ARTEM, Luhansk-Bucha

On Feb 24, my mother woke me up really early. she said like Russia attacked Ukraine with rockets. I could not believe it even though I knew that a war was about to happen, but I just couldn’t believe it when it actually happened. I thought that it was scary but I thought here in Bucha we’d be in a relatively safe environment because I thought that Ukrainian army would defend defend Kiev region at all costs. But maybe at 11 in the morning we startet hearing bombings from Hostomel. We decided to ask out father what we should do. My father was on a work trip in Ivano-Frankivsk and he departed from there in the evening of 24th of February. My sister said that you need to go to Kyiv and you can stay in my place. But we refused and told that we’ll wait for our father to come. We still hadn’t realized how bad our situation would become because Bucha was relatively peaceful at that time. We heard shellings in Hostomel but still we had internet, water and electricity. We were really anxious but still not at the point that we’d run away. In the first few days I went to buy some Groceries and water in advance. By our estimation we had food and water for maybe a month. We sat in a room with two walls and checked news on our phone to check what goes on in our country. We packed our backpacks in case we had to run. But we didn’t feel that it was the right time.

But on February 27, all of a sudden, we woke up. Around 10 in the morning we started hearing really loud explosions. It was not the usual amount of explosions that we used to hear in the previous days. My mother got really panicking and started screaming that we need to run. We spent days in different basements as my mother didn’t feel safe with me but wanted to stay with other people around her. We got rejected again and again. When we finally found refuge in the basement of a nearby gym, the owner even asked us to pay. I got almost had a mental breakdown and we decided to go back to our apartments.

After heavy fightings on March 3 and 4, the Russian army finally managed to completely occupy Bucha. In the following days, I tried to get some water from a nearby central heating system. I saw people carrying food from the direction of the local market and decided to investigate. They indeed were stealing food from the local market. There was a Russian checkpoint on the crossroad in front of the market. The soldiers seemed to be from a Mongolian decent and spoke Russian only at an intermediate level. Soon, we lost, water, gas and electricity.

My mom struck a deal with a few neighbors who had managed to cook something on their barbecue. They helped us to heat our water. It was really hard. I felt resentment towards these people but I think I can understand them now because in such a stressful situation you loose everything that makes us humans. I don’t really think that they’d remember us because they stole lots of alcohol and cigarettes from the local store and way drank almost every day from morning til late. I remember they had a huge party on March 8. On that day I couldn’t understand the danger of the whole situation. They started drinking and singing outside. They wanted to charge their phones but couldn’t start their car and started to push the car around to start it and started screaming and laughing. While they were doing this, a Russian tank passed us and more or less didn’t care, but I was worried they’d fire on them. It was really dumb. I think people have their own strategy have different strategies to cope with that amount of stress. It’s probably the most efficient way because you have lot’s of fun and not so much anxiety and feel great but that’s not my way.

Around 8/9 march my mother and me were in such a bad mental state that we stopped eating and just laid in our bed the whole day and just drank water. We interchangeablely started to have mental breakdowns. First my mother in the morning and then me in the evening because we really wanted to get out of that situation and get to Kyiv to unite with my father. We needed more food and felt really isolated and gave up. I tried to be the men of the house but with what I had like tools and my mental state it didn’t really help me to help my mother. I wasn’t able to protect this confidence and felt totally domed, I didn’t see the light at the ent of the tunnel.

On march 10 my dad called me and I was surprised because we had no mobile service. He tole me that today will be an evacuation. We went to the gathering point. There were already lots of people. There was like a woman with daughter near us. She told us that we’d need to get out because her daughter’s boyfriend is in Ukrainian army and said that we had to evacuate because on the next day there would be a hell here because Ukrainian army would like to liberate Bucha once again. We got really panic because we thought that would be out last chance to evacuate. Also we were in such a bad state of mind that we had no idea that this evacuation would also be on the next days. We just wanted to get out as soon as possible. When we were waiting in line, a Russian tank came and parked in front of the hospital(where the evacuation place was located). Two dudes jumped from the tank and went to the hospital. When they returned, the tank turned its barrel in our direction and then turned it back after a few seconds. I remember a local coordinator for this evacuation he had a megaphone and told that today, only children, women and elderly people would be able to evacuate. I lost my shit, I got really scary and almost had a mental breakdown. I got really scared then because my mother said that her heart started to hurt and there were no doctors around. If there was a heart attack, it would be a certain death. I decided to look for private transport. But we didn’t find anyone to take us and went back home.

The next day, we went to the gathering point agains. There were already lot’s of people. Again, we started to ask around to people. Someone told me we cannot go with them because they had their dog on their back bank in the car. I couldn’t believe the dog’s life to mean more to someone than my life. I was on a verge of tears. My mother found an other car of 3 young man but said they’d only take my mother because they were scared of getting more man in the car and eventually might be stopped and taken hostage on a checkpoint. I told my mother to take this car while running around to find an other.

I heard my mother screaming. Come back, Artem, she said, I found you an other car. I had to squeeze on the backseat to hide and because they had lot’s of stuff there but I’m grateful that they took me. But soon, the older woman in the car started berating me, saying that I was to old as she thought I was younger. I told her I was 27. She thought I was only 17. She started really panicking. They were afraid my age and my presence would put then on geopardy on a Russian checkpoint. But I told them that they shouldn’t panic cause I’m from Luhansk and if anything happened, I thought I could tell them I’m from Luhansk and you cannot kill me therefore or take me hostage as I’m from Donbas region. We departed but the woman just couldn’t shut the fuck up. I only managed to calm them down as I guided them in their behavior though the Russian checkpoints. My mother also reached Kyiv and somehow reached my fathers location. My mothers car broke down already in the beginning and she jumped out and started to ask other people. A family with her child gladly took her in while I was already on my way. It was just another shock for me to realize that my mother alsmost didnt manage to evacuate while I was.