АвторAuthor: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
22 August 2022
The cheerful Anastasia Shestopal comes from Druzhkivka in Donetsk region. She is a second-year student at Kyiv National University named after Drahomanov, on social pedagogue. Before the war, the girl was engaged in dancing and was fond of acting. On April 8, Anastasia was going to evacuate to Dnipro. She was waiting for the carrier at the Kramatorsk railway station, when an enemy rocket with the inscription “For the children” hit her. The girl miraculously survived, but as a result of a missile strike, the 19-year-old Ukrainian girl lost her leg. About the events of that day, the first minutes after the explosion, evacuation, difficult treatment and rehabilitation, Anastasia tells “Monologues of the War”.
On February 24, I woke up at 5 a.m. from loud explosions. I had no idea that this could happen. At first I was not worried, I was going to continue sleeping, but my mother and father woke me up and said: “Get up, get dressed! You may have to go to the basement.” Then I understood for the first time what it really is – the feeling of anxiety.
I got dressed. It seems that there was an arrival in one of the districts of the city where my aunt and uncle live. Their acquaintance was injured by the rocket attack. He was left without an arm and without a home – I was in shock. It was the first day of the war, and the consequences were already colossal. But at that time we still hoped that it would pass quickly.
After that, panic started in the city, like everywhere else. People were withdrawing cash en masse and buying lots of food. I only remember how goods quickly disappeared from store shelves. Because of this, shops began to close. Although we are a small city with a population of 60,000, there were queues everywhere. Other than that, the city was relatively quiet.
On April 8, I planned to go to the Dnipro. In general, I was not going to evacuate for a long time, but all my close friends had already left by that time, and there was no one left in Druzhkivka. My friends said: “Nastya, leave,” but the family was categorically against it. I have an older sister who has a husband and two daughters. They were going to stay too.
The situation in the country and the region has already started to worry me a lot. Rockets began to fly into the city more and more often. We kept hearing explosions and shooting. I am a very emotional person myself, and all these events put a little pressure on me. I did not feel safe. I decided to go alone. My parents agreed, saying that if it would be easier for me, then it would be easier for them too.
In the evening, April 7, I pack my bags. On the 8th, I agreed with the BlaBlaCar driver that he would pick me up from the station in Kramatorsk. In the application, he had indicated another place where he was supposed to wait for me. I don’t know the city very well, so I asked him to pick me up from the station. Besides, I didn’t want to move around the city with a suitcase.
We agreed that he would stop by at one o’clock in the afternoon. I arrived at the station by train somewhere around eight o’clock. My mother’s friend put me on it because my mother was working at the time. I calmly arrived at the station, it was also quiet there. There was no “chaos” even though there were many people. It was on this day that many people evacuated. I will not name the exact number, but there were approximately four thousand people.
I waited outside. I did not go inside the station building, I sat on a bench. I still had time to record a video for my friends that I am already at the station, and we will meet soon. Around ten o’clock I went offline so as not to drain the battery. I was reading a book, I was very calm, and I did not suspect anything. A rocket arrived half an hour later.
After the missile hit the train station, I immediately heard a loud explosion. The eyes darkened, as in the movies. I ran to the side and fell to the ground. But I don’t remember whether I fell myself or my leg was already damaged by rocket discs. Maybe I saw more, but my psyche protects me and I don’t remember all the moments clearly.
I was lying in such a place where there were many dead people next to me. There were corpses everywhere. I was lucky that I only injured my leg. Other injuries were minor. All around, I saw people running in panic and running into the station premises. I felt fear. You can’t believe that all this is happening to you. Literally a minute ago, everything was fine, and here you are lying in a pool of blood and you don’t know what to do next. And in thoughts only – just to survive. I want to live.
I called for help several times. But then I realized that if I continue to scream, I will quickly lose strength. I didn’t have any of them left anyway, and with every second I was losing more and more blood. None of the people approached me, everyone was in shock – crying and screaming. A second rocket arrived seconds or minutes later. And when it exploded, I understood that if the wreckage reached me now, I would have no chance of survival.
At first, I had no idea how serious everything was. I wanted to believe in the best, but the thoughts didn’t leave me that could happen as they did. I was lying on the ground, and I understood that after the second explosion, all the people were running, and I could not get up and run with them. I just lie down and can’t do anything else. After five minutes, the rescuers ran up to me. I remember one of them saying, “Hard girl,” and pulling my leg tight to stop the bleeding. I was carried inside the station on a stretcher. Many ambulances arrived, many civilians who wanted to help. Then we were all taken to Kramatorsk hospitals. The doctors did not know who to grab, because there were so many wounded.
I remember all events episodically. At first I was in one of the offices, after which I was taken to the operating room. I had an operation that ended at four o’clock. After that I fell into a coma. I was in this state until midnight. My mother asked the doctor if I would walk, and the doctor replied, “Pray at all that she survives.”
I came to my senses after the coma, and immediately called my mother. She did not believe that she heard my voice; she said that it was not like mine at all.
Later, 25 ambulances headed to the Dnipro. In addition to me, there were three other women in the ambulance. They had injuries to their arms or legs, but they could sit, while I could only lie down. And so in every ambulance, because there were a lot of victims.
First, we drove to Pavlograd. Those who had minor injuries were left there. When they took me to see the doctor, he looked at my leg and said: “There’s only Dnipro here.” After that, I was brought to the Mechnikov hospital, where a second operation was performed. It was April 9.
I clearly remember how the anesthesia was administered to me and what was happening around me. How the doctor looked at my leg, completely shocked by my condition. After this operation, doctors said that there is a chance to save the leg. They took me to the ward to rest a little. Towards evening, the nurse noticed that I was getting worse. If he had not come to me, I would have died already.
On the night of April 9-10, an emergency operation was performed and my leg was amputated. They said that they had no other option, that it was necessary to save my life. On April 10, I woke up without a leg. I felt so bad – this is the worst thing that has happened to me in my life. This was the third operation literally in a day and a half. My mother was already on her way to the hospital. All my relatives already knew that my leg was amputated, but they did not tell my mother. When I told her, she started to calm me down, saying that everything will be fine, let’s put in a bioprosthesis. The main thing is that you are alive – my mother constantly repeated this phrase. The main thing is that I am alive, and we will solve everything else by any means. And I knew that it would be like that.
The fourth and fifth operations are open cleanings under anesthesia. It was unpleasant, my leg hurt a lot. I was accompanied by terrible phantom pains.
The sixth operation is preparation for prosthesis; a stump was formed from my leg.
I spent a month in the Dnipro. Then I came to Germany. On May 9, I was already abroad, and on May 12 or 13, another operation was performed on me. In total, there were seven of them. Further treatment took place in Germany. I was treated for another three weeks, and on May 31 I was brought from the hospital.
At first I had a lot of thoughts that maybe it would be better if I died, if I didn’t survive. But close people, friends, family, people who just love me were always by my side. Indeed, a lot of people support me. A lot of people came to my hospital in Dnipro. People who don’t know me personally, but really want to support me. I was impressed. Our people opened up to me from different sides.
I am currently in Germany, in the city of Essen. Our friends were already in this city at that time. When they found out what happened to me, they posted information about me somewhere. One woman – her name is Mira – and her husband responded to my story. They wanted to help me come to Germany for treatment and prosthetics. We thought about this proposal, and decided to go anyway. Mira helps us a lot in many matters. She is quite an influential person. She has many friends and acquaintances. She immediately made arrangements for the hospital and now takes an active part in my life.
Here we met many people who want to help me. When they learn my story, they begin to admire me. We also met a woman from Ukraine, from the Luhansk region, who has been living in Germany for over 20 years. Her husband is a local, and she said that the warmth and sincerity of the Germans towards me is one in a million.
Currently, it is difficult to talk about the future, plans, desires, and dreams. This is all constantly being adjusted. In the next 2-3 weeks, I will have the first trial prosthesis, on which I will already learn to walk. Then it will be replaced.
I feel that I am changing as a person very much. I want to develop in the media field. To do this, I will start with Tik-Tok and Instagram.
I am sure that everything will be fine, and it will be even better. I do not leave optimism and confidence in this. Yes, this is a difficult period, but it will pass. The main thing is that I am alive – as my mother told me.
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: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
“Frightened, we sat in the school basement. Azovtsi told us that everything is going to be alright, we will deal with everything, and we will win,” — this is a story of a woman from Mariupol who was at the hottest spot