Anton Vozniuk, Kyiv
On February 24, we woke up from explosions in Kyiv. Due to the lack of any information from official sources, besides the fact that Russia declared war on us we didn’t have much of a plan. So we phone called our family and decided to go to the countryside house to be all together at least. Our house is located in the village of Plakhtyanka, Makarivska UTC, nearby Kyiv.
During the first few days, we equipped a "bomb shelter" in the basement with water and food, and sealed the windows with adhesive tape. At night time we covered them with a thick cloth and were taking the 3 hours guard charge shifts. We heard the sirens only once during the whole time we were there, so the explosions were the signal of danger for us. Every day the intensity of the fighting around us escalated. The electricity, internet and cell phone network were lost. Following this, on 03/05/22 we decided that we need to move further to western Ukraine.
We had only one car, so three women and three children were packed into it.
My stepfather was the driver.
There were no green corridors for evacuation in our area, and we already knew that cars with civilians were being shot at.
When the car with my mother, aunt, the girlfriend I love, younger sisters and brother drove onto the road, I realized what fear and horror actually are.
They drove towards Zhytomyrska highway and saw the checkpoint. They stopped in advance being scared about the children. My mother and stepfather got out of the car and headed toward the soldiers. In the forest around there were a lot of military machines, both still functioning and already burned. They were ordered to get back into the car and head towards the post. The russian soldier checked the trunk first and then everyone who was in the car. He asked why they had not left earlier. Then he let them go. Literally, a minute later, they started to shoot the car with machine guns. Luckily, everybody remained safe and uninjured.
After that, a few columns of up to 10 cars passed through our village with the inscriptions "children", white ribbons and flags on the windows. There were cases when only a part of the cars returned back, fired upon or beaten up.
I stayed in the house with the older members of my family - two grandmothers and a grandfather. Around that time most of the Territorial Defense Units already left the village, leaving it without armed protection. We prepared several bomb shelters in the courtyard, each supplied with water and food. Some people from neighbouring villages, who had already faced this, warned us that if russian troops reach our village, they will park their machines near residential buildings. And the best way is to run away into the field for about 1-2 km and wait in the trenches until they leave. Behind the house, there was a field, where we found the pits in which we could dig in.
The shots were getting louder and the shells were falling closer and closer to our house, fighting was going on every day. For several nights in a row, multiple launch rocket systems and various artillery was shooting around the entire perimeter. Aeroplanes were flying over our house, large rockets were visible during the day. We found out that the village of Andreevka, which was located a few kilometres from us, just across the field, was completely destroyed. In Gavronshina, the next-door village, a russian military training ground was placed on the golf field. The Plakhtyanka’s gas line, which is just the next street from ours, russian troops used as the shield. They were collecting and regrouping their military machines there. In the directions of Makariv, Borodyanka, Klavdieve-Tarasove, Makovishche, and Kolonshchina, explosions were heard every day.
We had several “calm” days and then an armoured personnel carrier with infantry entered our street. A large column of army vehicles slowly followed them. The occupants went through the streets and started the raids. Usually, a group of 5-7 people went into the houses. If there was nobody inside or the owners didn’t want to open it, they would knock out the doors, windows or fences. The occupants warned that in case of some weapons were found or any kind of resistance started to happen, the entire village would be burned down. They took two people with them. Afterwards, some small groups were passing by, usually with 3-4 armoured personnel carriers.
There was a non-stop noise rumble all around.
Some civilians were killed in the car just next to our house.
Locals were exchanging gasoline for food. Every three days in the centre of the village they were given a handful of grey flour and a glass of barley. They were going to the fields in search of a cell phone network to call their relatives and had to hide in pits when artillery shelling began. We had a generator and some diesel, so we helped our neighbours to charge their phones and flashlights, and to get the water. People brought each other eggs, personal stocks of cereals and grains, and canned food. Many animals were left leashed. For them, soups were cooked from potatoes and carrots.
Also, there were locals who broke into the houses and robbed them. Afterwards, they went to neighbouring villages to do the same. Variously wounded adults and children were brought to our hospital for first aid.
On 01.04.22 Ukrainian Armed Forces liberated our village and finally we got the possibility to evacuate. The volunteers got me, and we drove as a column of three cars. The person who was driving first warned everyone to follow him carefully because most of the roads were still mined. We were driving through Gavronshchina, Makovishche, Makariv and towards Brusyliv.
All the time we were in the village, there was no access to information. In some places, only the radio worked. So I got a chance to see all the destruction for the first time only during the evacuation ride. On the way, there were a large number of cars with people shot, and burned-out military equipment and machines. Houses, schools, shopping centres, supermarkets, everything was destroyed. There were dead people lying on the roads.
After a while, I had access to the Internet and I saw everything that I had missed during this time. I can say that our family was very lucky.
I’d like to thank every person who supported my family, helping them at every stage of their route to a "safe" place. To everyone who protects peaceful people risking their lives. To everyone who delivers food and medicine to the liberated and occupied villages and cities. To those who're constantly or recently asking how I’m doing.
I am fascinated and inspired by the people of Ukraine.