АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
16 August 2022
Natalia Blokhina was born in Turkmenistan, but lived in Chernihiv for almost 30 years before the war. In this city, she began to engage in the main business of her life – advocacy. When the war began, the woman left her apartment for a district on the outskirts of Chernihiv. Natalia hid in the basement almost all the time. But, after one of the strong explosions, the woman could not stand it and decided to evacuate the city. Natalia is now in Germany and is going to be there until Ukraine becomes safe again. The woman shared her war story with the journalists of the “Monologues of the War” website.
I am not afraid to say that I am russian – this is what is written on my birth certificate, issued in Turkmenistan, where I was born. My father is russian, but he lived in Chernihiv from the age of four. My mother is Ukrainian, a native of Chernihiv. Later we lived in Uzbekistan, and then we got to Latvia. In 1995, we returned to my parents’ hometown — Chernihiv, as refugees from Latvia. The deceased father was a military pensioner, and in the past – a combat officer, pilot, awarded with numerous orders and medals. I graduated from a Ukrainian school, studied, started working, and became a lawyer. Before the war, I had 22 years of legal experience, 14 of which I was an active, independent, practicing lawyer. It has been the work of my whole life.
Frankly speaking, it was very difficult for me to speak Ukrainian, but I learned it, even though I speak russian in real life. I have never divided people by nationality, because I believe that every nation has scum. It does not depend on nationality; it depends on the person himself. And now I am afraid of how many scum are trying to destroy us and wipe us out. There is no need to hide behind noble goals, as if you are saving us from Nazism! I assure you that during the almost 30 years that I have lived here, no one has ever oppressed me in anything! I don’t know about Nazism from hearsay, I experienced it with my family in Latvia, leaving my apartment and all my belongings there! I am glad that all my friends who are now in the russian federation condemn these actions and support us morally! I only now realized what brave men surround me – our defenders. I am proud of them! Unlike those who destroy us – civilians – women and children!
In January, I was on a pre-planned vacation in Mexico. When I returned at the beginning of February, I was in the emotions of rest, good impressions. Therefore, I was not even interested in what was happening. Somehow I didn’t pay attention to it. But about a week and a half before February 24, I had some kind of intuitive premonition, when inside you feel some kind of great excitement; it is not clear what it is related to. I have never felt such excitement. Although I have different processes at work, I have never had such feelings before.
I usually work for two cities — Kyiv and Chernihiv. Before that, I returned from Kyiv, spent the night, and literally the next day the war began. Even when I heard the explosions on February 24, I still couldn’t believe that the war had started. On this day, I had a criminal case scheduled for consideration in the Chernihiv region. Usually, we travel together with the prosecutor. I call him and say: “So, whose car are we going to drive?” And he tells me: “The war has started here. Didn’t you hear the explosions?” And I live next to a military unit and heard these explosions, but I could not explain to myself – how can this be war? Then for a long time I could not understand that this was not a dream – and the war really began.
My friend lives in a neighboring house, and on the morning of February 24, she urged me to pack my things and leave for her mother’s house, because there is a basement there. Then I said that I would still stay, because home is home. But then my other friend’s husband called me (and he is a military man), who knows that I live near a military unit and said that I should pack my things and move out of the apartment anywhere, away from this region. Therefore, I quickly got myself together and got to Oleksandrivka. For some reason we thought it would be calmer there. But, from the very first day, they started shelling us from Grads. Oleksandrivka is a district located on the outskirts of Chernihiv, not far from the ring road. On the one hand, there is an entrance from Gomel, and on the other – from the direction of Mena. And as they said later, the russians entered precisely from these two directions. And that’s why this district came under fire. The shelling was such that we could not leave the basement. It was impossible to take a basic shower. We went outside and smelled smoke, constantly something was burning and exploding. This went on the whole time I was there. We sat virtually helpless in this basement.
Only once was I able to drive home to get some things. But at that time, I did not have time to reach home, as a rocket landed on the territory of the flight school, which is not far from my house. The rocket flew in such a way that my legs buckled and my ears pricked up. After that, I never returned home. Only later, when I packed my things and left Chernihiv altogether.
All this time, a real horror was happening in Chernihiv. “Epicentr” was bombed, the districts of Belova and Pukhova streets were also very badly hit. Then a little more than 10 days passed and I decided that I could no longer sit under constant shelling.
When the aerial bombardment began and we were covered in the basement several times by an explosive wave, I realized that I could no longer be in such a situation. They told me that it is already dangerous to leave, because russian troops are already in the village of Yagidne and it is impossible to pass there. I said that I don’t care where they kill me. If it happens on the track, it will be faster, because I can’t stand it anymore. That’s why I decided to leave. It was around March 5-6. Then I returned to my apartment in Chernihiv again, they helped me pack things and just stayed with me until I gathered everything I needed. I went to my other friends, with whom we later left Chernihiv.
We waited until we were allowed to leave, for this; we kept in touch with the military and other people who told us where we could leave and where the situation was at that time on the road. We left at 6 in the morning. We also had a young woman with a child with us, whom we took, because their house was completely bombed and the child was injured. She was after the hospital and this family also wanted to escape from Chernihiv. Another family also left with us – the man is 70 years old, and the woman is 57. We went through the fields, around the village of Yagidne, because there were already russian troops there, who were simply destroying everything.
We left for a village in the Vinnytsia region, where I had friends. We were in such a state that we wanted to go at least to some quiet place and be in a peaceful environment. Just lying in bed with a cup of tea. We stayed there for a few days and then decided to move towards Germany, because I had friends there from the city of Bonn. So, through Moldova and Romania, we went to Germany. There, friends sent us to the Red Cross, which accommodated us in a hotel. The injured girl and her mother left earlier, and the couple went on to Great Britain, as they have a son there. So, everyone went in different directions, and we were accommodated in a hotel, where we lived for a long time. There are a lot of our people here and Germany should be given credit for helping us a lot. In order to find a normal job, knowledge of the German language is required. For this, there are integration courses, they last six months to a year, depending on their type. With housing, of course, there are certain difficulties, but at least here there are no bombs and sirens are not heard. Until I understand that I can return to Kyiv or Chernihiv, until I know that it is safe there, I will stay in Germany. I will help the Ukrainians who are there, within the limits of my legal and advocacy skills. Many people were left without housing, so they have various legal issues. Now I have returned to Chernihiv, but only for a while to close my offices, collect documents and return to Germany. Because Chernihiv is one of those dangerous zones where there is still a corresponding threat of another invasion.
Everything changed for me with this war. Now you understand how much we underestimated how happy we were before. Only after I left, I realized how big a nation we are, how smart we are and what we can do. In some things, we are far ahead of Europe, so we have a lot to learn. But we underestimate ourselves, and only being in such conditions, I think, everyone evaluated their skills in a new way.
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: Mariia Moskaliuk