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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    We’re playing Caverna

    Sergyi Khitryi: “The dairy of 12 days under occupation between Makariv and Borodyanka”


    АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Anna Shliakhova

    8 June 2022

    Sergyi Khitryi together with his family spent 12 days under occupation in Andriivka village in Kyiv region. The man kept a diary all that time and recorded there all that happened in those days.

    *The story was published with permission.

    We always try to plan everything ahead and to be ready for different situations. This time it was the same, but we failed. The orcs had since long gathered their horde on the Ukrainian border, but until the 24th of February we hadn’t believed in a full-scale invasion. We believed at most it could be fighting near ORDO-Republicks demarcation lines and some diversions in big cities for destabilization (especially in Kyiv). We didn’t want to leave our country though we could have done it in 2014 as we can now. We wanted to take kids to our country house out of Kyiv to Andriivka located between Borodyanka and Makariv. It is 60 km from Kyiv and we thought it would be a safe place to stay. There was everything for a comfortable living: gas|electric|furnace heating, a generator, own well with water, wood|food and fuel supply. But everything went wrong… 

    24/02 Day 1 Explosions woke us up

    Documents, a minimal set of things, children, guinea pigs were packed and off we went. For a few weeks cars were filled up so we could pass huge lines at gas stations. We left at 6.50 a.m. from Lukyanivka and got to our country house only in 3,5 hours. Also, usually it takes 1 hour. We went on duty roads through Irpin, Bucha, Borodyanka. Our neighbors who left later had to go back because Peremohy avenue was totally blocked by heavy traffic. Our friends with their kids and their mother came to us in the evening. They wanted to stay for night and go further to the West of Ukraine. It was the second evacuation for them. They fled Donetsk in 2014…

    25/02 Day 2 We convinced my parents to come to us from Kyiv

    My parents-in-law decided to stay in Kyiv. My brother-in-law with his wife and son also came to us from Bucha. They were to spend a few days here until it would be safe going back home. So there were 9 people here, including 3 kids. So far, our plan was going well. As early as January we had stored enough food, public utilities were working, cars were filled up.

    26/02 Day 3 Blackout

    It was expected, because electric power distribution is the weakest link in utilities infrastructure. The wires are easily torn. We got the generator out and… it wouldn’t start. It was the first time our plan went wrong. The generator was gifted to us and we hadn’t used it before. It turned out to be a cheap Chinese fake and after several years of storing it refused to work. So we also were left without water (the pump didn’t work without power).

    We joined our village Viber-chat, and contacted our headman to ask if they needed something. He told us to donate blood for blood supply in a hospital in Makariv. We signed up.

    We reopened an abandoned well in our yard. It’s just a pit closed with a plug. Its maximum is 2 liters of water a day. We tied rope to a jar and drowned it with a stick to collect water. We had to do it every day. My parents did this boring chore. So we could have a little water. It was drinkable after boiling. We did a stocktaking of our food.

    27/02 Day 4 The point of no return: the invasion of the village

    In the morning the headman asked us to bring backpacks for Makariv Territorial Defense Force. I brought them and talk personally to the headman. Asked if I could join Andriivka TDF. His answer was, “Not yet due to lack of armor.” All armed people in the village would patrol it for the time being. They needed no more. Okay, I would chop wood.

    The shooting started. We knew from the news that the bridge over the Zdvizdz River in Borodyanka was blown up, so all the hordes went to the South to Makariv and our village… We didn’t consider they blew up all bridges to Kyiv, so rushists would move to Zhytomyr highway through our area.

    People uploaded videos of a military column that went through the central street to the village chat. Mostly, people there are far from technologies, so they don’t know about Telegram b27/02 Day 4 The point of no return: the invasion of the villageots and don’t use them. I collected data from different sources and sent it to the government Telegram bot. The first part of the column consisted of 284 vehicles. What a horror! The remains of the column were going through our village for a long time. In total there were more than 300 items… They didn’t damage the village for a while, just went through to the South.

    At that moment we still could go west through fields, but we didn’t think about it. Having analyzed our actions I conclude we were inspired by our news that many columns were defeated, and we supposed that the bridge to the South from Borodynka was also blown up and no more columns would come here. It’s good to hear mostly about the success of our defense, but there wasn’t enough data to realize the status quo.  Near Makariv rushists column divided in three parts and went to Havronshchyna, Byshiv and Zhytomyr highway. I started to search contacts in the village to consolidate information transfer. Suddenly I realized that I could be useful that way here and now. I received dozens of messages. Mostly, there were photos and videos without time and location data. I had to clarify it constantly, to consolidate data to send it to Telegram bot. First time I contacted with Armed Force of Ukraine. I sent data directly to them. Not sure it was really helpful, but felt myself useful and, mentally, it helped me a lot.

    28/02 Day 5 Internet and mobile communications disappeared

    We could only send sms. It turned out that radio in mobile phones only works with wired headphones. For us it was the only window to the world for the next 11 days.

    We baked bread in Easter cake pans for the first time. The refrigerator was already of no use. Luckily it was freezing cold outside and we could store food in the barn and on the terrace without heating. We learned that a cooler bag with an ice park (or a bottle of water) can keep cold for a long time if nights are cold and days are warm.

    01/03 Day 6 We fixed the generator

    Locals helped us to fix it. But because of poor quality its power wasn’t enough to pump water. We charged electronic devices. But the generator was too loud and not wishing to draw the attention of rushists we stopped it. They began to settle down in the village. We taped all the windows with adhesive tape (In the following days we would recognize it was the right decision.)

    There were regular shellings in both directions. These duels continued daily while we were there. I would like to thank our boys for firing very carefully (unlike rushists) so as not to damage the houses.

    I already sent data only by sms. We pondered how to flee, however we still lacked information to make a decision.

    02/03 Day 7 The first fighting on our street

    The street was heavily shelled. We have no cellar so we just listened where it comes from and to. If it was already nearby, we went into the house or into the barn, otherwise we didn’t hide at all.

    In the afternoon we saw tracer bullets from armored personnel carriers (they glow) flying near our house. Then they fired from a cannon over the houses. The shell hit the roof of an unfinished house in two houses before us, ricocheted and flew over our houses. Luckily for us there was that house. The neighbor’s house had minor damage.

    There was no electricity, so we didn’t use our smartphones unnecessarily. I found printed maps. I had never expected to be so glad to see a printed roadmap of the Kyiv region. It was much easier to plan our evacuation with it. In the evening we heard on the radio the 95th Brigade came to Makariv. There was a hope for us to be freed soon.

    03/03 Day 8 We were shelled with the Grad multiple launch rocket systems

    Rushists put their vehicles with the Grad multiple launch rocket systems in 300 meters from us on the farm. They shelled everywhere. There are about 10 large hangars on the farm. They went out, shelled and hired again. It was very challenging to calculate their current position.

    We bought some meat from our neighbors. It was the last day when we could go relatively safely to our neighbors. Then the neighbor’s guy was captured.

    A walk with kids in a break between shooting

    A walk with kids in a break between shooting

    Rushist’s vehicles still went through our village to Makariv, though not many as before. But now they fired on houses with submachine guns so people wouldn’t look at them and film them. What a beasts! They said some people were killed but I don’t know if these words were reliable. All we knew was from word of mouth.

    04/03 Day 9 Searches were conducted

    They barged into houses in threes. The men’s documents were checked — they were looking for foreigners! They found an Iranian. They wanted to prove (first and foremost by themselves) NATO fights here. They also searched for men with military tattoos. Often phones were checked, sometimes they were taken away.

    As the column was marching, one BMP stalled. The next day a tank went by, hit it, and damaged its own track. So they left them both there. The villagers are thrifty, they drained the diesel fuel and unbolt/unscrew whatever they could. So when rushists saw something military (for example, tank spare parts or bulletproof), they captured people. According to various sources at the moment we left about 20-30 people were captured.

    “2 Buryats and a Dagestani came to us. They wanted to come in. My heroic mother told them she wouldn’t let them in because they were armed and 3 kids were inside. We started a conversation with them. We told them no one had been waiting for them here. We told them they were brainwashing”.

    They had been sure there was no army in Ukraine only Bandereties and so on according to rushists propaganda. We beat around the bush so well that only our driver licenses were checked. They didn’t check our phones and didn’t come into the house. It turned out funny with phones checking. When they asked for them, my Mom told them we couldn’t use it due to the 5-day-long shutdown. Fortunately, their brains were not enough to think about power banks, laptops or the car in the yard as a source of power. Nevertheless I deleted all the messages on my phone before I came out of the house. At the end of our conversation I frankly advised them to give up at the first opportunity as the only way to survive. A shift in their consciousness was visible. Not only we caused it but everyone who called them enemies and told them the truth. We also told them about the real situation on the front, about the number of dead occupiers, and wrecked equipment.

    The Dagestani was in charge so mostly I spoke to him. I told him, “As you can see, our villages are asphalted.” I asked him if they have asphalted roads. He answered they don’t… And they came to free us!

    They told us to hang a white cloth on the gate as a sigh that it’s a checked civil house.

    If a door was closed, they broke the door or windows. They turned everything upside down, took away food. They broke into our neighbor’s house, who wasn’t there at that time. They destroyed everything inside, beasts. Also they occupied empty houses and lived there.

    05/03 Day 10 The night was quiet

    In the morning they patrolled the village with 2 tanks and a BMP. The Grad systems ceased firing, apparently ran out of missiles.

    In the afternoon in fields to the west of our village went 10 tanks and 2 BMPs with lots of infantry rode on them. They didn’t do it before so they lacked vehicles now. Soon after there was fighting. They didn’t come back through our street so we don’t know what happened there. Our boys began to rush from the field to the farm with the katsap machinery (and it was the same the following days). I saw it real time from my window. Our boys came by vehicles, fired, and ran away (and it’s a right tactic to survive and beat the russians). I clearly saw flashes in the field and in 2 seconds heard explosions on the farm. Both mortars and grenade launchers were fired. It is easily distinguished by sound along.

    06/03 Day 11 They fired rockets from the “Grad” systems again

    This time the “Grad” systems weren’t fully charged — they fired about 20-25 rockets. It seemed they did so for reasons of economy. Before, they fired in the direction of Korolivka village, and now they were firing to the North in the direction of Ozerszhyna village. So our boys might come there. It was a good news. There were a big fire in Lipivka direction. Bad news were coming from Bucha and Borodyanka. It was said that there were no Borodyanka more, and rushists were in Bucha and Irpin.

    The mobile connection was a little bit better again. We could even call my mother-in-law, but she couldn’t hear us. The internet still didn’t function (and it wouldn’t).

    07/03 Day 12 They fired rockets from the “Grad” systems from early morning

    They fired fully charged “Grad” systems again. It’s a pity their supply still functioned. Our army fired back with artillery and mortars. We didn’t hide from mortars anymore. We got accustomed to it. Again, we listened where it came from and to and did our business.

    We spent most of the time in the house. Kids played, we put together puzzles (it helped in distracting from the situation). I didn’t feel like reading anything (my brain couldn’t perceive information).

    08/03 Day 13 The hardest day

    At dawn there was intense fighting around us. They hit the house and the barn on our street. They both burned out. People were injured but alive.

    At 11-40 a.m. we ran out of gas. It was a very bad sigh. We needed gas for cooking and heating the water (to drink and to wash). We thought about how to heat and cook. We had a furnace but without a cooking surface. Only a small pot could be put through the furnace door. But it was better than nothing.

    There were explosions around us all the time. Debris damaged my Subaru for the first time. There was a hole in the bumper. Luckily, the tires and the fuel tank were undamaged. We stayed inside because it was hell outside. It was showing heavy.

    The mine hits our garden. The window in our bedroom was blown out. At that moment my Mom was in the room opposite the window. It’s a miracle she wasn’t hurt. Partly the tape on the window helped, partly it was a fart. The wreckage even crashed the lamp under the ceiling and my Subaru, again (this time the trunk lid and our belongings inside the truck were hit). Also there was minor damage to our house and some holes in the roof. All the windows in the barn were blown up.

    House after the shelling

    The result of shelling

    At 3.30 p.m. it went away and we started to address the impacts. We removed fragments of the windows and covered them with sheets of plywood. Additionally we made an insulated shield against the cold. We protected the cars as much as we could.

    Rushists went from house to house and told us to leave. But they couldn’t explain where we had to go, so we refused. As it turned out some people successfully fled the village that day. But there was no connection, so they couldn’t tell us about it.

    At night we drank some wine and gave everyone a candy on the occasion of the 8th of March. That was our celebration.

    09/03 Day 14 Some aircrafts were flying early in the morning

    They flew every day before (helicopters also), mainly in pairs. Mostly, they were rushists aircrafts that came from Belarus. They always flew at low altitude. Once, a Ukrainian plane flew over me 20 meters above my head. It was unforgettable. I could even see its pixel camouflage. It was VERY loud.

    Rushists started to run out of fuel. They snatched several cars and mopeds for patrolling. They painted the letter “V” and labeled them with “RUS”.

    BMPs and tanks were on the streets. They didn’t already move, only ran on idle for heating. A fuel truck drove by, escorted by a tank. As far as I understood it filled all their vehicles in the village. But still they didn’t move. The day before a tank was moving outside the village but now it stalled. They tried but unsuccessfully to tow it. So it stood there abandoned.

    Rushists put their artillery guns very close to us. I couldn’t see them, but my ears popped. It was in a few houses from us. Squatting I dug a pit for fire under firing. I covered it with bricks. We cooked soup and even fried unfrozen sausages on fire.

    “They came to us three times telling us to leave. They pointed in Borodynka direction. One of them wanted us to give them the battery from the car on the pretext of making light for us”.

    We didn’t believe him. We beat around the bush and didn’t give it to them. Can you imagine we had 4 cars in our yard? Another one begged for cigarettes and insisted that we had to go (so it won’t be late). They also regularly checked the number of people.

    In the afternoon a helicopter was flying somewhere to the North. As it turned out later rushists troops were landing there, because we saw new faces the next day. They were better equipped and properly trained russian. Most likely, they were paratroopers. And they were especially reckless.

    10/03 Day 15 The evacuation

    As usual the dawn was marked with firing from “Grad”, artillery and martyrs. Then it went down. It was a good sunny day. We warmed up the pasta we cooked on the fire the day before. We heard on the news that the rushists column was defeated near Fastov (wow, they did advance). There was firing from “Grad” again. About 11 a.m. our neighbor came to us and told us some people had left in the previous days and he even could call them. They confirmed their evacuation was safe. Later we heard on the news about the beginning of evacuation from Bucha and Irpin. These two factors forced us to think it was the right moment.

    “I went outside with a white cloth to ask the rushists if it was safe to leave. They confirmed we could leave. I asked about the direction to flee. They told me we had to go to the left first in Borodyanka direction and then to the right”.

    It changed everything because it was the way through the farm in the forest nearby to Kyiv. We packed quickly and tried to start our cars. Two of them didn’t start due to long stays outside in freezing temperatures. Fortunately, we had jumper cables.

    We prepared ourselves for this very thing and made a list, but we forgot to assign the roles. So we didn’t take everything we needed and did take some unnecessary things. We realized they would crash into our house as soon as we left it. They did it with every empty house. Some of them they robbed, they settled in others. That’s because we took all the food and all the fuel. We locked neither the house door nor the barn one. They would break them anyway. Maybe, in such a way the door and the windows wouldn’t be damaged in case the house still will be there.

    We were ready to go at about 1 p.m. We hung white clothes on the cars, took 2 neighbors with us. We could take even more but senior people refused to flee. I don’t describe the whole route so as not to make known the positions of people who helped us. First we went into Kyiv direction, then to Borodyanka and then to the West through other occupied villages until we finally came to OURS. Only then we realized we had fled.

    It was very tough to pass by ruined villages, destroyed rushists vehicles and dead bodies along the road. Fortunately they didn’t stop us. We were lucky to get out of there by our cars with all the things we had with us. Even our guinea pigs fled with us. I told our boys on the checkpoint about all the vehicles I recognized and went by.

    “I think, rushists do as they always did. They put their vehicles in yards between houses and barns to hide from our artillery. They loot”.

    First we thought about returning to Kyiv and initially went in that direction. But then the road led us to Zhytomyr highway near Zhytomyr itself. So we went further to the West of Ukraine to draw breath after the occupation.

    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: Anna Shliakhova


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