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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Nataliia Perepelkyna

    “We have been standing in a queue only to be given one apple and a bottle of water.” A story of woman from Kharkiv who told about her life under shelling and evacuation to Cherkasy

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Mariia Orletska

    5 August 2022

    Nataliia Perepylkyna, a woman from Kharkiv, has considered herself to be a strong person all her life, so even after the start of the full-scale war, she remained at the epicenter of hostilities for some time. First she was some time in the basement, then in the entrance of the house, she and her husband were without any light, heating, sometimes even water. She was leaving the city with her husband in a state of great shock and not understanding where they were fleeing. How volunteers helped Nataliia to recover and what she cannot imagine her life without in Kharkiv or Cherkasy, read in ” Monologues of the War”.

    Kharkiv and especially the Saltivka district were bombed from the very first day of the full-scale invasion. On February 24th, my husband woke me up at four in the morning. We looked out the window, and there was a solid red glow, I have never seen such a thing in my life. The ground shook, the house too. Then the bombing began. We didn’t have air raid sirens, because they didn’t work on BM-21 Grad.

    At first, during the shelling, we went down to the basement, and then it was flooded. Then we just ran out into the entrance and lay down on the floor. And so we did five times a night. There was no more light or heating. We ate what we could get, while sharing every piece of bread with our neighbors.

    We stood in lines for food for three hours

    When it all started, we decided to buy groceries, because I was not in the habit of stocking up. Then in stores, people took everything from the shelves and even grabbed it directly from someone’s hands. Then we stood in lines to the shops for three or four hours, in between the shelling.

    When bombing started, a guard came out and told everyone to lie down on the ground. And that was in winter: in the cold and slush. The following day, this store could be targeted.

    My friend worked in the state law enforcement agencies, so sometimes she gave us food, but I shared it with people who lived in my building, because I couldn’t keep everything for myself. After all, mostly elderly people were in the entrance: two lying women, a grandfather. If someone came across a piece of cheese or a can of canned food, everyone shared. Our neighbor grew onions, so she gave it to everyone.

    I have lived in this house since 2009 and hardly knew anyone. But when trouble touched us, we all became friends and helped each other.

    Saboteurs in Kharkiv

    Nataliia notified about saboteurs who were walking on the roof of a neighboring building in Kharkiv

    Then we were given humanitarian aid. To get it, you had to stand in line at four in the morning, stand for five to six hours. Sometimes you stand in line, and you are given one apple and water, but you are happy about that.

    I couldn’t understand what was happening because of my bad health

    One day I helped catch saboteurs. I saw them walking on the roof of the neighboring house and putting tags.

    I immediately understood that they were not Ukrainians. They walked somehow vulgarly, treacherously. Stuttering, I called the police and reported it. After that, the saboteurs were detained.

    There was even one funny incident. An artist lived in our building, who made a deal with a French company and painted stamps for them. When the French came to interview him, he talked so diligently that he didn’t even react, that the debris was hitting a tree nearby, into the entrance hall.

    Read also: Combat medic Bohdan Zhuravel about rescuing people after a rocket attack on Vinnytsia: “People who were at the epicenter of these events were burned to the ground”

    Before, I considered myself a very strong person, accepted the situation as it was and tried to solve it. But this war threw me off balance. Probably, the body felt everything, so I was on bed rest for three days with high blood pressure, despite the fact that it was usually below normal. I couldn’t resist the pressure anymore. I lived on the sixth floor of a high-rise building, then a missile hit the ninth floor and apartments were completely destroyed there.

    I was given a lot of sedatives

    An acquaintance of our acquaintance took us to Cherkasy already on April 12th. We were very scared. Because of the increased pressure, I did not understand what was happening at all. I didn’t know what Cherkasy was and thought all Ukraine was already under shelling.

    On the way, we stopped at a gas station in Poltava. We were offered to get out of the car and drink coffee, but we flatly refused, because it was very scary. Then we got one coffee for the two of us and finished it in a second, even though it was still hot, and quickly got back in the car. That is, there was already a panic fear of going out somewhere and doing something. I saw people just walking down the street and I couldn’t believe that it was possible that they weren’t hiding.

    When we arrived in Cherkasy, on Blagovisna street, the volunteers gave me a sedative because they saw the state of shock I was in. They gave us some clothes because it was cold. I took only two jeans and two t-shirts with me, and arrived in a tracksuit.

    In Cherkasy, we had to change housing several times. We even lived in an office building, or rather only spent the night, because people worked there during the day.

    We found housing and began to help the defenders

    Then we found the Sich Public Organization. Here, volunteers provided defenders and displaced persons with everything they needed. We were lucky because we were allowed to stay in the hostel for free. They provided clothes, medicine, and basic necessities. First they brought a sideboard, then a mirror. Volunteer Viktoria found sneakers, a sports uniform, a bench for training my press, because I was keen on sports. That is, everything that was necessary. In addition, displaced people from other cities live in the hostel. We try as much as possible not to disturb each other, to listen to the needs of others, because there are also families with small children.

    Helping volunteers

    Natalya helps volunteers of the “Sich” NGO

    Having recovered a little, we started helping the volunteers of the “Sich” NGO. They prepared vegetables for dry borschts, processed and dried fruits.

    Before the war, I was sure that cooking was not my thing, but now I started to enjoy the process. First of all, because I do something useful for our soldiers, and I also work in a very pleasant atmosphere.

    Vegetables for dry borscht

    Nataliia from Kharkiv prepares vegetables for dry borscht

    That is, peeling three or four boxes of potatoes is a piece of cake for me. We peel and blanch the vegetables and then dry them and make dry borsch with them.

    I plunged into two things: sports and fashion

    Before the beginning of the full-scale invasion, I was engaged in sports: rhythmic gymnastics, and went to the gym. That’s how I met my future husband Genadii. He is a coach. In 1996, he became the champion of Ukraine in bodybuilding. The championship was held in Luhansk.

    In addition to sports, I worked in the field of fashion as a sales manager for women’s Italian clothing. I dressed Kharkiv girls and women. I worked there for 17 years. In Kharkiv, I had a Chanel bag, where I used to put my humanitarian food: stew, cereals, a loaf of bread, everything that was given. That is, my life is fashion and sports.

    In Cherkasy, I also found an Italian clothing store through acquaintances. I work in a shop once or twice a week. I tried to surround myself with what I love as much as possible.

    Sorting vegetables and fruits

    Volunteers of the NGO “Sich” sort vegetables and fruits

    In Kharkiv, in addition to sports, I arranged for myself hiking. Here, in Cherkasy, I also walk around the city for two hours in any weather, it calms me down.

    I also run once a day. The rest of the time we volunteer.

    I am ready to learn new things

    Cherkasy residents are very positive and kind. Here I met many people, looked at life from a different angle, and understood a lot. I saw that I do not know many things, but I am ready to learn new things.

    I am an economist by education, but I have never worked in my specialty. After my studies, I got married and moved from the center of Kharkiv to the Kharkiv region. The first husband was jealous and did not even allow me to work somewhere. As a result, I stayed at home for eight years, raising my daughter, but I did not give up sports. When my daughter finished school, I was given a diploma for raising my daughter, because I was always an activist: I helped with everything, even put up wallpaper at school.

    With the beginning of russia’s invasion of Ukraine, my daughter Vladyslava left for the Czech Republic, and then returned to Kharkiv. The Russian army destroyed her and her husband’s house . So she came to restore housing and documents for it.

    We hope that we will soon be able to return to our hometown. In the meantime, we will do everything to speed up the Victory.

    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: Mariia Orletska

    Life under fire

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