not to rob us. How many people, including children, have died, so I think that after this we will no longer be able to remain silent if everything remains as before.
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: Violeta Shenkariuk