АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation:
17 July 2022
A resident of Kherson Marina Pavlenko worked as a kindergarten teacher before the war. Now she has been living in the occupied city for the fourth month under the watchful eye of Russian “liberators” with threats, machine gun bursts, and explosions. Armed only with her Ukrainian temperament and the character of a teacher, she dared to resist the occupiers when they tried to take away her only source of truthful information — her phone. The woman told the “Monologues of War” about everything that was going on in Kherson.
The situation in Kherson is very tense because, after the fourth month of the occupation, people are morally tired. After Bucha they started actively leaving Kherson, so half of the city and about a third of the region left. But it is very difficult in the region, there are constant battles.
We constantly hear rumbling: explosions, automatic rifle bursts, then arrivals, then departures.
We hear that ours are close enough, but we understand that there are not enough resources to fire Kherson now, so we just wait.
Since the beginning of the war, the russians came in so fast that we couldn’t even believe it. When we called relatives by phone, they sent us pictures from Nova Kakhovka, where they tore down the flag on the city council. Then the russians passed Kakhovka, Chaplynka, and Kalanchak very quickly. They could not cross the Antonov bridge for a long time, there were few of our forces there who bravely and for a long time held on under helicopter bombardment. And then for the last two days of February, the russian enemies stood on the ring of Antonovsky Bridge and did not enter the city, because they did not have a command. It was not until the first of March at 6 a.m. that they entered Kherson in two columns on foot, one after the other.
Our Territorial Defense tried to resist, but they killed almost everyone. Approximately 40 Territorial Defense soldiers were killed in Buzkovyi Hai. The corpses lay for several days, the enemies did not allow us to bury them until the priest did it himself – it was impossible to look at it all anymore.
When the Russians came, Kherson was already shelled on the outskirts: Antonivka, Kindiyka, Yantarne, Molodizhne, Zelenivka — a lot was destroyed there.
The well-known Chornobaiivka was especially damaged. There is no single living glass there, people are like on a powder keg all the time.
Chernobaiivka already has a score of 25:0. Yesterday (June 15, ed.) people died there from explosions. It was the occupants who took revenge on us for Nova Kakhovka, for our side blowing up their warehouses.
There was a case in Lazurne where three people blew themselves up when they came out of the boarding house. It is because the russians surrounded some areas with mines as they thought that our defenders would attack from the sea.
I live in a private house, but after three months we have never been in the basement, we have no sirens. As the “guests” came in, they had the button now. But to be honest, no one pays attention to the shooting anymore. They don’t shoot at the city center, because many families of the occupiers have arrived.
The russians make everyone work and sell goods at the double price: in rubles and hryvnias. But, to be honest, no one has yet seen rubles. Only the “guest-workers”, who were brought here for various events and lodged in one of the university’s dormitories, have them in their hands. Roughly five buses take them back and forth. These guest workers do not communicate with anyone.
“The occupiers take pictures of the mulberry tree because they have never seen it, they are generally delighted with our standard of living, even though we live very poorly now”.
Probably, these are people from Crimea, because they are dressed differently, they speak differently, they ask about municipal transport in the minibus, and they probably want to pass for free with a Russian pension certificate. That is, we have a lot of foreigners. They behave very freely, self-confidently, go to the beach, shop, and say that they are here for a long time.
Enemy “guests” are not spatially oriented and are always asking where and what. The military all have light skin, our locals are already a bit tanned. But they are not, because they rarely take off their uniforms. Although they are impudent, they walk around the market in T-shirts and flip-flops, and sell cognac, while a bulletproof vest is lying nearby. They get drunk and then shoot each other.
When the “liberators” came, for three days there was no transport in the city, except for their cars. They did not let the ambulance or the rescuers pass. For about two weeks we had no stores open at all, no food. Whoever had something, they distributed it to people. Whoever had something, they gave it to people. The owners of the other part of the stores took the food to the Ukrainian Red Cross, where it was distributed.
And then Kherson cars with vegetables started breaking through. I stood in line for five hours with a thousand people to buy vegetables. We took five to ten kilos each and waited for more deliveries because we did not know what would happen next. It was only after a month that they gradually started letting food items through. Humanitarian aid was not allowed in.
Many of the Crimean goods that were brought to us are of poor quality and tasteless. Eggs are brought in from “Mordor” (what Ukrainians call russians).
“My friend bought eggs, broke them — and there was already a chick embryo. By the time these eggs arrived, the chicks had almost hatched”.
Household chemicals and dairy products are very expensive, too – the prices bite. Only vegetables and berries are cheap. We have our meat, ketchup, mayonnaise, vegetable oil, and pasta. We also have our enterprises: Kakhovka, and Berdiansk sausages.
But people don’t have jobs. Now the whole city is one big market. Vodka is sold in barrels, cognac, and beer — on draft. Everyone is trying to buy or sell something because not many people are working. Although they write on the stores: “Either you open it or we break it and nationalize it.
The big supermarkets have already been “nationalized”: the Epicenter, Silpo, and they say they have rebuilt it. Although Silpo, which was in TSUM, was just recently renovated and made in the national style, they attribute it to themselves.
There was no medicine. In the last month, it began to appear from the Crimean side. Our pharmacies will sell what is available. Only some of them agreed to work under the new government and they are loaded with medicines from Russia and Crimea and cost three to five times more than ours.
In Kherson, there is a roadblock in the Ostriv neighborhood, where you have to cross the bridge over the Koshova River. All cars are constantly stopped there, they can even stop a minibus, and take everyone out. Earlier they didn’t touch women, but now they even take out all the girls under 25 and check them. If they don’t like something on the phone, they take it away.
They have a torture chamber. Someone returns from there, and someone does not. It is now unknown how many people have already disappeared.
We may find out later what it was like in Bucha. There is a constant check of documents. Here they say that in Antonovka they have recently started checking the documents of all the houses again, many men were taken away and not all of them have returned yet. They keep them there for three or four days. If there is nothing to find fault with, they let them go. It is not known what happened to the others. This is the case in all villages of the Kherson Region.
There is almost no connection, “Ukrtelecom” appears in places in Skadovsk, Kakhovka, and Vodafone breaks through in some places in Novovorontsovka. It is impossible to find a mobile connection here in Kherson. There is one place where people all stand to catch Lifecell and Kyivstar, but there, too, is no guarantee that you will be able to talk or send something.
We all share the Internet. There are a lot of Wi-Fi spots on the streets where people can join and do whatever is necessary. Because you have to get the funds as well, and then you also have to cash them in. And to do this, you have to come to the bank. In Privatbank you have to stand in a queue, go to the cashier’s office, and in the cashier’s office you cash out small amounts of money via Privat24. One, two, or three thousand, if you like. This is helped by quick “money changers”. They cash out any sum but take a percentage. It all depends on the amount: the larger the amount, the lower the percentage. At first, you could exchange non-cash into cash for three percent, but now five percent — it’s already bliss, otherwise — seven or eight percent.
Of course, I am still standing. But, frankly speaking, I keep expecting them to come after me because there were threats and they keep on coming. However, our Ukrainian disposition does not allow us to be afraid for a long time, and in the fourth month of war we are fed up — what is to happen, will happen.
We are not allowed to take any pictures on the phone. They almost took it away from me once. I led the live stream when I stood in line at the city executive committee. Then I see a Russian soldier running towards me: “Woman! What are you shooting there? Give me the phone!”. I say: “I won’t give it back, I’m talking to my son.” He grabs my hand and says: “Let’s go.” I answer: “I will not go. Why should I go with you?”. After these words, I turned around and calmly walked away. Well, how calmly: while I was walking for 300 meters, I got nervous, I was shaking. Then I walked for a long time, looking around. Perhaps this is where my pedagogical and rigid “No” worked. They didn’t expect that. They got used to everyone obeying them. But not in Ukraine. Rashists did not dare to take the phone, because there were a lot of people, and they pretended to be good “liberators”.
In general, I am pleasantly surprised by how patriotic our people of Kherson are. They also behave courageously, speak exclusively Ukrainian in the markets, turn on the loudspeakers and sing Ukrainian songs, hang patriotic leaflets, or threaten the russians.
However, of course, there are those for whom I feel shame. Those who do not have access to Ukrainian news, the Internet, or satellite or cable TV may be exposed to Russian propaganda.
One day a friend of mine went out to see what kind of parade the Russians were organizing. Then she got onto a bus and heard a local grandmother saying: “They said on TV that the Ukrainians are preparing a provocation, the Nazis from Kyiv have exterminated millions of people.” People answered her in amazement: “My God, Grandma, what are you talking about?!”.
Some of our people signed up to receive russian passports, now there is a queue of 4,000 people, 1,380 have already submitted their documents. They were told to wait 2-3 months for their issuance.
We all listen to the news. We know that it is difficult now in Donbas, it is very difficult in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia. We know that all of Ukraine and Europe support us, we all see that and are very grateful for the support. We are waiting for liberation and we believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine!
*The heroine’s real name and surname have been changed for security reasons.
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: Inna Molchanova | Translation:
“I don’t know a single person in Kramatorsk who is looking forward to russian world”: Karina Yefremova told about leaving the city, which came under the fire of invaders for the second time in 8 years