‘A whole family died in a neighbouring house’ — resident of Sievierodonetsk
My name is Leshchuk Iryna Oleksiivna. I am from Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region.
What made you leave your hometown?
Sievierodonetsk was heavily shelled by “Grads” (multiple rocket launchers), so it was absolutely impossible to stay there any longer. I left the town at the beginning of April (2022) because a rocket hit my house. The rocket broke the wall on the first floor and a fire started. Now it is impossible to live in this house. Back then, we got used to the daily shelling and almost didn‘t react to it.
Have you witnessed the destruction of civilian infrastructure?
I lived on the fourth floor, and the rocket hit the first entrance to the house. And in the second entrance, the walls of the house were completely destroyed: a rocket hit a flat. It flew into the kitchen and came out through the bedroom.
Have any of your relatives or friends been injured?
There were no deaths in our house, but there was a fire and many flats were burnt down. And once there was such an explosion that asphalt just flew over a five-storey building. It happened at Maiakovskoho Street 25. In the neighbourhood where I lived, there was a sports ground, and further on — a house. I know that a family died in that house. They were in the house when the rocket hit it. It happened on Hvardiiska Street 18A or 18B.
This is what happened in Sievierodonetsk. There was a swimming pool “Sadko” near my house. In January (2022) it was opened after repairs, but on March 8 it was destroyed. In school No.13, where my son had studied, the windows were broken.
Our town was so beautiful but the Russians bombed it so hard that it is now almost completely destroyed. Before the war, a new district had been built in the town. Well, now it is completely destroyed too. It was bombed from the direction of Luhansk.
We haven’t had water in the town for probably two months. There was no electricity or gas either. I left the city when the rocket hit my house, I couldn’t live there anymore. My daughter-in-law lives in Kyiv, so she said: “Come to me, there’s enough place for you”. But other people who cannot or do not want to leave Sievierodonetsk are still living there in basements.
Was it possible to buy food?
There was a humanitarian aid centre. People used to go there to get humanitarian aid. But later the workers of that centre started bringing the aid directly to the basements where people were hiding. So that people would not be killed on streets.
Imagine: I was standing in a queue to buy at least some bread or other food, while they (Russian troops) were shooting. People were no longer afraid of the shooting; nobody even left the queue. They (Russian troops) shot whenever and wherever they wanted.
Did the Russians have any reason to “liberate” you?
That’s nonsense. We lived well. Who to liberate us from? Many residents of Sievierodonetsk speak Russian. We had no language problems. The region was revived, roads were built. And what will they (the Russians) bring us? Their swamps? You better live in a swamp than in Russia. We had everything before the war.
Do you communicate with your relatives in Russia?
Well, my brother from Russia tried to call me, but I didn’t answer. What should I tell him?
In 2014, he called me and asked: “What‘s going on in Ukraine?” I said: “We‘re at war”. He remained silent, but what else could I tell him? I can‘t change his mind anyway, because they (the Russians) won‘t believe us. For them, we’re “Banderas” (the Russians call Ukrainians or pro-Ukrainian people “Bandera(s)” because of the surname of the famous Ukrainian politician and activist Stepan Bandera).
Has your attitude towards the Russians changed?
Ukraine will still be Ukraine and will still exist but we will never again be brothers with the Russians. They are our enemies. Apparently, we should build a high wall to keep them out, because I don’t want see them in my country again. My hometown was so beautiful. And what have they done to it?