Kyiv Oblast has been freed and now I can talk. On February 24, 2022, I was awakened by Vira Holubieva, and right after her my ex-husband called to say he was taking the younger kids away and I should pack up their things. In shock and panic, I began to read the news and at the same time to collect things.
When Stas got to my place, there was already news that there were helicopters over Hostomel and orc troops coming from the Belarus side. I asked him a bit uncertainly about whether it was a good idea to drive in that direction. They drove off anyway. On the way, helicopters were being shot down in front of their eyes.
Their village of Ozera is beyond Bucha and the Hostomel Airport is right next door. As soon as they arrived, they flew into the building and raced to the basement. They got their things out of the car a bit later, when nothing was flying overhead any more.
The home there is very large, a townhouse of 4−6 apartments (I don’t remember exactly). The way in and out from the unit’s basement is from inside only. On their side of the townhouse, there was only one other family, three adults and a child, and the entrance to their basement was from outside. This neighbor was a former fighter from the ATO and this helped them a bit later when the orcs entered the village.
After the bridge to Irpin was blown up, it was obvious that they could not go back any more. Stas had a bit less than half a tank in his car. They decided to stay for a better opportunity to evacuate and so on. They spend the next two and a half weeks in the basement, very occasionally climbing up to the first floor to cook some food and use the toilet.
The first three days, Tima kept having panic attacks and called me every hour or two. On the third day, the power and the internet connection went down in the village. Over the next two weeks, Stas called me only in the morning and at night. I was able to talk with the kids once every 3−4 days for 2−3 minutes at most. Stas charged the phones and tablets in the car. They managed to get water for the bathtub, and so on. When there was snow, they collected it in a pail to flush down the toilet, keeping the water in the tub for cooking. When finally the gas stopped as well, they found a tandoor oven at another neighbor’s and grandma baked bread in it. The neighbor then tied on a white armband and walked over to the sawmill a kilometer away and brought back a potbelly stove that he set up in his basement. The rest of the time they cooked food on it.
There were GRADS standing behind their building beyond the yards in a stretch of woodland. Tanks kept going back and forth along the street the entire time. They would turn directly into the backyards. The orcs wanted to set up some kind of communication equipment in their garden, but the neighbor talked them out of it and they left the yard alone. Then they wouldn’t allow people to take water from the well: «If I see you once more, I’ll shoot.»
But our neighbor the ATO veteran somehow managed to get water.
Just before the evacuation, some kadyrovites came to the house and took Stas’s three phones away, but they never found the phones belonging to the kids and grandma. They also took our neighbor and two more men for interrogation, and let them go after three hours.
Evacuation. I was tracking the situation all around them and begged Stas not to play the hero but wait. He was listening to the news on a radio while I was reading the news and saw the photos of shot civilians who had only been trying to get away.
I quarreled with family who wanted to help me evacuate from Kyiv. I quarreled with family who kept raising the question of evacuating my children. The time wasn’t right and all of this really wounded me.
On March 9, the official evacuation of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin began. Rumors went around the village that there would be buses to Lviv. I asked Stas not to join these convoys because our side was only evacuating to Kyiv, whereas the other side could take them to Belarus or somewhere like that. Stas’s brother began calling up local councilors, volunteers and others because he had lived in that building and knew people in this district, to arrange with the orcs to get them all to a green corridor in Bucha. After this, they were able to get people out of there two more times. Then the orcs began taking names of those who stayed behind and were planning to take them all to Belarus, but our forces showed up before they could.
Meanwhile, on March 10, our people weren’t allowed out of the village because of constant shelling. That same day, the kadyrovites came again. Tanks were already standing behind the fences in the yards.
On March 11, they got the go-ahead to depart at 10:00, but they were only able to leave the village at 12:30. They were supposed to get to Point A and join another column of cars that were heading to Bucha. That column gave up waiting and left without them.
Stas was not answering his phone. Around 14:30, Stas’s brother called me to say that there was word that two columns of cars had reached the main one. We could only hope that Stas was in one of those two. At 16:30, Stas himself called and said that they were in Bilohorodka. At 19:00, they arrived at my place.
I will never forget my children’s hugs and kisses. I still haven’t thrown away the bits of paper with my number and Stas’s brothers' on them in every one of the kids' pockets.
After 50 buses evacuating from Bucha were blocked and convoys of civilians were shot up, I was terrified. The night before their evacuation, I couldn’t get to sleep. I was only able to sleep when the terrifying images that kept filling my head were replaced by the image of myself as a great white angel that wrapped its wings around the car in which my children, their father and their grandmother were travelling. Mine were lucky. When they were well on their way to Khmelnytskiy, Grandma said:
«That was so terrifying, yet it seemed like someone was protecting us.»
That’s when I remembered my angel and began to cry. Mine were lucky. My younger kids are safe three weeks now. But I don’t know how much time will have to pass before this anguish for my own and for others will pass. It’s unbelievably painful and awful. PS The photo was taken a year ago this day. I dream of seeing these smiles on my children’s faces again.
Victoria, Kyiv Oblast