‘Couple of men were sitting drinking tea in the kitchenette. A shell fell there and they were just torn apart’
I live in Krasnopillia village, Slovianskiy district, Donetsk Region. I worked as a tractor driver on a collective farm. I ploughed the fields. I lived on my own, my wife died, I have no children. My sister lives in Shakhtarsk (small town in Donetsk region). I have two nephews, they work at the mine. My sister is a kindergarten teacher. But she is already retired. I worked well, I planted a garden. Everything was fine.
Then in 2014 the pro-Russian separatists came. The war started, it was hard in our village... They burned military equipment, I mean Ukrainian equipment. Then they moved to Sloviansk and fought there. And I lived 25 kilometres away from Sloviansk. Then Ukrainian troops came, kicked them (Russians) out — back to Donetsk, to the “DPR” (so-called “Donetsk People´s Republic”). There was a war there. In our village, along the Kharkiv-Rostov highway, I saw military vehicles drove there to the war.
How did you find out that the Russian troops had launched a full-scale aggression? How was it in Krasnopillia?
I was at home, then a young woman came in. She said “Russians have brought military equipment to the Ukrainian border — there will be war”. And then it started: Izium, Dovhenke village in Kharkiv region... And I lived there — on the border of Donetsk and Kharkiv regions. Shootings started, I heard guns and shells all the time.
There were so many explosions everywhere: on our field, on the plantings, in the vegetable gardens, in the cemetery. Window glasses flew out in a shop. And then war planes came. And there were shooting from cannons, all the time... It started in the morning and until the evening.
And at four o’clock in the morning, a Russian war plane appeared. And started to bomb. It bombed the village and the granary — the one where our grain was stored.
Later then I was sitting on a bench, in the courtyard. A plane came up. It flew straight over my house. I was scared. I turned around, and there, in that direction, we had a forestry. And a bomb hit there, right in the forestry building. The building flew apart. I got scared and moved straight to the basement to hide. I was frightened. I had never seen buildings crashing down and flying apart just like that. It was a terrible sight. And every morning a plane came and bombed the village. Roofs and fences in people´s houses were just torn off.
I sat in the cellar, my neighbours brought me food and cigarettes. I have no legs — the neighbours helped me. They said “Uncle Kolya, come out of the cellar”. And I refused — I was afraid and didn’t want to come out. I did not want to die — it was scary. There was no light, we were without electricity. There was no bread, volunteers brought us bread. Then some people came from a church, they took us and transferred to Sloviansk.
Have you witnessed the criminal actions of the Russian army against civilians?
There were two villages there: Krasnopillia and, twenty-five metres higher, Dolyna. The houses there were on fire. They were destroyed, the roofs were blown off. On Shevchenko Street, where I lived, there was a two-storey house. And people who lived in that house were sitting in the cellar. The shell hit their yard. The ground floor was destroyed, their car was damaged...
There was also a village in Kharkiv region. I lived seven kilometres away from it. It is completely destroyed now, there is no village there at all, it was bombed. Couple of men were sitting drinking tea in their kitchenette. A shell fell there and they were just torn apart. The soldiers buried them right in the vegetable garden...
A school was shelled in our village... In Dolyna a two-storey house exploded — it was just bombed... Many houses were damaged by the war.
Perhaps you would like to say something to the Russians?
I would like to tell them to get off our land and go home! And never come back to us again. To our land, our Ukrainian land. In order we, our wives and our children can live our normal lives. So that we can work. I do not want to know Russians. They can just kill people, burn houses and launch rockets from their war planes.