«There were times where a cow lay there that was still walking yesterday and either its leg or part of its trunk had been chopped off. They simply killed a cow and cut off the parts that they liked best. And left it like that.»
The one-time farm looks like a morgue for cows. Carcasses of dead livestock everywhere. Killed by artillery fire or by russians for supper, or starved to death. My late Grandma had a cow called Zorka, Dawn, a white cow with huge eyes, even-tempered, never struggled and always so clean that she gleamed. At lunchtime, we would come running with our tin cups and they milked us some fresh milk—and I remember that warm, slightly sweet smell to this day…
Tell me, how can someone kill a cow?
Our soldiers at the front carry puppies and kittens with them, make them little beds, while these guys cut off a cow’s leg and gorged on it. How can you gorge yourself when next to you livestock is starving to death? The smaller fir trees have no needles left because the cows ate them in the spring, trying to save themselves from a hungry death.
This is the story of the destruction of a commercial farm in the village of Shestakove, Kharkiv Oblast. Before the russians came, 40 tonnes of milk were produced every day, and the farm grew wheat and sunflowers and processed sugar. Of the 3,000-head herd, 2,000 were slaughtered, the grain, the sunflower and the sugar were taken away by the truckload, the equipment was destroyed or stolen, and the fields were planted with mines.
«When they started bombing the farm on February 28 , I barely managed to drive 200 meters before I hid myself in a ditch and those 30 minutes felt to me like two or three hours. They shot with bombers and with artillery. There were times when 200 shells came at once. One fellow died among us, Sasha, who was 21. He worked as a welder. Got hit by shrapnel right in the middle of the farm.»
«Here, you can see the wrecked cow shed. The animals were tossed even onto the roof of the building.»
«Initially, L/DNR came in. Somehow, they didn’t bother use, but then, after two-three weeks, the russian army showed up. It was simply… They needed a tractor, to cut up a cow, meat. We had to abandon the cows. I couldn’t stay here. I said I was going to get the keys, and instead started the vehicle and simply drove away from there.»
«At times they wouldn’t allow us on the territory for even five days. They simply didn’t let us in! What about the cows? No one was feeding them! There were a lot of cows with calves and the calves would suckle them on their own.»
«Locals who had stayed behind told us about it later: a tank drove by, such a ‘great' driver: when he didn’t fit the gate, he simply broke down the wall. Their equipment was in almost every one of our outbuildings: tanks, APCs, everything possible. From one end to the other, tanks, and not only in this building, but in every single outbuilding and they would fire towards Kharkiv right from the barns.»
«Everything was 80−90% destroyed. This outbuilding had all the most innovative technology for livestock. It had lighting, ventilation and AI. Depending on the outside temperature and humidity, the ventilators would turn on based on what direction the wind was blowing, and the blinds would come down or go up. The lighting I didn’t quite understand myself. It would be red, then it would be orange, then daylight. Everything was for the cows and the milking output grew. The cows were so comfortable. Animal specialists said that with this lighting the cow ate better, and that meant it gave more milk. In a flash, paradise turned into hell. The artillery blocked the entrance and the cows simply starved to death.»
«In May, after the deoccupation, we moved the cows. Because the front was over there past the ditch and all through May and the summer there was shelling. And when in September nearly all of Kharkiv Oblast was freed, we began to revive everything here.»
«Now there are cows on the farm. In the evening they start mooing and those cows that wandered around in the woods for half a year are slowly coming back.»
«During the occupation and all the military action in our village, our veterinarians were unable to take care of the animals and scheduled vaccinations did not take place. Because of this, cows are sickening, also because all of them were under shelling, which means all of them could have shrapnel from the shells. That could also be the reason why some of them die after awhile.»
«They were amazed at how it was that the plastic windows were still standing, that the boilers were still standing. We had a birthing area, but unfortunately it’s gone. It was destroyed. Only half of the container is left. It had a boiler, drinking apparatuses for the calves, lamps for the calves everything modern and current, everything made for the people and for the livestock—and they even stole the hoses from the milking machines.»
«When I came here to work in 2009, there were only two barns There were no roads, nothing! Everything was built before my eyes. This is our pride and joy from last year. We ran a festival that was attended by countless people. When we took the quadrocopter up and counted, at one point there were nearly 5,000 cars parked round the festival grounds. We felt so proud about all of this! We made the biggest straw labyrinth in Ukraine and it’s been registered in Ukraine’s Book of Records. Now, take a look what’s left after these cruel people, who probably have nothing like this and they are simply envious. I think we’ll make something even better, to spite them all, and we’ll make it a lot better than what was!»
Tetiana, November 5, 2022