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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Valeriy Lysenko

    «I believed it was not the house on fire but the life of some family». How the man from Irpin lived under intense shelling and sought shelter

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk

    7 August 2022

    58-year-old Valery Lysenko from Chernivtsi is a military pensioner who worked in the banking and security sector. He lived in the city of Irpin for about ten years. He lived on the third floor of a five-story building, in his cozy apartment. But during intense shelling, he sought shelter in a safe place. On the way he saw corpses, among which were children. He told the «Monologues of the War” project about this.

    Previously, in my free time, I would occasionally meet with friends for a cup of coffee or to watch football matches. I also liked walking in the park in the company of the neighbor’s dog. Life was quiet and peaceful. 

    On the morning of February 24, I went to Kyiv to get a bank card. I stood in line for more than three hours. Was there a feeling of anxiety? Of course, it was, especially when people around were constantly advising someone to leave Kyiv urgently on their cell phones. But the shock came later, when the scale of the tragedy was not yet fully realized. The alarm increased when it became clear that minibusses do not go to Irpin. I barely caught a ride that took me to Romanivka. Then I went on foot over the bridge over the Irpin River, which was already blown up by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on February 25.

    All the time, until March 5, I spent in my apartment and did not go down to the basement. There was not a lot of space in our basements, and there were just too many children and elderly people. So I decided to stay at home. 

    By 10 o’clock on March 5, almost all the residents of the building had left, just five people remained. On this day, I decided to go out into the city. Pharmacies did not work. In the center of Irpin, the underground passage and the adjacent square were completely crowded with people waiting for the train (as it became known later, just on this day, a shell bombed the tracks and none of these people left by train. Buses were organized for them to the broken Irpin bridge, and after that people were transported to different cities). 

    Valery Lysenko

    Personal photo of Valery Lysenko

    There was an acute shortage of products in the supermarket. There was no bread, groats, canned goods, dairy products. At the same time, people began to be taken out of the supermarket, as there was a threat of shelling. That same day, I first saw a house on fire from a direct hit, not far from the underpass. I was haunted by the thought that it was not the house on fire, but the life of some family. In a moment, from the impact of the projectile, the family left their home. On the same day, in the afternoon, the light went out, and after water and gas. I went down to the basement for the first time. 

    The most intense shelling occurred at night from March 6 to 7. Not far from us, a high-rise building burned all night, behind the park a private house burned, across the street a projectile hit the school fence. God has mercy on us so far. The most disgusting were the whistling of shells flying over us and exploding not far away in 2-3 seconds. I had the impression that now it would aim at us. By that time, we had already learned to determine what was flying and where it was coming from. It was no longer possible to live in a house with no electricity, water or gas. On the morning of March 8 we, together with those who remained, decided to leave Irpin.

    Read also: Yuliia Polishchuk: “War ruined everything. I was boomeranged back to the cold countries”

    The morning of March 8 began with intense shelling, but fortunately for us, it soon stopped. It was snowing. We decided not to go down the central street. Eight people, including a child, died there a few days ago, near the central park, from a direct hit. I did not think that we would see such a thing on the quiet streets of Irpin. So many houses burned to the ground from a direct hit, so many destroyed lives. 

    On the way, we met a woman who, in addition to a large bag and a backpack, was carrying a carrier with a cat. She could barely walk and was dragging all her «belongings». Of course, we offered her help and went on with her. Fortunately, there was no intense shelling, so we reached the church, where there was a volunteer aid station, without any obstacles. There we drank hot tea, coffee and even tasted dumplings. But here was an unpleasant surprise for us. Territorial Defense fighters who were here together with the volunteers said that there is a threat of shelling of the church, because the correctional officer was hiding there. Therefore, they urgently put the woman whom we helped along the way and our elderly resident, who was with us all this time, into the car. Later they also drove but to the broken bridge. Something like a pedestrian crossing was made under it, where people crossed with the help of policemen to the other side. Again, fortunately, during the transition, there was no shelling. I was struck by the large number of private cars left right on the bridge, many of which were completely cut by shrapnel from shells. We were lucky because it was said that there was shelling after us in the afternoon. We reached Kyiv without any obstacles.

    Remains of the house after shelling

    The bombed-out residential building of Valery

    The bus brought us to the square near the Pivdennyi Vokzal. I was struck by the unusual, depressing emptiness and complete absence of land transport. We went around the surrounding establishments in search of food . Everything was closed. We stood by the parapet to discuss what to do next. Our elderly neighbor has already boarded the train to Lviv. Some of the passers-by advised to go to the Megamarket near the Sports Palace. The Vokzalna metro station was not working, in general the Red branch was limited to the stations from Akademmistechko to Shulyavka . So we went on foot. 

    The city seemed to have died out. There were only rare passers-by. There were many reinforced concrete blocks on the roads and anti-tank hedgehogs. Still, compared to Irpin, it was like a different planet. A man on a ladder was wiping something on the wall of a house. A policeman was standing nearby. It seemed to be a tag from a saboteur. Although, we could be wrong. There were plenty of people in the Megamarket, although there was no excitement. 

    The product range was decent. There were canned goods, bread, and milk. Compared to Irpin, it was heaven and earth. It is understandable, because products were not brought to Irpin. It was cut off from supply routes. This is where we parted. My neighbors (a married couple) went to an apartment with friends, and I began to think about what to do next. The person who promised to provide me with a place to spend the night disappeared somewhere and did not answer the calls. 

    It would be possible to go to work. There were all the necessary household conditions, but I just wanted to relax at home… until morning. I was sitting on the subway platform, until the signal of my smartphone sounded. A neighbor called from B’s entrance. She asked if I had a place to spend the night. Because her grandmother, with whom my neighbor was also staying with her husband and dog, agreed to my staying overnight. Everything happened so suddenly that I was in a state of some kind of shock for a few moments, but I accepted the offer with joy and gratitude. 

    My neighbor Olena met me near the subway. And the dog happily met me in the apartment. 

    Neighbor's dog

    A faithful friend of my neighbor

    I got to know grandmother, got myself in order, had dinner together and talked a little. And for the first time in a long time I fell asleep peacefully. All the time, I felt like I was in another, long-forgotten world. In the morning grandmother prepared breakfast. I had breakfast, packed my things and thanked them for the hospitality and headed to the subway . I was on the way to work. On the road I thought… it’s good that there are such people. May God give them good health.

    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: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk

    Life under fire

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