АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Lisa Bolotova
26 May 2022
Yaroslav Tsvetkov was born and lives in Kharkiv. Before the war, he used to work for the Glovo delivery company. He was curious about tourism and military history, equipment and weaponry. When Russia invaded Ukraine, he decided to stay in Kharkiv and become a volunteer.
*Some readers may find certain phrasing in this account unacceptable. We consider it our duty to quote the exact words of the people who had to face hell. This is our way of rendering the true emotions of eyewitnesses telling their stories.
I had first seriously considered the possibility of a war about a week before it started, when the orcs [translator’s note: a label for Russian servicemen widely used by Ukrainians] had pulled their combat-ready forces to the border. That had not happened before. But still, I hoped for the better. Of course, I would come across occasional news about the possible war. Made me think about mother, shelter, food reserves and all. Tactical stuff.
On February 24, I finished working at 1 a.m. Besides, I ran into a pothole and bent a hubcap on my scooter. So when I came home, I started looking for my tools to straighten it. And then I heard the news that vova the dick [TN: Putin] would make a speech about Ukraine in the morning. I decided to wait, expecting him to speak by the time I had finished all the housework. I turned it on, listened to his ramblings and, after ten minutes of sitting speechless, heard explosions somewhere around the airport. So I knew the war had started. Then I had terrified friends calling me. I tried to calm them down as best as I could, staying level-headed myself.
Later in the morning and then right into noon, real chaos broke loose. There was a lot of misinformation like that the orcs were already on the square near the city council. Nothing worked, people were bustling about, some were fleeing the city. I sat on a bench to think of a plan. I decided to go to the warehouse and stock up on food. I got lucky because one of the corner shops was working so I didn’t even have to wait in line to buy sausage. Besides, I got three cases of soda for free because the owner was selling off so that he could leave the city.
Then I needed to find gas and someone who would help me straighten the hubcap. Overall, the city was a mess. No one knew anything. I set my heart on becoming a volunteer. I knew the city and had a means of transport and huge experience driving around.
I didn’t even entertain the thought of leaving the city. Not unless they destroyed my home. I decided to stay with my parents and help others in Kharkiv: I had a scooter and could help. On the third day of the war, I managed to gas up and fix the wheel. Then I went to do some recon in the neighboring districts and assess the situation and the scale of destruction. In one of the group chats, I saw that there was a volunteer hub I could join, so I just went there.
My task as a volunteer is to deliver targeted humanitarian aid to hard-to-reach addresses. Because I have a scooter, I can drive where a car would have been too easily noticeable or simply wouldn’t have passed. I came under fire several times when delivering aid. The first two times, shells hit spots about 400 or 450 meters away from me. And when I was near Mashynobudivnykiv Park, the hit was just 150 meters away. The wave was so mighty I nearly fell off my scooter. It hit the left side of my helmet, stunning me so that I didn’t recover till night, and my jaw hurt for several days.
The inspiration to go on with the volunteering comes to me when I’m driving around the city. I see that people, the elderly and kids, need help. Since I didn’t leave, I must rescue our people. Orcs we are not: we stand by each other!
The situation in Kharkiv now is “as usual,” with no intense shelling of new sectors. The north and north-east are never quiet. From time to time, there are scattered hits on the outskirts or some other district. Those that didn’t leave the city are no longer scared. Those who did and came back are terrified though. What I personally think is that it’s not too dangerous in the city now as long as you’re careful.
Overall, more than two thousand objects have been affected in Kharkiv, but I wouldn’t say the damage is too serious. I’d rather put it like this: there is a sector that has been damaged in every district, and all those add up to two thousand objects. But the city is very big, and even despite such destruction, we can live on.
As for the values, I think material stuff has taken on a different meaning. These days, you rather think about getting necessities for others and not for yourself. Well, I am a volunteer, aren’t I? And the war has unmasked all of us. Everyone is now showing their true nature. It’s a good thing, because everything gets more real. Virtues like courage and honesty have more value now than they did before the war.
When the war ends, Kharkiv will be even bigger and richer. Because we are a Hero City, people will come to us after the war to learn from our experience. Ukraine will become a member state of the EU and NATO with the strongest army and will protect all of Europe.
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: Lisa Bolotova
“Until the last moment, I hoped that russia would not dare to launch a full-scale attack, but relying on 2014, I knew that someday it would happen,” – this is a story of a woman from Luhansk who is fleeing the war for the second time already