АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Maryna Bakalo
19 May 2022
When a full-scale war broke out, Yaroslava Kaminska’s family decided to stay in Nemishaiev, Kyiv region. They refused to believe that the enemy army would trample on Ukrainian land and lay siege to their village. Two weeks of occupation were a terrible ordeal, a shock that forced them to decide to flee, despite the danger of dying under rocket fire.
On the morning of February 24, I was going to work. My husband told me about the war. He woke up early, saw a report on the news, and immediately went to fill up the car. I started packing up the survival kit. We ran to the grocery store to buy some products. But we were so confused that we bought a lot of extra stuff. My father-in-law went to the military enlistment office on the same day. And we visited my mother-in-law to support her.
I, my husband, his parents, and a grandmother decided to stay in the village where we live, in Nemishaieve, Kyiv region. We couldn’t believe that the orcs would come there. We were naive idiots. And on February 28, tanks entered Nemishaieve. We’ve been under occupation since then.
«We hid behind walls, attempted to flee behind fences, and ran through courtyards. In our home village. On our land!»
Our reality has changed dramatically since the beginning of the occupation.
It was impossible just to go outside. Before you do that, you need to see whether there are any enemy equipment columns or if they are shooting, and no suspicious people are walking down the street, or there aren’t any strange cars.
If you’re out, you must hide behind the house so you can’t be seen or heard, where the bullets won’t reach you.
Armored personnel carriers and tanks drove along our street. On the first day, the orcs put a sniper on one of the main streets, who scared people. He shot them in the arm or leg so that they wouldn’t stick out.
You couldn’t even go to the next street. We hid behind walls, attempted to flee behind fences, and ran through courtyards. In our home village. On our land. In our home!
“We could distinguish the sounds of howitzers, machine guns, small arms (snipers), Kalashnikov, Grads, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, planes, and helicopters. By the way, not a day was quiet”
The orcs shot territorial defence. We didn’t know if our guys were still alive.
In the village, orcs shot a man who was walking a dog. A volunteer delivering medicines was killed.
A man in a wheelchair was killed by one of the shells in his own home. He was buried quickly. I don’t even know if it was in the cemetery because there were orcs everywhere.
Our local people looted the shops. They took out everything: TVs, computer monitors, beer, cognac, and used trolleys to grab everything home.
Drug addicts and alcoholics have become more active.
And at this time, children were born. It was good if it happened at home. One gave birth prematurely and abandoned her child. Neighbors took the child.
People tried to walk through the checkpoint. One family that consisted of a mother, a father, a 6-year-old son, and a 56-year-old grandmother decided to try to get out. Tanks were parked near their house, with a muzzle right at their windows. On the way, two locals joined them, but they got mad and ran away. The orcs started shooting. Mom, dad, and a son hid. Orcs captured the grandmother. They interrogated her: “Where is the fourth person?». She tried to convince him that it was a 6-year-old boy, for what she was hit on her back. The family walked back home, and in the evening, the orcs brought their grandmother in an armored personnel carrier alive. They just took her food.
“Orcs walked around the houses and shone a flashlight through the windows. They shot at the basements of high-rise buildings, just in case, until one brave man asked to stop because children were hiding in the basement”
Once, when another column passed along our street, the last tank turned the muzzle and shot at the houses. The house one minute from ours was ruined. My grandmother miraculously survived there. I was on the street at that moment. I couldn’t reach the place, so I almost got deaf and trembled for another two hours.
The animals in the house also tremble, constantly hiding from loud sounds.
We stopped talking loudly and tried to close the door quietly, put the cup quietly on the table, and tiptoed. I am afraid of loud noises and will be frightened for a long time to come.
I’m afraid of the light because they can see me.
Since February 28, we had been without water. Without electricity. Without heating.
We were lucky there was gas until the last day. But when the last ray of fire disappeared, we broke down. We shouted at each other; we brought war to our home…
I can’t even describe how hard it was to decide to go. We chose to die on the way to freedom rather than in basements.
I texted my brother and a close friend. I said we hoped that we would succeed. But if it didn’t work out, I wanted them to know that I loved them.
The only we didn’t take were a cat, a change of clothes, and a guitar.
“We hadn’t washed in a week. But that didn’t bother me at all. It didn’t matter. Only life matters. Your family’s and yours”
On the way to the checkpoint at the exit from Nemishaiev, 16-year-old Misha and his mother, Lina, asked to get into our car. They lived in a bomb shelter for a week. They slept on pallets dressed and in shoes, covered with wet blankets. We took only one backpack and a bag with us. My father and grandfather stayed at home for health reasons. They both were crying all the way.
At the checkpoint, my husband and I were asked to get out of the car. My husband was completely searched. Fortunately, they didn’t find a trident on a chain around his neck. They checked the trunk and our stuff. We knew that we needed to delete all messages, photos, and videos that confirmed the crimes of the Russian Federation or dead Russian soldiers. We checked our phones. I don’t have a picture of that time left. The soldier asked me: “Do you want to go to Russia?» Honestly, I was afraid to answer, I thought it was a provocation, but I said: “No.”
We’ve heard about people being shot at if the car is driving alone. So, we joined the column. At that time, there were about 40 cars.
We passed only one Russian checkpoint. The road led through the villages and then through the forest. In each of the villages, new cars joined us. At some point, there were already 200 cars, and possibly even more because I could see neither the beginning nor the end of the column.
The convoy was moving quite slowly, and we often stopped to let the first cars find out the way. When we were driving through the forest, we saw a fire there. We thought: why and who burns the fire? And then we realized that a shell had fallen and caused a fire. The shelling continued constantly, and we realized that it could easily hit us. It was horrifying.
We drove for quite a long time because the column was moving slowly. At some point, it split up. I honestly believed that everyone who went out with us managed to flee. But recently, local groups in our community told me that one of the cars turned the wrong way. And it was shot. People, unfortunately, died.
I didn’t call anyone all the way, and when it got a little calmer, I phoned a friend. She, like my mother, was at that time in Dymer (a village in the Kyiv region – ed.), also under occupation. She informed me that my brother, along with my beloved nephews of 5 and 3 years, decided to escape from the occupied village on the same day. Then I started to worry about them. And my mother stayed in the Dymer. I was horrified to hear that. I called, and she said she wasn’t ready to go. She doesn’t have the strength that she’s old, and she decided to stay. And I left a part of my heart with her.
Fortunately, my brother fled from the occupation. My mother is safe and sound. Fortunately, the village of Dymer, where I was born and raised and where my mother and a close friend with my little godson are located, was not bombed a lot. Enemy troops made a base there and fired at other villages from there. However, I know about cases when about 300 people were kept in the basement. Also, a 70-year-old man was tortured, who could not harm the Russian military in any way. I don’t understand why they made fun of him.
Now I feel like everyone else. I read the news every day. I felt better when the Kyiv region was liberated. Furthermore, I felt worse while reading the news about tortured people in the towns I passed on my way to work.
I try to hold on. I cry often. But I believe that everything will be fine. I believe in our Armed Forces. I believe in our country. My husband serves here, I work, and this helps me a lot. I try to keep in touch with my family every day.
After the victory, I will go to them. I will hug everyone. I also really want to go to my brother, who went abroad.
I also want to take military courses, learn how to shoot, and retake pre-medical care courses. Now I understand how vital military training is for every Ukrainian. Because what Russia is doing to us is not a war. The Ukrainian people are being wiped out. It is genocide.
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: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Maryna Bakalo