One gun against a pack of invaders: Olena Kratkovska on her father’s death
I am Olena Kratkovska. My father is Leonid Khyschenko. He was shot in the village of Yahidne, Chernihiv Region.
On 3 March 2022, when the military came in — Tuvans, Buryats, Russians — my father went with a gun to defend his home. He did not return. On 4 March, my grandmother jumped out of a burning house, which was hit by a shell. Then the Russians, who came to the village of Yahidne, herded everyone into one room. To the school basement. There were no conditions for life.
Have you witnessed torture, ill-treatment, and abuse of people?
I was not a witness because I was not in Ukraine then. I didn't have time to get there. However, I am a witness to the house burned down. There is nothing left. Russians, Tuvans, or Buryats stole everything in the house and outside. They took my father's life.
Tell me about your father, please.
My father was a worthy man. Fifteen years ago, he laid down his arms. He was a policeman [detective officer]. Then he retired from service. In retirement, he worked in the city of Chernihiv as the Eldorado store's head of the security department. Then it so happened that he lived in the village of Yahidne. It was because my grandmother could hardly walk.
How did the Russians find your father?
They didn’t find him; he went to defend his village, his home.
Tell me, please, how did he die?
He had five shots through the chest. So when the volunteers were burying my father, they said he was probably retreating because all the shots were in the chest.
So he went alone against a pack of invaders?
Yes, he went alone.
He entered the house and said to the grandmother: “Look, something is already burning in the garden.” There was an armored personnel carrier or something else. They came in from the third street and the fourth near the school toward the village of Zolotinka, which is nearby. Through the forest, you can reach Yahidne. As far as I know, they thought Yahidne had some military units. The village was marked on their map, but no military was ever there. There was agriculture only. They grew apples when I was little. It is not a village but a suburb where people live. They never needed anything. They worked in the city, and they worked in the countryside.
Your father died heroically defending our land. Perhaps you know how it happened?
Yes, I believe that he died as a hero. Because he didn't hide in the basement, he took his gun and went. The weapon with which he went hunting. He went against tanks, against machine guns. Therefore, of course, he is a hero. But why he went, I still do not understand. He was shot dead on the seventh day of the war. And before that, he said only one thing for seven days: “I ask you to be together.” He wanted me to be with my mother, sister, and her son, my nephew. It so happened that I was in France. And my relatives were in Chernihiv. And we met on 2 March in Poland.
I flew to Poland, and my father kept telling me: “You must bring your family; you must take them!” It felt like he was ready for something. Some conversations were interrupted continuously when I called him. Maybe he made plans with someone, maybe not. Finally, he said: “If ‘the Russian world’ [the concept of social totality associated with Russian culture] comes here, if they break into houses, I won let them in. I will shoot and kill at least one”. And so it happened. Killed one and wounded another. And the third, as I understand it, killed my father. Grandma said she heard somewhere that there were three of them.