АвторAuthor: Maria Havrylian | Translation:
30 April 2022
It’s the second time Russia’s war has ruined the life of 64-year-old Viktor Boiev. A Donetsk native, he first had to run away from the war in 2014. He sent his wife and granddaughter to Kyiv. His daughter and son-in-law stayed in Donetsk because they didn’t manage to sell the house. Viktor himself left a year later — that’s how much time it took to obtain all the documents. But he didn’t just waste time sitting around. He says that back then, after the Battle of Ilovaisk, Kirovohrad battalion prisoners were kept in the Donetsk office of the Security Service of Ukraine, so he would bring parcels to them. When he was finally reunited with his family, he started building his life anew. After five years of hard work, he got a mortgage on an apartment in Hostomel.
I found a job in Hostomel, and my wife became the leader of the homeowner community in our newly built block of flats. I would never have thought one could grow so fond of a new place! The nature was wonderful, the infrastructure, well-built, and just two kilometers from downtown Bucha. The Antonov airport was near.
On February 22, 2022, I came back from my vacation and found out that Donetsk was in a panic. People were evacuating women and children. Men were being captured for mobilization in the street. My daughter somehow managed to leave Donetsk and come to Hostomel on February 23.
On the morning of February 24, I was getting ready for work. I saw it from my own window on the fourth floor — I didn’t even realize what it was at first — a helicopter flying over the airport, shooting fireballs, and the military base nearby launching missiles back at it.
I saw it all from my own window, just around two kilometers away! One helicopter was downed. In about an hour, black helicopters flew over our house. I counted as many as 20. Turned out to be Russian air landing troops. Then there was a battle, and they seized the airport.
During the day, a military four-by-four drove to our house, but the military were wearing civilian clothes. They warned us that they would fight to throw the Russians out of the airport and told us to stay at home and hide if possible. That night, they actually managed to regain control over the airport. But on the following day, the fighting continued, with projectiles flying around—and we were so close to them. Those who had cars left straight away. As for ourselves, even though we could do that, we decided to go to the city center near the glass plant, where our friends lived. Then I still believed it would be but a flare-up, and we’d come home before long. But in a single day, the city was full of enemy vehicles, and the bridge over Irpin, which was the way out of the city, was blown up. So our evacuation paths were simply cut off.
We were hiding in the basement of the five-story apartment block where our friends lived. There was still a signal then, and we could watch the news to learn what was happening.
“On February 26, we saw entire columns of Z-marked enemy vehicles. There were clashes and terrible fighting — sometimes right near our house”.
Our guys and the enemy were taking turns in who kicked whom. Then the Russians set up checkpoints at the bridge. One of them was right near our house, about 200 meters away. Then the air forces came. We knew that the advancing columns were shelled heavily from out of the village of Moshchun. Boy, were those columns long. 64 kilometers each. By that time, we just moved to live in the basement. That was where all our neighbors were, the ones that didn’t leave when they still could. People from the neighboring detached houses came too. There were 40 of us, give or take. On the fifth day, electricity and water were cut off. We found water by accident at the building site nearby, just running freely. That water was from the municipal distribution system. Our entire neighborhood would draw water there until it ran dry in about a week. We sustained on what we had saved. Then the Fora supermarket chain owner came to us and said, “I’ll open a store, and you can get whatever you need.” So naturally, the store was swept empty. First one Fora store, then another. Volunteers came to us with bags of cereals and bottles of sunflower oil. Six bags went into my GAZ van. They really saved us later on. As for our phones, we charged them using a generator in a neighboring house.
March 4 was marked with mayhem, incessant showers of shells and rockets, and houses of fire. That battle made our guys retract, and the first Russian intel groups went into the city. They started nosing around the streets, houses, basements. Took away all our phones. Although they weren’t rude. Promised to give them back, too.
They stayed in our apartments. They looted mostly jewelry and vodka. And for the night, they shut us in the basement. Then they stopped letting us out even during the day. Just think, they didn’t even let us go to the bathroom. So we had to do it in the corner, into some bucket. And there were fifty people or so in that basement then.
Among us was a family with two kids. They managed to negotiate their evacuation. I went next. Their commander told us to get the evacuation convoy ready in an hour. We gathered six or seven cars and my van. Took in as many people as possible. I had 14 people in. They call me their savior now. And my family got into a passenger car.
The thing was, they only let us go in the direction of Chornobyl and Belarus. But I only had enough gas for 100 kilometers. I drove as far as Ivankiv. Other cars, including the one with my family, went farther, towards Belarus.
What I saw along the road was a nightmare for which I don’t have any words. They murdered everyone. Just cars left, burned down or shot.
In Ivankiv, we were pointed to a place to stay. It was the newly built school No. 2. It had a big spacious basement, and we had a very warm welcome. The school’s principal, Halyna Vasylivna Hubysh, was oh so kind to us! I’ll never ever forget what she did for us. Her surname sounds like the Ukrainian verb meaning “destroy,” but I used to joke, “Halyna Vasylivna, you don’t destroy, you rescue.” In the first days, there were almost 200 of us in that basement. Lots of kids too. We were given food and clothes.
My family and our neighbors reached Belarus. They told us kind people met them there, gave them shelter, food, and money.
But then, we could not talk to one another. We had no phones. The 14 people I took with me and I myself stayed in Ivankiv. Electricity and water supply to the settlement wasn’t stable either. But there was no fighting. We could only hear blasts far away. One bread factory was working. To get a loaf of bread, one had to spend 24 hours in line. A local businessman brought a generator to the factory and supplied diesel fuel. He delivered goods to people from his warehouses. Other businessmen caught fish from their ponds and gave them to people. My dream is to come back here, find these people, and thank them. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have survived. Besides, the reserves I stocked up on in my van helped us too.
I didn’t leave Ivankiv till April 1. Five or so days before that, Russian troops had begun to withdraw. The people that had seen their columns said there were as many as a thousand vehicles a day.
Through the forests and marshes and all, what with all the bridges blown up, our guys managed to reach us from Borodianka. I wish you’d seen how happy folks were to see them. So much hugging and kissing!
The military shared some fuel with me, and as soon as the floating bridges were set up, I decided to leave for Kyiv. Five other people wanted to go with me. We had big help from the Kyiv territorial defense. Somehow, they managed to reach us. Then they convoyed us and helped us on the road.
In Kyiv, my friends met me, and my old employer allowed me to stay there and do some gigs. My family is scattered everywhere. My daughter went to join her husband in Russia (he fled there from the general mobilization that was ordered in Donetsk). My wife and my granddaughter went from Belarus to Russia too, where they stayed at her niece’s in Kursk. But she only lasted four days there before she had enough of that stuff she was hearing on the news and from locals. She was just crushed by that dirt. So she took our granddaughter and—via St. Petersburg, the Baltics, and Poland—went to Italy.
Now I dream to come home, to Hostomel, and bring all my family together. Our house came off undamaged. It was saved by the new building next to it, which acted as a shield and took all the damage. The only problem is that the Russians did live in it, but that’s not the worst thing. There is no electricity, water, or gas. I am repairing my car now, and then I want to come back. This will be the second time I’ll be starting my life from scratch. I’m 64 years old.
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: Maria Havrylian | Translation: