Okategoriserade Life in Kharkiv A researcher’s diary during full-scale war

Diary from Kharkiv on impressions of the first two months of a full-scale war unleashed by Moscow.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds Excerpt in Baltic Worlds 1-2, 2022. Pages 11-15
Published on balticworlds.com on June 22, 2022

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February 24, 2022. I have learned about the open invasion of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation at 8.45 a.m. from the news release on 1+1 TV channel. On February 24, I woke up very late. When I heard and saw footage of the shelling of the cities, for the first 5 minutes I was silently watching the news. Explosions were heard on the street, at first I thought that these were idle schoolchildren, who had got somewhere extremely powerful firecrackers. Five minutes later, I woke up my mother, she was napping near a working TV. My mother, Liudmyla Yehorivna Yatsenko, celebrated her 75th anniversary on February 8. I told her that the Muscovites attacked us, that they were approaching Kyiv, Kharkiv and had crossed Chonhar. My mother stood up, sat for a few seconds, then said that yes, it was the war, but there was nothing one could do.

For the first hour, I listened to the news and then began to collect the backpack. I was collecting the most important documents, finding cash, remembering where was my envelope with the foreign currency, mainly Polish zlotys, which I brought from a scientific internship, as a winner of the Ivan Vyhovsky Award in 2016. February 24 was the day of shopping. By coincidence, there was not much food at home. That day I went to the Class Supermarket three times, and also visited the ATB Supermarket.

The shops were at a distance of about 1.5 km from each other. In the store I tried to pay with a card, the experience of the historian prompted to save cash. I noticed that the market next door was closed, which was strange. There was growing turmoil in the shops. In the Class, people, for the first time in my memory, bought potatoes in large bags, the turmoil was big as if on holidays. I was shopping chaotically, buying some potatoes, chicken eggs and tangerines, because my mother had said I should buy oranges (tangerines were cheaper, I bought them for 39 hryvnias, while oranges cost about 46 hryvnias per kilo). That day I also bought shaving razors in Prostir. I also went to ATB where I bought as usual diabetic bread, because my mother was insulin dependent. There was no bread, but in ATB I saw something that was not the case in Class, the shelves were rapidly empty there, people bought up everything they could. The prices in ATB are slightly lower than in Class, but the store itself is smaller, and this affected the fact that the shelves there were empty extremely quickly.

I left the store and noticed that more and more people were walking on the street with suitcases and backpacks, as well as with little children, to the subway. After 2 p.m., the small shops began to close. There was already a shortage of bread in the shops. Agromol dairy shops sold out everything by 3. 00 p.m. and closed.

At 2 p.m., subway traffic was stopped. At the station nearby called “23 Serpnia” the subway was stopped as everywhere else in Kharkiv: the transformation of the Kharkiv subway into a bomb shelter began. During the day, I used the underground crossing three times when I went to Class. I saw people hiding in the subway, I heard their conversations. Hearing some of them I shuddered and began to boil over with the rage. A gray-bearded resident of the city and an elderly woman walked in a crowd to the station, the gray-haired man addressing the woman expressed his dissatisfaction that the Armed Forces of Ukraine began to defend the city saying: “The tank brigade in Bashkyrivka began to   perform heroics, otherwise it would be over by now”. During the shopping, I saw two women of pre-retirement or retirement age, briskly discussing where and where it was bombarded, that there were missile strikes in Kyiv and there were explosions in Kharkiv. During the conversation, one of the women announced the clichés of the Moscow propaganda: “Kyiv have got it rightly, they have bombarded the Donbas for 8 years”.

The most typical picture of the day was people on the street watching the news in smartphones. At the time when I was at home, I began watching the smoke of fires. Tentatively, these happened in Oleksiyivka, Piatikhatky, and Kharkiv Aircraft Plant. The day was sunny and very warm, there was not a cloud in the sky. I was dressed for a spring, I did not wear a jacket during visits to the stores, so as not to sweat and overheat.

On February 25, I woke up from hearing explosions. I said aloud that I wanted Putin to die by the evening together with his entourage. I wished the Muscovites bombarding the city to be killed, and those who would remain alive, so that they would be impotent and that no woman would sleep with them. After 8.00 a.m., the weather changed. The sky was covered with clouds and already on 8.30 a.m. the snow started falling and was falling all day long. I was glad then. I thought that in bad weather, Kharkiv was protected from the strikes of the Russian Air Force (aviation). I spent the whole day at home. I heard the explosions several times, went to the stairs and looked out the window overlooking Nauky Avenue. I could not see where they exploded, but I saw in the early hours a queue of several dozens meters to the supermarket.

I went out only once. I went to Sarzhyn Yar and brought drinking water home, a total of 10 liters, in two canisters. It was snowing and someone made a small snowman on a bench on a recreation ground, with which I have photographed myself, while listening to the sounds of explosions. When I returned home, I saw queues of dozens people to pharmacies and to Class. As in the previous day, the market was closed. Most of the shops were closed, the blinds were lowered. I noticed that private bakeries and the confectionery were open. There were also small queues there.

All day long I listened to the news and after the Internet was connected I read what the Ukrainian media wrote and listened to the Polish Radio. I went to the website of Rossiyskaya Gazeta in the evening. The first material that fell in my eye contained a slogan and an annotation to the article, announcing that the slogan “no war” is equal to “no Russia”. I did not read it further.

Before the war, I created a historical channel “Historical Webinar” on YouTube, abbreviated “HW”. For a month and a half ahead, I had agreements planning to record the speeches of historians from different cities of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and Russia who investigated various aspects concerning Ukrainian-Russian relations. On this day, I began to receive messages from colleagues from Poland and Belarus, they expressed condolences, noted that the recordings should obviously be canceled, because it was a bad time for it. Condolences and support were expressed to me also by my Russian colleagues Professor Tatyana Tairova-Yakovleva and Aleksandr Almazov.

I have admitted that the colleagues for the most part were right that it was a bad time for the webinars. But I had an agreement with Dr. Agata Kvitkovska from Łódź on the Budapest Memorandum. I wrote to the researcher that the agreement as to her speech remains in force. After the exchange of correspondence, were agreed to proceed with the recording, without inviting viewers, at 4.00 p.m. Warsaw time. On the same day, I saw and distributed information in the FB on the groups I administrated that the National Bank of Ukraine opened a multicurrent account in support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

At about 11.00 p.m. I went to the balcony and looked out of the window, at the flashes that were somewhere on Oleksiivka. No sounds of artillery were heard, but the flares were very intense.

On February 26, I woke up because of the explosions. I brewed tea, condemned Putin and wished all Muscovites to become impotent. I was agitated. My mother was still asleep. At 6.55-7.05 a.m. I clearly heard the shooting: it were AKM submachine guns and probably machine carbines, fast and long strings of bursts. From the news and text messages in the phone I learned that mechanized brigades of Muscovites broke through in Kharkov. In the reports, they were called sabotage and reconnaissance groups: SRGs. A curfew was imposed in the city for 24 hours. During the day, I went out to the stairs several times and looked out the window. The street was empty.

At 4.00 pm I recorded a webinar with Mrs Dr. Agata Kvitkovska. That evening, I posted it on YouTube and distributed it online. After the speech of the historian and in comments to the video I called for support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Strong explosions were heard at night. My mother was scared. At her request, I laid next to her on the bed for around an hour. There was not enough space for me, I endured it as much as I could, but when I felt a strong desire to sleep I moved to the second bed, which was opposite the TV in the same room where my mother slept. Later, in the days of heavy shelling, when my mother asked to lie next to her, I did it in the morning and in the evening.

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv, end of February. Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

On February 27, I woke up because of the explosions. After a short and emotional conversation with my mother, I went shopping. My mother did not want me to go out to the street. There was not much food at home. Because of the explosions, my mother did not want to let me go, and then agreed and asked, among other things, to buy some cooked sausage.

The first thing I saw going to the arch that overlooked the avenue was the military. Some had chevrons of the national guard, armed with AKMs, fully equipped, in camouflage fatigues. The emergence of the military inspired me at once. I noticed that the army men were not young, all of them in their 30s, some in their 40s.

I went to the monument to the soldier to go to the Class and noticed that at the intersection the military stopped cars inspecting them. From the news I knew that the breakthrough of the Muscovites in the city was eliminated, but some of them were hiding in the private sector, sought to change into civilian clothes and get out of the city, so they were looking for them. Going to the supermarket I was surprised to see that the queue to it grew almost to 100 meters. I stopped and was thinking to go to ATB instead when I saw a familiar hairdresser and her companion, who were quickly approaching, but after seeing the queue to the Class, they stopped confusedly. I learned from them that it did not make sense to go to ATB or Posad. According to them, there were only potato chips, sweets, and alcohol. When I heard it, I moved to the other side of the street and stood in line.

While standing in line, I constantly heard explosions. All the time I looked at the cloudy sky from which the snow was falling from time to time. Some of the women, fearing explosions would hit the queue, left. Someone marked a person standing behind and ran to the pharmacy that was still open to take a turn in a queue there, which also stretched for a several dozens of meters. I heard that the store would be open until 12.00 p.m. Standing in a queue and slowly advancing, I noticed a man with an adult Groenendael in the line. The dog wanted to play, the owner kept him on a leash but was leaving the queue from time to time to throw him a snowball or some twig that he found on the ground. Because of the explosions, the dog was tucking the tail, but I looked at his ears. For some reason, I decided that if the ears were not laid back, then there was no danger to us.

Before I was admitted to the supermarket, I spent 3.5 hours on the street staying in line. The last hour I was constantly hopping because I was chilled to the marrow of my bones, despite the fact that unlike many others in line I was dressed in winter clothes. Next to the queue there was a policeman from the AKSU and three territorial defense fighters (TD) with AKMs. They told the queue several times that in the store one could pay for the goods only in cash. Several times, the TD fighters appealed to the queue to turn off geolocation on smartphones and not to talk on them. Their calls were in vain. All the time there was someone who needed to talk by all means.

In the queue, there was constant talk about the war, where and what was destroyed in Kharkiv, what could be purchased and how to cook it, how the negotiations with the Muscovites would end, which were to begin at 11.00 a.m. Kyiv time. In the queue there was a rule to let forward women with children and the elderly. Once, because of an elderly woman who was knocked out of the queue or tried to get closer to the entrance, there was a brief argument. The woman from the queue demanded the elderly woman to go to the end of the queue because she did not stand there, to which the men stood up for the old woman and let her go ahead, to which they had only one argument: “The war”. The ardent champion of justice said that she also had children, maybe they should let her forward too, a guy expressed readiness and said to let her go. She began to say that there were many here who had the children at home. The man who had a dialogue with her could not stand it and told her using swear words that she could go forward but in silence. She went back in line.

There were two former students standing near me, they were jealous of those who were students now because they had food in a student canteen. One wondered if there would be a job for him at the end of the fighting. There was a chatty tall gray-haired man in the line. He spoke to a friend and to those who joined in the conversation. I heard that he was Russian, in Kharkiv since the early 90s, when he came here to study. He spoke negatively about the invasion, saying that if the countries were divided, then let them be so, it brings nothing to invade a foreign state. However, when it came to Crimea, his position changed. He believed that Crimea would not become Ukrainian again, his parents were there and they began to receive a good pension from the Russians: more than $1,000 for two persons. I stopped listening to him because I felt a dislike.

When I got into the supermarket, I was really disappointed. During his stay in the Class, I managed to grab the last two heads of white cabbage, two kilograms of pork, some kiwi for my mother, 2 kilograms of apples of a variety unfamiliar to me, 4 sliced half-loafs of bread, 60 chicken eggs at 30 UAH for a dozen, several diabetic chocolates and waffles for my mother, and a big piece of hard cheese. I noticed that there was no canned meat and fish there. Most of the vegetables were also absent. People bought out everything containing alcohol: vodka, beer, brandy and wine. The only things that were enough in the supermarket and that was not sold up immediately were candies, Iberian ham, and household cleaning products. However, various bars were in great demand.

The queue at the checkout was long, there were long queues at all cash desks, about 10-15 meters long. There was a guy in front of me. He had a large cart of groceries and a basket. The large cart was for the army, it was for more than 5 thousand hryvnias. The guy and his comrades had the money. They were met on the checkout by a woman being one of the volunteers. The purchases for his family were for up to 1000 UAH.

When I was in line to the cash desk, I heard distinctly the explosions of MLRS charges. I stood for half an hour in line. Once the explosions were felt extremely close, I learned later that they have bombarded between Otakara Yarosha Street and Derevyanka Street. I started counting the explosions, there were 17 of them, so I thought it was a full Smerch cluster. I returned at home around 1 p.m. I was deeply frozen and very tired. I ate. I listened to the news, climbed under a blanket, and slept. While falling asleep, I heard a strong sound of the plane engines, the house was reverberating. At first I wanted to come up and run out into the corridor, then I thought, should the bomb fall on the roof, there was little chance of survival, and should it fall down then it would not hit me and fell asleep.

February 28. At home I said I was going to looking for something edible. I actually went on foot from 23 Serpnia subway station to the University. The buildings along the avenue were whole. Then I got to the University. I saw a trolleybus at the bus stop. I took a place in it. The driver said I could pay if I wished. I paid 10 hryvnias, got 4 hryvnias of change and went home. It was the last day when public transport was moving in Kharkiv. The subway went into bomb shelter mode, urban transport was removed from the routes. In the news, I saw the shelling of my neighborhood with the Russian MRLS called Grad.

I was home on March 1. I looked out the window and listened to the news. They have stopped removing garbage since the beginning of the war. The garbage bins were full and the garbage quantity was growing. My mother called the city’s hot line and filed a request to remove the garbage, emphasizing that in the Cooperative where she was the Chairman the garbage was removed. I went out to bring some water. I called a colleague, asked him if he thought about going to sign up with the Territorial Defense.  On the same day, there was a report of a missile strike on Svobody Square in Kharkiv.

March 2, 2022. I went to the water source in Sarzhyn Yar to bring some water. I took with me a backpack with a camera in it. At the water source I saw a small snowman with which I made a picture of myself. When I walked with water in canisters, I returned through the cable way. On a running path I saw the first trace of Grad and took a photo of it. Next, I made photos of the buildings on 79 and 81 Otakara Yaprosha Street, then went further and took photos of battered and burned cars, traces of Grad on the ground, burned cars near XADO, broken window fragments, traces of shrapnel on the walls of houses, broken windows and the curtains of school No. 135 waving in the breeze, the traces of damage on Sumhayitska Street.

I met a friend from the Historian Faculty, she showed me the place where the bomb was dropped, but I could not make a picture of it because the battery was empty. The bomb fell near the hatch. The hatch was reinforced and it was above concrete slabs and the masonry. The bomb seemed to have ripped off parts of masonry and concrete.

I returned at home in agitated state. I posted the photos online.

After posting the photos, I wrote to my friends. My Polish colleague Krzysztof Ratai who was living in Poznan and working at the Dzialinsky Palace, after seeing the pictures of burned cars and broken windows, asked if he could share them. I agreed. At the same time, we agreed that he could give my contacts to Polish journalists.

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

Kharkiv March 3, 2022. Photo: Vladyslav Yatsenko

On March 3, 2022, I was contacted by Polish journalists from Poznan and by phone, because I did not have the Internet, and I told about the situation in Kharkiv as far as I knew. On the same day, with the assistance of Krzysztof, Christian Kalischak contacted me on the FB. He was from TV Poznan. We agreed that on March 4 at 3.00 p.m. Warsaw time, via Skype, I would tell about the situation in Kharkiv. On the same day, there were reports of a missile strike aimed at the building opposite the City Administration.

March 4. I woke up early. I said to my mother that I was going in search of food, and went to the Center. For the conversation with the Polish journalists, I wanted to have photos of Russian shelling of the city. At that time, the negotiations began on supply to Ukraine, from Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia of MIG 29 and SU 25.

So I wanted to have photos that will cause resonance and contribute to the formation of the Polish point of view in support of Ukraine, to provide it with heavy offensive weapons.

I moved quickly. I took the first photos of a crushed tree and the broken glass of the Saltivsky store near the Sport Master shop, at the Druzhba trolleybus stop.

In front of the building of the former Govorov Academy, I took a photo of a poster addressed to Russian soldiers to surrender in order to save their lives. After that I photographed the main building of Karazin University. The university was whole, but with broken window panes on many floors. Then I took a photo of the Svobody square and the building of the Regional Administration (KhODA), then I moved down Sumska Street, photographing the damaged buildings and the consequences of the explosive wave. When I went to the monument to Taras Shevchenko, sirens howled and it was unpleasant, because it would be impossible to hide if anything happened. I photographed Shevchenko from several angles, and then went to the Opera House (KhATOB). I photographed the building of Economy Faculty of Karazin University, where the firefighters were still extinguishing the fire. I photoed the damage to the Temple of Myrrh-Bearing Women, then made some photos on Skrypnyka and Pushkinska Streets. I was glad that the Historical Museum on the Constitution Square was not damaged. I photographed the broken windows at the University of Culture and the Vedmedyk Shop, owned by Kharkiv Biscuit Factory. Then I moved in the direction of Korolenko library making photos on the way. In the center there were passers-by who also took pictures but with their smartphones. I took pictures with my Sony camera.

Suddenly, two policemen appeared near the new Shopping Mall. They had me in the crosshairs of their AKSU and AKM, and demanded that I go to them with my hands up. I followed their order. They shouted that in case of sudden movements they would shoot to kill. They shouted in Russian. I headed for them. I was saying aloud my name, date of birth and place of residence. Then I came to them. I began to explain to their questions that I was photographing the destruction caused by the Russian shelling in order to send these pictures to the Polish media, which I had to give an interview to. I said that I was a historian and a winner of the ivan Vyhovsky award. I was kept in sight. They searched me and eventually took me to a shopping mall. Of course, I did not resist. At the entrance, there were several more police officers who repeated the questioning. One remarked that I was not violent, others confirmed that I caused no difficulties.

I was taken away for a check. They took off my glasses and put them in the inner pocket of the jacket. They put on shackles on me. The hat was pulled over my face. They brought me into the premises of the shopping mall and by the stairs of the escalator, which was stopped, I was taken to a basement.

On the way, I could see where to go and asked the policemen, because they were very fast, not to bum my head at the door. To a sarcastic request, why not, I replied that my head was a tool, high-precision and expensive. To which I was advised to spare my breath, because it could be knocked out of me. I did not like this comment at all.

While we were going down, I repeated twice more who I was and why I was photographing. When we were downstairs, I repeated again, noting that the number of questions would not change answers. The superior officer approached me and asked who I was, declaring that he would take the phone and documents for verification, to which I agreed. At the time of the inspection, those who guarded me first wanted to take the shackles off me and wrap my hands with the tape. There was no tape. Therefore I was standing with shackles on.

I once again repeated who I was and why I was photographing. Someone new who came up said that I was lying too much and I needed to get the wind knocked out of me so that I would tell the truth and noted that they already had one of them lying a little aside. I was angry that they threatened me and used the informal form of address. So I immediately replied that I have not bred the pigs with the policeman and that I should be addressed formally. The police laughed and at the same time made a remark that I should not be haughty and should remember the limitations of wartime. I replied that wartime did not imply ignoring my rights, and I expect a lawful behavior from the Ukrainian police. To an unpleasant question why I was not in the Armed Forces of Ukraine I answered that I had a military service exemption certificate, a history of oncology and problems with endurance and liver. When asked who authorized to take photos, I replied that it was my conscience and the desire to help the Motherland.

The police asked me if the bank cards belonged to me. I confirmed and noted in letters how my name was written in Latin. When asked why I had a Kyiv urban transport pass, I said that I went to conferences there from time to time.

One asked if I wished to be spoken to in Ukrainian and replied that I did not use Russian.

The superior officer returned. My papers and camera were returned to me. He said they would return me to where I was taken from. I could go to photograph the Center, but not to take pictures of their location (the last I did not see). I was taken out as I was brought in with a hat on my face and with shackles on. I asked if the building of Korolenko Library was intact. I got an affirmative answer.

After that, I took a photo of the City Administration. And of the building opposite, which was hit by a missile. I took pictures. In the center I saw anti-tank hedgehogs, barricades, armed members of the Territorial Defense holding the perimeter, saw cars pierced through with shrapnel, as well as trucks with paired anti-aircraft machine guns mounted on them. On Sumska Street, near the central park, through which I planned to return home, I saw closed gates unexpectedly. While looking for a way to get around I met a military patrol, it consisted of cadets of the University of the Air Force named after Ivan Kozhedub. Once again I passed a short verification procedure without excesses. Cadets from the patrol said that I had to walk along the park, and then down parallel to the highway to Novgorodska Street. So I did it. Near the cable way I saw a trace where Smerch or Uragan hit, which I photoed.

When I was walking along Shatylivska Street, I heard the sound of a plane engine and ran along the cable way and the Shatylivka Hill residential complex. While running I heard loud explosions, but since they were far away and not visible, I calmed down. Unexpectedly, already on the descent to Sarzhyn Yar I saw a missile charge from the Uragan which was intact. I took a picture of it and headed along the cable way home.

I visited ATB on the way. There was nothing edible to buy there. I saw a jar with Polish mushrooms that cost 45 UAH, I thought that it was too much, put it back on a shelf, where there was nothing more and left the store. I came home at around 12.00 p.m.

I told my mother that I was staying in line but did not buy anything. I uploaded the photos to FB. I tagged using the hashtag the Polish and the Ukrainian journalists I knew.

That day I gave an interview in which the photos I took were presented.

I was pleased with myself.

My friend Krzysztof Ratai the day before created a new profile for me on the FB, in the Polish sphere, because in the old one, which was in the Russian sphere, I could not post some photos of burned cars and they began to block my posts when I wrote about the consequences of the shelling by the Russian MLRS.

Thanks to Krzysztof, a number of Poznan journalists contacted me in March. And thanks to Vladislav Gribovsky, I met a Kazakh journalist, for whom I wrote a text about the situation in Kharkiv as of the beginning of March.

On March 5, I decided to go to the point of handing out the humanitarian aid.  My mother was not happy that I planned to go to get the humanitarian help, she did not like at all when I went out. We agreed that I would only take the food at the point. I knew the fact that in Kharkiv there were points of distribution of humanitarian aid from the website of the city council. The nearest point to me was in the House of Projects, which is located three trolleybus stops from my house. The distribution point was in Branch of Nova Poshta No. 135.

In the morning, I was still hoping to record a webinar with Dr. Barbara Jundo-Kaliszewska of the University of Łódź. The recording was scheduled for 9.00 am, but technically we were not able to record it. Therefore, we agreed that Ms. Barbara herself would record a digest of news from Lithuania regarding Vilno’s position towards Russian aggression against Ukraine. The recording would be sent to me, and I would post it on my channel.

At around 11.00 a.m., as I reached on foot the 135th Branch of Nova Poshta, there was already a queue. It was frosty and the snow was falling, it was cloudy. I was staying for 20 minutes in line. I noticed that a lot of people were talking about different things in the queue. People were not familiar with each other, but ready to talk, which was caused by nervousness due to the war. Twenty minutes later, the woman behind me announced that the 135th branch where we were standing was not open on March 4. The woman said that her children in return received humanitarian aid in the 138th branch located on Oleksiivka, 18 Askharova Street, in the building of the Topolok market. They got a chicken and 10 chicken eggs per person.

Upon hearing this, I informed the woman standing in front of me and the two women behind me that I would go ahead, but if I returned, that they should confirm that I belonged in the queue. Having reached the agreement, I went forward. Near the stop “Druzhba”, I met a man who had full bags of food in his hands. I asked where he bought it and he replied that it was in Rost, I asked if it was on Klochkivska Street, and he confirmed. I moved forward, reached Naukova subway station, turned down from the far entrance and went down the street to go to Klochkivska Street. I walked so as to stay in the middle of the roadway. The lack of cars made it possible. I expected that in case of shelling, I would lie by the border stone far from the buildings. This was supposed to protect me from shrapnel and in case the residential buildings would be hit that had been built even before the Second World War I would be protected from destroyed buildings and their debris. On the way I met a couple of retirement age carrying packages, they said that they were shopping in Vostorg supermarket. Vostorg was on Klochkivska Street and much closer than the Rost.

I reserved a place in a queue, called my mother, said where I was, and asked whether to buy flour, to which I got an affirmative answer. I saw the volunteers buying a large batch of flour, 4 large carts, which were placed in the car. I stood in the queue for 30 minutes. Already after 10 minutes, I heard the plane’s engines working in the sky, it was cloudy, but the sun was shining behind the clouds. The plane was not visible, but the sound of the engines annoyed me. Near the Vostorg there were two gas stations. There were cars standing nearby. On the other side of the road there was a beautiful tall and long house of 22-24 floors.

I stood and assessed all the dangers that would happen if a house or a supermarket and gas stations were attacked by a plane. The sound of the plane’s engine intensified, then went away. When I came close to the door of the supermarket, the manager came out accompanied by police armed with AKSU and AKM and said that the store is closing, tomorrow it will be open from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm. I exhaled and went quickly straight in the direction of the Rost. At this point, the piercing growing sound of the plane’s engines was heard, then there was a whistle. At that point, I started running, and then I heard the explosion. While running, I turned around and saw a cloud of smoke and debris coming out on the horizon from the unfinished building, I was running quicker. On the run, I shouted to the guy running close to the glass windows of the supermarket to turn off the phone and move away from the glass. I was running so fast that I could win Olympic gold, stopping only when I passed the second gas station and moved to the other side of the road. After that I walked coughing, because I was nervous and overstretched during the run. The engines of the plane were no longer heard. In 20 minutes I reached the Rost. There was no queue, the entrance was free, but a lot of people came in and out.

When I was in the supermarket, I felt that fortune smiled upon me. I stocked up for more than 1,200 hryvnias. I bought two chickens, 100 hryvnias per kg, frozen chicken legs, 114 hryvnias, canned mackerel, apples, however, they were expensive, 20 hryvnias, and bananas for 37 hryvnias. I bought a full bag of food and went home. It took me about 3 hours to return home. When I walked by the House of Projects, I was amazed to see that a lot of windows were broken in the building. I started photographing the destruction with the camera that I had in the backpack. From the guy who just arrived by car I learned that the Muscovites bombed the Sports Complex of KhNU Unifekht, and the House of Projects was hit by a shock wave. There was no queue at the time. Only the Nova Poshta branch had intact storefronts and doors, because there were fir-trees growing opposite them.

When I walked through the underpass, I noticed that the glass was broken at the entrance. Women and men smoked nervously on the subway. When I was going up, I met an elderly couple who asked in Russian if there was a currency exchange working somewhere. I replied that on Otakara Yarosha Street nothing was working, because they were hit by a shock wave.

I came home at around 2.00 p.m. My mother was happy because she was very worried. I ate something, lay down in bed, covered me with a blanket and fell asleep. I woke up in the evening to drink some water and then fell asleep again.

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko


On March 6, 2022 I was at home. In the evening, I began to upload a digest with the participation of Barbara Yundo-Kaliszewska on YouTube, on my channel. In early March, the organization of webinars, where the historians from the European countries could present how the media of various states were covering the invasion of the Muscovites in Ukraine, seemed to me an extremely important matter. At the same time, it allowed me to be considered involved in the information resistance. However, I failed to complete this task.

At about 6.00 p.m., when I had already uploaded and distributed in the FB a link to the video, there was an extremely strong explosion. I turned off the laptop at once, and then went to turn off the Wi-Fi repeater, and at the moment it was turned there was a strong explosion. I went to the window and looked out from behind the curtains. There was a new explosion and I saw a flash. I thought something had hit one of the 14-storеy buildings. After that, the image disappeared on the TV and no channels were working anymore. Soon the heating radiators cooled off and it became clear that we were left without heating.

March 7, 2022. In the morning, after having a breakfast I went to the central regional hospital on 6 Trinklera Street. Earlier, my mother called and found out that there she could get Farmasulin there. I took my mother’s pension ID and left. On the way, I saw that all 14-storеy buildings were intact. However, the bomb fell on 2 Kosmonavtiv Str. The bearing wall serving two entrances In Khrushchev-era apartment block was ruined. In front of this building a bomb fell, which was dropped from the aircraft. An explosive wave passed through the house. It hit also all the adjacent houses, the Dovzhenko cinema, and the MegaBank branch where the windows were broken and the alarm system was working continuously. Windows were also broken in the Avoska market. There were a lot of people around who were taking pictures. I moved on, walked along the cable way to the central park, the intact shell of the Uragan was still in its place. Explosions were constantly heard. I walked along the central park to school No. 116. The road was through the yards where the snow was not cleaned, so I walked and constantly slipped. On the way, I met a pensioner in the yard, she carried garbage. I approached and suggested to throw it away for her so that she would not risk going on the slippery trampled snow. She shared the information about where to get humanitarian aid. I thanked her and moved on. I went to the military hospital, where at the entrance there were heavily armed and fully equipped national guardsmen. Near the Sumskoy Market there was a queue, where humanitarian aid was handed over, the queue was also near the house where Pharmacy 911 was located. I got a little confused, went out to Trinklera Street and walked looking at the numbers on the buildings. 6 Trinklera Street was the premises of a dental clinic, on the door there was an inscription about the endocrinology institute, and the door was closed. I rang the bell, a woman came out, asked through the door what I needed, I said that I had come for insulin. I was told that it was handed over in the hospital building on the other side of the road. I got into the building I needed relatively quickly. Inside, I asked the girls where the stairs were, got an answer, and climbed to the fourth floor. In the room, the doctor quickly gave me two vials of Formasulin H and Н NP. I was surprised that it was so few, my mother was usually given three boxes. I signed in the log to acknowledge receipt, refusing from disposable syringes. I went home. I returned through another place that passed near the Slovo building. There was a burned car and a fence was broken from the explosion of the Uragan rocket shell. I photographed the destruction and the damage caused to the entrance of the house. Next to the house I made the photo of the destruction on the Kosmonavtiv Street. I went through the courtyards. I was surprised that there were also a lot of broken windows, and I heard from people in the yard that a bomb had also fallen between the two five-storеy buildings. I found a place where the bomb had fallen. The bomb fell on the playground, two five-storеy buildings were severely affected by the shock waves. Everything was intact on the playground, but the swing, the slide, and the tennis table were filled with earth. I photographed everything and went home.

That day, my mother went to bed in the basement of the house where she was the chairman. I brought a folding bed into one of the rooms in the basement, where my mother had an office.  We went down together because we were carrying a bag with a pillow and two blankets. It was a bit frosty and slippery outside. I refused to sleep in the basement. The TV did not work. So I was left alone, talked to mu friends on the phone and went to bed. My mother asked me to sleep in her room, which I did. I slept fully dressed under two blankets. On top of the sweater and tracksuit pants I wore a warm robe

March 8, 2022. The morning began traditionally around the sixth when I was awakened by the sounds of gunfire. Around half seven my mother called and said that she was going home. I put a kettle on the fire, got dressed and went downstairs to meet my mother. She was already on the third floor when I met her. Then the climb began.

With one hand, my mother held on to the railings of the stairs, with the other she gave me a stick, on which she leaned on the stairs, and held on to me. The climb to the 8th floor took some time. My mother climbed two floors, then stood resting for about a minute or more. Then she went up two more floors or one and a half and the situation was repeated.

When we came home, she went to lie down. I made myself tea, it was nearly 8.00, the time when my mother injected insulin, I boiled some oatmeal for her. We talked a little and then I went to replenish the products. The goal was to buy bread and meat. I went to the Class supermarket, which was the nearest one.

On the way I met some neighbors whom I asked if they had internet working. Most of them did not. I met a teenage girl from apartment 73 on the 4th floor, she said she had Internet from Volia. I asked if she could give me access. She agreed, I gave her my number and left, the girl and her father collected personal belongings and prepared to leave Kharkiv with their own car to go somewhere to the Right-Bank Ukraine.

There was no queue in front of the supermarket, the entrance was free. There were not so many vegetables: white cabbage, beets, and carrots. Prices have increased significantly. The price for cabbage reached 20 hryvnias, potatoes of not very good quality cost about 20 hryvnias. In the meat department I saw “homemade chopped mead” at 90 hryvnias per kilo. I asked the seller to weight 2 kg of that and she asked how many people there were in my family. I replied, two: me and my mother. She weighed the chopped meat for me. Apart from the chopped meat, there were also frozen calf tongues, 90 hryvnias per kg. They were overfrozen, so I did not take them. I do not remember what else I bought. Near the subway, I was asked by a young man if I needed lard and meat and pointed to a car standing a few meters away. I went over, had a look and quickly went home, brought the purchases, took additional cash and went to buy lard, as my mother asked to buy it. When I returned there was already the queue, I stood in line for 15-20 minutes. Those who stood in line were constantly worried about whether there was enough lard for them or whether it would be bought by the lucky ones in front. Lard disappeared quickly, the high quality one for 150 hryvnias and the underbelly for 200 hryvnias was already sold out. There was some lard for frying at 100 hryvnias per kg and cheeks. The pork meat cost 180 to 250 hryvnias.  The woman who was selling meat was familiar to me, usually she was working at the market nearby and my mother bought from her meat repeatedly. When the queue came to me, a policeman approached the car, asked what was happening here and demanded that the trade be curtailed, and the owner of the goods with assistants went back for her settlement. Excitement was rising in the queue, one man approached the policeman and asked him to move away, noting that those in the queue will sort it out themselves. The policeman said that he would call the territorial defenders to arrest the attendees, not waiting for his call the soldiers of the territorial defense began to approach the location of the car.

I did not wait to see how would it end. I went to the Dovzhenko cinema, and from there to Derevyanko. First I visited the small supermarket called Chudo-Market. The guard kept the door locked when 2-3 persons appeared in front of it, he opened the door and let the people in. There was no longer meat in the supermarket and the meat department sold only chicken feet. I bought three Parodontax toothpastes, 75 hryvnias for a tube, and paid with a card. i moved on. I saw a queue near the Saltivsky store. Through the shop window, I saw that the store had meat, bockwurst, boiled and smoked sausages. I stood in a line for about 40 minutes. At the end I was freezing and hopping. In the queue, people were talking to the accompaniment of explosions. The main topics were where you could buy food, where to buy bread, where there were explosions and destruction, where a building was destroyed, when Putin would die, whether the tsar had health problems that would allow to hope for his death. Trionan workers were standing in the line. I asked them when one could hope for the restoration of the Internet and the TV signal, and they replied that soon it would happen, the work was underway. Near the queue there was a man with a dog waiting for his wife, who was standing in the line. The dog was not purebred, but cute and long-eared. Its snout resembled that of a Welsh Corgi, but judging by its size it was similar to an Estonian hound. It was nervous because of explosions and constantly dragged the owner somewhere. During the time spent in the line, the dog managed to bark at several acquaintances of its owner, get into a fight and get rebuffed by a street dog that did not have an owner, finally tried to take a piss on a drunkard who asked his owner where he had bought bread.

Next to me there was an elderly woman, of retirement age, she complained about the war, she lived with her mother in her apartment who was aging 90 and was not mobile. She complained about the war, but said that those on the top could not reach an agreement while the people were suffering. She spoke Russian. These conversations enraged me, I noticed unwittingly that they had invaded us and we were fighting back. She answered that it did not make it easier. I asked if a rape victim walking down the street well dressed and having a beautiful appearance was guilty of the crime. At this time I got a call from Poland, the editor of the Greater Poland Television service wanted to arrange an interview, I asked her to call again, because it was not convenient to talk in the queue. The woman in front expressed surprise that I managed to respond in Polish fluently. I was asked where I studied Polish and why did I not stay in Poland. At that moment we were let into the store.

I took a tenderloin of pork, bockwurst, a few sticks of smoked sausage and something else. From Saltivsky I went to ATB, because in the queue I heard that there was bread there. I bought a loaf or two of white bread and some green apples. I went home with a full bag, but not directly. I went in the direction of the Davtian church. Walking along the fence of school No. 47, I noticed that at the rear entrance a window was damaged, apparently from an explosive wave. Approaching the furniture store and the Rybny Myr store, I was stunned. The storefronts were totally destroyed in both shops. In two 11-storey buildings behind the shops a lot of windows were broken. I walked around the store taking pictures of the destruction and walked into the courtyard. There I was stunned. In both high-rises windows and balconies were destroyed, one could see the furnishing of the apartments where the chandeliers burned and the furniture was broken. Between the houses there were fragments of trees, burned cars, it seemed to be three or four of those. On the opposite side, there was a kindergarten consisting of several buildings which had broken windows and were covered with grime. I took pictures of everything. Next to the building I saw Sliunin, a worker of Trionan, he observed the damages to telecommunications cables and transmitted this information by phone.

The first 11-storey building had no signs of life, a resident came to the second one. The 89th lyceum where I studied had a lot of broken windows, in the gym, new metal-plastic windows either fell out or were broken. Once I passed the lyceum, I hid the camera. My fingers were frozen. When I was near school No. 51, two women addressed me, they were looking for a house near the garages. I told them where the garages were, a pensioner in a jacket of the military colors appeared coming from the lyceum. He told the women where else there were garages.

When the man came to me, I asked him when the high-rise building in front of the lyceum had been bombarded. He replied that it had happened on March 6. There was a man walking by who said that he was a guard in the kindergarten. He was returning home when he saw a missile strike on the first high-rise from the Russian SU-25. It appeared that he had seen the plane too. The missile hit the technical floor. The fire and the blast wave swept from the top to the bottom of the whole house, partially covered the neighboring high-rise building and the kindergarten. He talked about fire brigade of 6 cars and about the wounded. His disabled father-in-law was killed, his wife was wounded with the glass shards, his 16-year-old daughter got a large shard of glass in her head. She was in neurosurgery. They removed the shard, the girl lost her eye, her brain was damaged, she was in a coma on artificial ventilation. Doctors said if she survived, although they were not sure about it, and if she would come out of a coma, due to brain damage, there was a high probability of her disability: “She would turn into a vegetable.”

I was listening to a stranger and was feeling awkward. Most of all I would not like him to ask me why I was not with the Armed Forces. I finally wished him to hold on. He went in the direction of the avenue, and I went home. Afterward I found out that the plane that had done so much damage in my neighborhood was shot down. His pilot, Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian Air Force Maxim Kryshtop, had been captured and then participated in a press conference in Kyiv.

I went out again to the Mak supermarket which is located in the cooperative part of my big house. There I bought eggs for 32 hryvnias for a dozen and a loaf. When I returned, Krzysztof Ratai from Poznan called me. I told him that I was fine but had no Internet because my provider had been bombed and that it was uncomfortable for me to talk. We agreed to talk in the afternoon.

At 4.30 p.m. I helped my mother to go down to the basement. I talked to friends on the phone, including Krzystof. The latter asked whether I needed medicines and food. Then I talked to Mykola Mykhailichenko and Maria Senych and went to bed.

March 9, 2022. I woke up because of the explosions. I wished the Russians that they would be impotent and that they would have perished by the evening. I had some tea. Around 7 a.m., I helped my mother to come up to the apartment.

Then I went to the Class, there were potatoes for 21 hryvnias. I did not like the price, so I went to Otakara Yarosha Street. There I found out that there Silpo Supermarket was open. I bought potatoes for 9.90 hryvnias, 6 kilograms. I returned home, met two acquaintances who were pensioners on the way. They asked whether the humanitarian aid was handed over at the House or Projects. I said that it was closed and noted that it was possible to buy cheap potatoes in Silpo. They thanked me and went there. I brought potatoes and said I would go looking for meat. In fact, I went to photograph the destruction of Unifekht and the windows blown out by an explosive wave in nearby buildings. Volunteers who had arrived by a car also did that. One of the volunteers had a helmet and armor on. Utility workers replaced the high-voltage line with broken garlands. While taking a picture of the bombed-out sports complex, I talked to a female volunteer. She said that her husband in the 80s was trained in fencing in the sports complex.

I finished to take photos and went down to Klochkivska Street. I went to the Rost supermarket, on the way I looked out for the places where they might be selling something. There was no trade. But I saw a frantic queue at the tobacco kiosk. Near Vostorg I saw two BTR-80 armored vehicles, they were driving with machine guns lifted up, holding the air perimeter. The armored vehicles stunned me at first. There were no flags on them, but there were also no Russian markings. I calmed down and moved on. At that moment, I received a call from IdeaBank bank where I had a deposit account. I was informed that the deposit was expiring, the money would be transferred to my card. I did not listen attentively to what the operator was saying because the quality was bad, and I wanted to go shopping.

In the Rost, I was already shopping carefully. In the supermarket, the price tags for goods were not true, the announcement was constantly played out that the administration was apologizing for the inconvenience and the employees had no time to change the price tags. There were a lot of rejections at the checkout. I bought 4 loaves of white bread, bought some firm Semerenka apples, that cost 20 hryvnias, a pack of green tea, bananas, dumplings with cheese, and crab sticks. I also bought a chicken. The store had very expensive chicken eggs, 47 hryvnias per dozen.  Instead, I bought 2 liters of Odessa tomato juice for 45.50 hryvnias. I have bought for a total of 800 hryvnias.

In front of me at the checkout there was an drunkard, he was glad to get two bottles of “Desna” brandy, he also took a jar of protein caviar, but he did not find bread. In the queue he was recommended to buy crispbreads, he asked me to watch his cart and ran to look for a crispbread. He returned in 20 minutes, I then moved from the cashier to self-service machines, to which I was invited by a cute black-haired cashier.

On my way home I began to eat the broad and to nibble at an apple. When I reached the Vostorg supermarket, I felt the need to visit the toilet. I saw the one just near Vostorg and ran to it in short runs. It was cozy in the toilet, there was no cashier and I went through the turnstile and retired to the booth. On the way out, I thought that the only useful thing that the mayor-thief Kernes did was public restrooms, although he could have built more of them.

I returned so that I could walk past the District Administration. Not reaching it, but already passing the Silpo store, I met an elderly white-headed pensioner. He asked where I was shopping and sighed when he heard that it was in the Rost, saying it was too far away for him. I offered him a loath of broad which I was ready to give free of charge, but he flatly refused to take it for nothing. I found a receipt. I estimated that the loaf cost 14 hryvnias. The man searched in his pocket where he had petty cash. A knife handle was sticking out of there. I was surprised to see it and asked why he had a knife. He said that yesterday he was beaten off by alcoholics and robbed. I once again offered him a loaf as a gift, he totally refused and gave me a coin of 10 hryvnias and two two-hryvnia bills. At that moment, I saw that two women came out of Silpo. I asked them if the store was open, they answered affirmatively and the grandpa went there.

I went home. At the House of Projects, I made a number of photos with dislodged window panes. Unexpectedly I witnessed a jeep with fully equipped Ukrainian troops overtook and blocked the path of the car on the street. The soldiers jumped out of the jeep, searched the car and questioned its owner, at the same time they began to stop the cars of a certain model, which were checked quite carefully.

I watched it for five minutes and then left. While walking I neared a guy of a hooligan type, he was watching me looking at the work of the military, and cheerfully asked me in Russian: “What’s going on, are they bullying someone?” I sharply replied that hooligans were bullied, and the military were working. Near Otakara Yarosha Street I met a guy carrying a heavy bag and three bottles of bottled water. I had one hand free so I offered to help the guy. I actually helped them to carry the burden for two trolleybus stops, the guy was bringing water and food to his mother. His parents were living in the 2nd entrance of my house. Along the way, the guy said that he was from Zhukovsky District and that it was bad there, the Russians were constantly shelling civilian houses and the Aviation University. I brought two bottles of water for the guy to the entrance and went home.

I was tired. At half past five, I helped my mother to get down. In the night I talked with Mykola Mykhailychenko. Starting from 6:15 p.m., I was watching out of the window a certain constant glow, like dawn. It lasted till 11:30 p.m., then I went to sleep. On the afternoon of March 9, the heating was restored and the internet started to function. In the evening I uploaded all the photos that I had taken by that time. At the same time, I photographed the glow from a fire that was one moment decreasing, the next moment increasing. From the first day I photographed the smoke and the places that were bombarded, if I saw them out of the window, and uploaded the photos online with a delay of a day or two. A TV was working. It upset me. I realized that despite the huge losses, the war continued, the Muscovites were coming, Putin was alive and no one obviously planned to kill him. It became clear to me that the war would not end quickly and now everything depended on the victory of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

March 10, 2022. Most of the day I sat at home, it snowed and there was a small hurdle, the temperature dropped significantly during the day down to -5. At night it was down to -20. In the morning, I traditionally met my mother and helped her to come up.

At around 3.00 p.m. I went out and made a photo of the kiosk on Tobolska Street, where on March 9, they had broken window to get cigarettes from the kiosk. The TV was working, the Internet was gone again. I went out and found out that IdeaBank was closed. In the evening I accompanied my mother to the basement where she slept. I returned. Around 9.00 p.m. I felt ill, my throat started to hurt and the temperature rose.

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko

Photo Vladyslav Yatsenko


11 to 19 March 2022. I was ill. I had a high temperature of up to 39.7. My throat hurt a lot, I had a cough and a runny nose, my nose hurt. I was in a bad mood in the first days of illness. I did not expect to get sick during the war, to say the least, it dashed my hopes of joining the Territorial Defense. I felt like I failed to contribute to the joint case. I had no voice. I called friends, asked them to go into my email account, giving them passwords, to go into my account on FB. I asked to write to historians on my behalf, whom I asked for news digests for the channel from Poland, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic.

I slept most of the time. The news did not please me, I was convinced that the war would last for a long time. I was enraged because of Zelensky and his entourage, it constantly revolved in my head that he was personally responsible for the failures of the military supply and weapons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2019-2021. At the same time, it was not clear what to do next, how to earn money. My services for the students’ preparation of the State Final Examination (DPA) and the External Independent Assessment (ZNO) were not needed. To find a job in the higher education institution was a problem even before the invasion, and now it seemed to me hopeless. It seemed problematic to me to stay in my specialty, and becoming a laborer or a salesman did not seem real and never attracted me.  I could not read first because of weakness, and then I did not want to. During the illness, the only thing that remained unchanged was that I wished Putin, his supporters and the Muscovites who shelled us dead.

I felt better sometime on March 16, the temperature returned to normal on March 17. My mother fell ill on March 15. She had a fever, but not higher than 38, and a sore throat.

I went out for the first time on March 19. I received a call from a master whom I had given winter boots on February 24 to apply a patch. I picked up the boots, then I dropped into the Class where I bought potatoes and 2 kilos of pork tenderloin. The tenderloin was not expensive, it cost 164 hryvnias.

On March 19, the snow began to melt. It finally melted in the yard on March 26. Since March 21, the temperature was above zero. The snow fell several more times, but melted at once. On March 21, I went shopping to the Silpo supermarket on Otakara Yarosha Street. The biggest impression there were loaves distributed as the humanitarian aid at the entrance. That day, I bought a non-salty underbelly in the Silpo and took three loaves from the humanitarian aid. They were put into a cart, without retractable panels, for transportation of the bread which was wrapped with tape. I began to eat one of the loaves in the Silpo, ate a half of it and finished it on my way home.

At the end of March it became warm, but from time to time there were cold days. The weather was the same in early April. In Sarzhyn Yar there were first joggers. Physically developed men started coming to the sports grounds to do pull-ups and push-ups. The latter caused me irritation. These overstuffed muscle-heads pumped iron, and at the block posts of the territorial defense there were either gray-haired workers or thin guys. Among the muscular enthusiasts, there were many military retirees, they easily lifted a 100 kilogram crossbar a dozen times, but had obviously no desire to stand up for their Motherland. Looking at them, I recalled the words of the Ambassador of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Kazimir Bienevsky to the Cossacks at the council near Hadiach: “Do not be bastards”. I shared my thoughts with my colleague Mykola Mykhailychenko on the phone, to which he sarcastically noted that people did not take care of their strong beautiful bodies in order to put them under the bullets.

Already in 2014, the sports crowd behaved not too patriotically, there were a lot of Putinophiles, the followers of Putin, among them. Now it diminished significantly, because many of them had scurried to Europe, notwithstanding their self-declared sympathy to Russia. Those who remained in the intervals between sets now tended to talk not about politics, but rather what was the difference between the Talmud and the Bible. There appeared pensioners and extravagant female residents aging over 40 who began sunbathing. Tennis tables were occupied by ping pong enthusiasts.

A few things happened to me in April.

On March 29, the heating suddenly disappeared, since then it did not recover. About 11.00 a.m. on that day I heard the explosions. They were accompanied with a crackle, even windows and doors in the apartment were cracking. From my friend, Vlad Turenko, whom I met in Sarzhyn Yar on April 1, I learned that the building 400 meters from us, where he lived, was bombarded and a gas pipeline was broken. He said something else, I listened and decided to check that the next day.

On the morning of April 2, I went to buy a laundry detergent and visited the place that had been hit of which Turenko was talking about. I made a photo of the façade of the 9-storey building damaged by shelling. And that I went to look at the church built by Davtian. Its stained glass windows were broken, under the dome there was an opening where the missile hit. Gilding was peeling off the dome. From the intersection with the turn to Oleksiivka the beaten jeep was removed. I did not take a picture of the church as there was a guard standing there. Behind it was a long 5-storey building. All its windows were broken, some plastic window panes were damaged by an explosive wave, mosquito nets, pillows, towels, soft toys, window jamb were strewn on the ground. I walked along it in the direction of school No. 47. I was surprised to see that the house was not damaged, there were no traces of shelling either. There was a forest on the other side of the road and I noticed that there were trees with broken tops. I reached about half of the house. Suddenly, there was a loud droning in the air, as if a truck was moving at high speed, followed by a whistle and a loud explosion. I ran like Hussein Bolt, thinking that they were shelling the building that I just had photographed. I ran to the high-rises attacked on March 6 to hide there. In the air, it whistled and exploded, I kept my mouth open so as not to get a concussion of ears. When I nearly reached the end of the five-story building and the shops with a ghost of a high-rise were already visible in front of me, I saw the shelling. The missile landed at the foot of a battered pet feed shop. I saw a flash and a cloud of dust and debris spun from the flash into the direction of the roadway. I cried out loud to myself: “Turn around! The other way! Go!” I made a small loop and ran to the other side of the 5-storey building, keeping my mouth open. When I reached the beginning of the house, something seemed to have burst in the right side of my leg like a rubber band. Behind my back, the explosions were moving away. In front of me, three men ran around the corner of the building. I did the same. On the other side of the building, people were hiding under the balcony, someone ran to the entrance of the house opposite. I started to walk briskly. I reached Nauky Avenue. On the right hand side there walked three men aging forty, a fat one was coughing, coughing turned to dry heaves. I saw two people climbing from under the balcony of the first floor of the 9-storey building. I began to cough and coughed steadily for about 150 meters. Then I stopped, the cough was choking me, the nose was running. As soon as I cleared the throat, I moved forward. Suddenly there appeared a car in front of me as if from nowhere, turning to the courtyard. I did not hear it because of my own cough. I went to the Class then to the Eva store on Otakara Yarosha Street, because the detergent was cheaper in the Eva. I bought 9 kg of Ariel powder for 516 hryvnias. In the Class that package was 50 hryvnias more expensive. I walked back and coughed, when I stopped, my nose was running. When I brought the powder home, I went to buy something to relieve the excitement. On the stairs, I called my pal Mykola Mykhailichenko and hiccuping told him that I was under fire. He was amazed, especially when he heard that I saw an explosion 20 or 15 meters away. “Dude, rockets whistled over your head,” – said he. Paraphrasing Ms. Beladonna from a cartoon about Funtik the piglet, I replied laughingly: “Were that not boots whistling over your head?” To which my Sumy colleague congratulated me that I now was a real military historian. During the day, I was amazed that I did not see a trace in the sky from the arrival of the MLRS charge. This thought worried me: I did not see a trace, so I could not visually determine where it had flown.

The second time it happened to me on May 3, 2022. I went to ATB on Derevyanko, hoping to buy an Easter cake, because there were half a kilogram cakes at 54.50 hryvnias. They were delicious, with a crispy crust. I talked to Anna Aleksienko on the way. She said that missiles landed in her courtyard and recalled the shelling in February and early March, when she was in Akhtyrka with her recently operated father.

Not reaching the store I sat on a bench in the courtyards between high-rising buildings built of white bricks. Anya talked about shelling, she lived on Traktorobudivnykiv Street and we argued what type of MLRS hit the buildings there. I felt an increased movement in the air, there was nothing in the sky, I quickly interrupted the conversation, got up from the bench and went forward where several chestnut trees grew. I heard the whistling of the shells, stood behind the chestnut, explosions began to sound. I stood behind a tree and counted. I saw a man running and hiding in an arch, saw pensioners, two women and a man briskly like hares running behind the corner of the building and hiding behind a brick wall. I was staying behind a chestnut tree, the sound of explosions was growing, there was not a single trench or pit where you could hide. When the explosions subsided, I went to the arch. A man hiding there said that he was from Ruska Lozova, at home he would ran to the cellar, and in the city there was nowhere to hide. He said that he worked in the Chudo-Market, from there he went to the subway. I asked whether knew the way, the man answered in the affirmative. I called Ann said that I was fine, she advised me to go home, I wished her a good day and hanged up. A female pensioner walked down the street and shouted excitedly that Sarzhyn Yar was on fire. I immediately went down to the cable way. There were smokes in the distance in Central Park and to the right of it. I took a few photos. There was another man who also took pictures, but on a smartphone. A third man said there was shelling at night. The second said that it was on Yesenina and gave the details where exactly. I went to check it and really found one missile hit between two Khrushchev-era apartment blocks. It burst between the asphalt and the curb, the buildings were not damaged. The next day I found the trace of the shell in Sarzhyn Yar on a pedestrian road. Another one was on the driveway, as evidenced by a new high-quality patch on the roadway.

In early April, trenches appeared on the lawns, the fighters of the Territorial Defense dug them, the trenches were not deep, up to half the human height. They were intended as a hiding place in the time of shelling by Russian MLRS.

On April 1, 2022 I had one specific story. In the evening I went out to get some water. It was at 4.00 p.m. On Yesenina, behind the Repin school, I saw an elderly pensioner sitting next to a tree. A wheelbarrow with water was staying on the road. When asked what happened to him the old man said he was tired. Two young women came to see and asked if they should call an ambulance, whether grandpa had a medicine. He refused from calling an ambulance, I suggested to help him with a wheelbarrow. He thanked me, a bottle of water fell out of the bag fixed to the wheelbarrow, I stuffed it into the bag. The bottles were crumpled. The old man was very neglected, his clothes and shoes needed washing. I rolled the wheelbarrow up for a hundred meters. Behind the premises of the former pharmacy the old man asked to stop, thanked me and said that he from now on he would manage on his own.

I went to the spring, filled bottles with water, and when I returned I saw that the old man had reached only school No. 47. I went on helping him again. The old man did not want to tell me where he lived. I walked 100 meters before him and waited for him to come up to me. When we reached 23 Serpnia Street, I helped him to cross the road. He tried to give me a hundred hryvnias, I did not take them and put the money into his inner pocket of the coat with the words that I am not a Muscovite. I accompanied the old man with a wheelbarrow to the courtyard, he sat on a bench in front of the kindergarten.

On the way, I asked where his grandchildren were and why they did not cared for him, he said in despair that he had been abandoned and began to complain. I asked the number of the house where he lives to take him to the entrance with the wheelbarrow. He told it was house 52a. I went to see where the house was and did not find it. I asked an elderly fat and bald man, who was fiddling near the car, about the house with this number. He answered me in a rude form that the building with an even number was on the other side of 23 Serpnia Street. Of course, I was angry, but I decided not to get into a quarrel. When I returned, the old man was napping. When I said that there was no house number 52 there, he thanked me, saying that he would come there by himself. I thought he was afraid of me. The curfew at 6 p.m. was approaching, so I wished him a good evening and went home.

Starting from April 11, the number of the Territorial Defense fighters staying at the crossroads was significantly decreasing. That day I heard a frantic whistle from shells coming. Before and after that, there were no so loud days. The whistle was long, so I feared it was barrel artillery, not just MLRS.

The most intensive shelling was on Good Monday, April 18. At her mother’s request, I was laying next to her. The intensity of the explosions and their volume frankly frightened me. However, I quickly noticed that I heard the vibration of the walls and bed when the shells came and then only then explosions. The difference between the arrival and the explosion was 2-3 seconds. Remembering that the speed of sound was 300 m per second, I calculated that it arrived somewhere 600-900 meters away, after that I immediately fell asleep.

Before Easter, pharmacies began to open in the city and street trade began. Buses also arrived in places where there was movement of people, for example, near the Nova Poshta branch and unloaded electronic scales, bags of potatoes, which were clean and of better quality than those from the supermarkets and were sold at 17 hryvnias per kilo, white cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, and salted cucumbers cost 50 hryvnias per kilo. There were also salted or pickled tomatoes, fresh carrots and beets.

At the end of April, I noticed that the fighters had changed the color scheme of the duct tape wound over the arm: the green replaced the blue one.



  • by Vladyslav Yatsenko

    PhD in Military History, M. S. Grushevsky Institute for the Study of Ukrainian Written Sources, The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Kharkov National University.

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