Photos From Chernihiv is the second part of a series of stories written by a young Ukrainian couple who has managed to submit accounts of their personal experiences of the war with Russia. This is an account by Katya, a recent college graduate living in a town north of Ukraine’s capital called Chernihiv. Some parts are graphic and emotional. It was translated from Russian. Our first report from Ukraine, Letters From Chernihiv – A Personal Account Of The War Near Kyiv, Ukraine, has received excellent reviews. This is the second of several reports that we hope to be publishing over the next few days.
Katya’s Update on March 30th, 2022
On February 24, 2022, the life of my family, acquaintances, friends have changed. A real war has come to Ukraine and our hometown of Chernihiv. Thirty-five days of the war have already passed, and I still don’t believe in what is happening, that there can be a war in the 21st century, that you had a job, a house, everything was there, and at one moment, in one morning it all disappears, as if a nightmare, but it’s reality!
I had not seen my mother, father, brother, and grandmother for more than a month. They stayed in Chernihiv, managed to leave for some village before they blew up the bridge, which was the only one for movement and exit from the city. Since the beginning of the war, my family and I have been in different areas; they live more on the city’s outskirts. And if my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to go to the store, then they don’t, there are few stores, and most do not work.
While there was a connection, I constantly called up my mother, and at some point, there was no connection, and I had to leave the house, along the street, and somehow catch her. When I called and heard Mom crying that they were heavily bombed at night, my heart bled because I didn’t know what to do to make it stop. They were scared to go somewhere, throw and be my home, and I realized that it is much easier for young people to do this, and when people are older, it is more complicated and more painful. They did not have water or some reserves, but they were not intended for use during an extended period. But a cousin came to them with his family; he has two children, one girl is three months old, the other is five years old. And of course, that eight people need a lot of water.
Loss of Power Due to Shelling
With constant shelling, electricity was lost, and sometimes gas was not there. At night, it’s generally scary, without light in complete darkness. They ran from the house to the basement, which was built near the home, for storage (potatoes and various types of preservation). By the time planes were flying and there were loud explosions. It’s impossible to put into words all this as if you are telling some kind of plot of a horror movie. The basement of the house is small. The parents took out all the insulation so that there was more space. They placed high chairs and pulled mattresses and blankets, but it was impossible to lie there as everyone was close. It was impossible to sit in the cellar. It was frigid, it was hell to sit even for two hours, and when they bombed all night, what to do?? As long as there was light, my father put a heater there; it worked for some time, then broke. My father repaired it, but then the light disappeared altogether, and it became useless.
One Cup of Water
My brother said that like this, in one cup of water, you brush your teeth, wash your face, and wash the dishes with the same water. Constant shelling, repeated sirens, it’s just terrible. Then, at night, when they went out into the street, you just look, and it’s like day around, a solid glow from fire and explosions.
When planes fly, it is difficult to convey that fear, as if something is flying over your head and dropping something, and then an explosion. One day I just read the news that a plane is flying over Chernihiv, and after 20 minutes, our troops shoot it down, and it falls into my area 150 meters from my house! I call my Father, and he says this to me, just imagine the sound of a plane crashing into homes? While trying to escape, this pilot killed one local man while he ran after him with a pitchfork and wanted to catch him. But he was caught in the end, and how can this be forgiven? How can you treat such bloodthirsty people usually?
Mom tells me that she and her father were walking along the street. Thirty houses have been obliterated. That’s just one area of devastation, there’s nothing left, and it’s unknown whether there were people in those houses or if they managed to hide.
Why is this happening to us?
I don’t understand why people deserve this? Why do we have to leave everything, almost without things, run away from home under the Art of the Hellenic obsterala , under hail, bombs, and rockets? Because the Russians drove tanks to our land and ruthlessly killed all living things on the way, dropping 500-kilogram bombs from planes on our houses! People have been building something for themselves, earning and investing money, developing a business. And at one point, Putin (I don’t even want to write it with a capital letter) decided that no one can and should not live better than his country; Russia is a country of poverty and zombified people who wish death on our Ukrainian children, they write about it everywhere in open form, in tik-tock, in each social media.
I am tired of reading the news every day because every day, the Russians kill someone, destroy something, their officers directly give the command to wipe our villages and cities from the face of the earth. So why do we deserve it? Why do we want to live freely?
I cry every day when I see that once again, my native Chernihiv is being bombed, and again bombs and again shelling. I want to go home, and my house is being killed. How to live with emptiness inside now?
Yes, I know that we will win. We will rebuild everything.
Chernihiv is the Lynchpin to Kyiv
They want to turn Chernihiv into Mariupol. The Russians are failing, so they organize terror for the population, for civilians. Some of the information you see in the news, but not all. I don’t understand why so little is said about this beautiful city and how much help is needed! You can see more detailed information in the interview of our city mayor Vladislav Atroshenko with Gordon.
At the moment, Chernihiv is a shield that protects Kyiv. And for a month now, they have been coping purely on their own, almost without the help of our government. They need the means of Air Defense because they are bombed for days without interruption. At the moment, half of the city has been destroyed. Since the beginning of the war, we have had no electricity, no water, no heat, no gas. Fixing all this is not possible due to constant explosions. It is cold in the apartments. People cook on the streets (who has something to cook), risking their lives because they are constantly shelled. ALL bridges have been blown up, so the evacuation of people and the delivery of humanitarian aid is almost impossible.
Recently shot humanitarian aid, which didn’t make it to town a bit. People are just on edge. Chernihiv needs help in evacuating people! We need humanitarian and military assistance!
Humanitarian Aid Stolen and Sold
And what happens to the humanitarian aid in Chernihiv, which still arrives? Some people can take it away and then sell it to people for money! I have always believed in people. And honestly, I continue to think. But, with such deeds, my faith in human beings begins to fade.
When they told me it was possible, I didn’t believe it. I know the different hidden sides of human souls, but for people to act so irresponsibly, so absurdly, so perversely and basely under the guise of benefactors – it is the height of the lowness of the human being. Our volunteers found that the parcels sent by people from a foreign country included trackers in medicines. The “benefactors” (I will call them that) provided drugs and food for our residents and guys on the front lines. We took it all and gave it to people. On March 17, other volunteers wrote and said that there could be trackers in the parcels, which are tracked not only by “benefactors” but also by the Russian army, simply by intercepting the signal. And they launch rockets at our guys and, to great sorrow, successfully. Our guys are dead. We have taken note of this. Everyone was told that you couldn’t do this since you exposed danger to the lives of our army and all of our people.
Parcel Trackers Now A Problem
Yesterday we found trackers in our parcels. How can you do this? Who are you playing in this war? Why don’t you get on your bus and personally bring everything if you don’t trust us?
In wartime, everything is based on trust. So we never let you doubt us. And With your distrust and your trackers, you make life easier for the enemy. So it turns out you are allies of the aggressor country in doubt? This is the kind of help that comes to the city of Chernihiv.
Small Pre-War Moments Remembered Dearly
Since the beginning of the war, I realized that we have learned to live differently to survive. To live one day and the moment that passed in “Silence.” Trying to get out of the shelter while it is “quiet” on the street, at least a little breath of fresh air, someone has time to walk dogs and cats at this moment. Animals also suffer, worry, they are scared. But there are people who, for some reason, could not save and pick up their animals; they just abandoned them. But these messages from friends, “do you remember,” “and now I would repeat …”, just then, I did not understand the value of some small moment.
We appreciate that you are next to your parents, even in phone mode. We have learned to dress quickly and wash quickly while we can. We learned to sit for hours without social networks, although it seemed unrealistic. We have learned to distinguish between the sounds of shots, and “yes, calm down, it’s far away” or “it’s ours shooting” are the most coveted words. We have learned to sleep as much as we are “allowed,” and even through a dream, we hear everything that happens. Things? All the things you need have been lying in the cellar for a long time, and no one needs the dress you have wanted for so long. In general, everything has depreciated absolutely. You are already trying not to think about the things you could take and what is left if only the house would somehow survive if your relatives were healthy and safe. You dream of peace on earth, constantly praying that this will all end and you can live as a person.
Accounts of the War From Friends
I have many stories from my acquaintances and friends and listen to them. I can not believe that this is a reality. My friend managed to leave Chernihiv on the 21st day of the war. They also sat in the cellar and hid with their grandparents, they told them to run away and try to leave, but they would stay. Here is what she wrote to me.
“Kat, there is no Internet, no light, no communication, no water, no heat, no gas, nothing. My mother and I left yesterday with grief in half, near the kindergarten -30 houses. Bombs, you saw. Planes, planes, no communications, it’s scary there. There were no streets, and they were constantly shelling; my mother and I walked on foot, only devastation. It was tough how we drove to Kyiv and how it was in Kyiv. Grandma and grandpa kicked us out there so that they would be calmer. Themselves are nowhere. I don’t know, I’m distraught, especially about their medicines.
We all dared, but this was only for a month. We came near the exit from the city and stood there for 3 hours. A man from the border guard helped, forced us into the car, then dropped us off at a curfew somewhere in Kyiv. We walked with backpacks, through some garages, through the forest, and went to the Station. It was dark, and there were almost no streetlights. We reached the checkpoint and went; we were completely checked, our bags were examined. And then the territorial defense of the city, and there the boy was from Chernihiv, they drove us to the Station, where we spent the night until 3 in the morning, there was no water, food too, but they fed us. After that, we got on the train, and at least we were going somewhere.”
“There are also stories from friends, and it’s just terrible.”
A friend says: “Mom, grandmother, grandson (the husband at that time went to the hospital in Dnieper, as he was injured)
Volunteers took us out. Every day, every hour, every second, bombs and shelling. My mother-in-law has heart problems, and we were afraid that her heart would fail. We must take care of our children, but what can we do? Shut them up? But will it save? The child began enuresis from fear (10 years) and severe stuttering—fecal incontinence. My husband has a shrapnel wound, and we think Contusion. The city is destroyed; we no longer have a house. A rocket flew nearby and did not explode. All of our windows were smashed. A cemetery is in every yard. They wrapped the dead in sheets and read “Our Father …”. These creatures have stolen our lives. Many pets died of fear, especially rodents. Animals who traveled were taken away both by their own and neighbors. They took everyone they could into backpacks, packages, bags.
Transport Pets and Make Fast Friends
Rodents, birds, turtles, snakes can be transported in water bottles. Today in Dnieper, we walked in the park early in the morning, and people suggested that our child take turns riding a bicycle with their child. We shared corn sticks, and we were distracted for a while. Honestly, these were the tastiest sticks in our life. (Crying a lot) We are accepted as close friends, treated to coffee, fed, asked how to help, and hugged. I’m here for the first time, but everyone is apprehensive. Thanks, everyone, for your concern. (Hug me very tightly).”
And there are many such stories; how many more people do not even have the opportunity to tell.
What Do We Tell Our Kids?
A story from the lips of a friend: “Our life turned upside down in one second. We moved to the basement of our house. Do you know what is the scariest thing in life? When a 4-year-old child wakes you up “mommy – mommy, I’m scared of explosions there, but they won’t kill you?… ” and you are strong, you have to help and protect, but you can’t do anything. You are powerless. You hear the heartbreaking cry of one of the neighbors, and someone was killed. The girl could not hold back her tears and the familiar smell of a heart remedy again. This is what it smells like in all the refugees’ shelters. “There is nowhere else to return, but the main thing is we are Alive. Mom, are we going to kindergarten? Will we go out? When will this end?
How to explain that there is nothing to return to. The theater was bombed, so many people died there. They do not spare pregnant women, older people, no one. They are real non-humans and animals. Explosions every minute, sometimes it seemed to me that it would never end. The orc took all the food from us, but I managed to hide a handful of nuts for the child. Our cat ate a raw onion. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how we would be survived. He calmed the little one and warmed him. I usually treated Russians in the past life. But now I’m ready to kill myself. There are covered bodies on the street; there are so many dead people that it is challenging to realize the reality of what is happening. This is our life, and many have gone crazy. The psyche surrenders from malnutrition and fear, the psyche surrenders, we are already safe, but we cannot sleep. Dreaming of a murdered city every day and we are killed. That life is no more. We, like animals, fought for every hour of life. We are now on instinct. We are ready to run at any moment. There is nowhere to go back.
These stories are challenging for me, and I know how painful it is to read them. We face this every day. We must attract the attention of the world community. Cities are destroyed, but people can still be saved. Now people are in captivity of the orcs! Without water and food.
The World Knows Little of Chernihiv
And why is there so little talk about Chernihiv? Why do they ask whether a cafe and a new Post office work here? Of course, there is no gasoline in the city. It is unrealistic to get it, someone is trying to resell it at inflated prices, and people seem to want to leave, but what if there is no way to simply refuel?
Unfortunately, now we know what the sky looks like when rockets explode before our eyes at night. And you change the route in the opposite direction in a second. How is it to drive out under explosions from all sides in tears, not knowing whether you will get there, whether it will be calm on the road there, because it is scary to stay at home, and it’s difficult to leave when you read about the shelling of cars by Russian fascists? How is it to sleep (no) on the floor in the basement and at home under the table and tremble all over so that it is difficult to hold the phone, but not from the cold? How it is to see military equipment and a ruined city everywhere on the roads.
Sick and Afraid…of News
How is it to monitor the news every 30 seconds, read about how the kindergarten and civilian vehicles were fired upon? How especially, for fun, they ran into a civilian car with a man inside. How a child was born in a shelter. Born during the war. How does it feel to be away from family! Worry about them to the point of nausea. Text each other ” we’re okay ” every 30 minutes. Read the news, how the city is burning, where the parents are. How does it feel to be glad that I could brush my teeth and change underwear? Almost no food for two days and no sleep.
Your Life on Your Rucksack
How is it to be without all the documents and necessary things because it was simply not safe to pick them up? We ran up the stairs to the 9th floor and quickly collected everything that came to hand, everything that we could fit into bags. Leave home and everything you had. Your whole life is one backpack you traveled by car for three days on the road. And now I know how it is to be under the protection of our Armed Forces. Trust them 100%. See support in their eyes and give it back. How is it to be proud of your people? How we got together, how we behave, how we help, and how unanimous we are in decisions and attitude!
Let’s not give up! Never! No one here wants to visit you in Russia! How is it to hate? Because of the Russians, our life has changed these days entirely. The blood of our children and parents is on your hands! Everyone silent. Silence = support for your power. You are against us. You are killing us! They bomb all of Ukraine. I didn’t even know where to hide; there was no place anywhere.
Ten million Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes—fighting right on the streets of cities. Chernihiv is on fire from rockets. They destroy residential complexes, and they shoot at the cars of the peaceful at home. We will never forgive these fascists for bullying us. If they felt this whole hell on themselves, they would not behave like that. But we protect our land and our people from total evil.
They are shelling Chernihiv around the clock, and when will it end? They are not allowed to take people out or bring food and water.
Photos From Chernihiv
These photos were taken on 03/30/2022. And this is after official statements by the Russians that they are going to reduce the offensive against the Chernihiv region. These non-humans cannot be trusted; all their words are a complete lie.
On the night of March 30, in Chernihiv, the Russians fired on the regional universal library named after Korolenko, located in the city’s center. As can be seen in the footage filmed by journalists, the roof is broken in the building, windows are broken, and there are cracks on the walls.
This is how the bridge looks, which was destroyed by Russian fascists by air raids.
And here is my area, where I spent all my childhood, and this is what happened after the ” Russian military plane” visited there. Our Armed Forces managed to shoot down this plane, but he fell into a residential area of our city. Five minutes from my house! [ Ed Note: This account was also reported by the Washington Post]
This is what happens to the houses of civilians in Chernihiv, from unreasonable anger, aggression, and hatred of Russian wickedness.
There are a million photographs and evidence of the atrocities and crimes of the horde, and they will continue to bombard. But where to go peacefully? How do you survive?
About The Author
Katya is from Chernihiv. She graduated from Taras Shevchenko University with degrees in elementary education and art. Before the war, she worked as a barista in a cozy coffee shop in the center of Chernihiv.
Support This Series Letters From Chernihiv With Your Donation
This will fund two young people who are refugees in their own country. Katya and Artem are offering us stories about the War in Ukraine for Thumbwind. We are paying them for their accounts of the war and the horrors they experience. They will use the funds to pay for living costs as refugees in their own country as they are displaced from their hometown of Chernihiv, which was occupied by the Russian Federation Armed Forces.