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I was walking the dog in the morning and thought I saw gas tanks on the road, but then realized they were bombs

Svetlana, head accountant
I was getting ready for work in the early morning of the 24th, when I got a text: no public transportation. We are close to Belarus, and we were among the first hits.

Air raids started immediately; there were lines at the grocery stores, then waters shortage began, and electricity was cut off. My father uses crutches to walk, and my mom has a cane.

In the first few days I stood in line at the pharmacy and managed to buy some blood pressure medications for my parents. And then I got a phone call from Hesed: I biked there (the only way to get there), and they gave me medications and adult diapers, everything.

They did not spare bombs for our block

We still had some grains, onions, and apples: everything was stored outside of the window, since the fridge wasn’t working at that point. I was buying frozen sprats, thaved and fried them in flour. It’s passable: especially when you are nervous, you don’t really want to eat. There were no eggs at all, and we occasionally baked some bread. It worked out: we survived; potatoes are always at hand, you can make 20 dishes from it.

It was good that we still had gas. We turned on the burners and the space was heated. We would boil the water, pour it into plastic bottles and take it to bed with us. We put on two pairs of socks, swedpants - and still woke up from the cold.

Ruins of a building 50 meters from the respondent's house

Photo courtesy of Svetlana
There were explosions and shelling during the day, and at night Russian planes used to drop heavy bombs at random places, but at about the same time every night: at 11 pm and at 4 am. We lived in a residential neighborhood in the downtown, in a one story building with six apartments, but they didn’t spare bombs for our block.

We had a good greenhouse in the garden, where we used to grow cucumbers and tomatoes for the kids. It’s completely destroyed. The glass cracked and kept falling out until the morning . The stumps of old trees look like they were cut down with a knife. It’s terrifying. I had to change gloves three times before I gathered all the glass shards. And then I still found shards in the garden; they were small, but heavy.

I lived in apartment #6, and there was an elderly couple in apartment #1. They had adult children, and these elderly folks went there to feed the dogs that their kids were breeding.

Once this old gentleman went to feed the dogs with his son’s friend and a 16-year old boy, and that was when the shelling started. The old man and the teenager were killed on the spot, and the man got a stomach wound and lost his leg. He was taken to the hospital, and we had to rummage through our first aid supplies, trying to find anything, even nasal drops. He had a head wound as well, and there was fluid collecting in the nasal cavity, so they were worried about possible brain swelling.

They were buried in a small forest in downtown, just in black bags

Our neighbors who live about 100 yards away were impacted. Their house, outbuilding and temporary shed were all burned down by airstrikes. I was walking the dog in the morning - at first I didn’t realize that it was lying on the road. It looks like gas tanks, but it turns out they are bombs. And another house was hit 150 yards further away. The blast wave blew out the front door with the frame, and all the windows in the hallway and the entryway.

The city hall, kindergartens, school, a dental office and a children’s clinic were bombed. Actually, they were bombing, not shelling . Even our cemetery Yatzevo was bombed - the graves of the soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, monuments to ATO (Counter terrorist operation) soldiers, and the little chapel were hit the hardest.

On Purim we went to the synagogue and bought flour. My friend’s husband baked the bread himself; I had some onion, and we made a cabbage salad, so we managed to celebrate. Our gathering was quiet, not like a typical Purim, at 6 pm there is a curfew, we had to go back home, turn everything off, complete blackout. That was our daily routine: go to bed at 6 pm and get up at 3 am, because the plane would arrive shortly.

Next to us is the Gagarin stadium - three huge aerial bombs were dropped there - I was jumping on the sofa from each blow, the ground was shaking. Once I went to visit my parents, and the shelling started, so I fell to the ground and waited for it to end.

My friend was standing in line for bread (that would take up to four hours) and said that there were two strikes and she hid in the yard. And then there were more strikes, but some people were still standing in the queue. When she stepped out of the yard, she saw 14 black bags
In Chernigov 700 citizens died. My friend was standing in line for bread (that would take up to four hours) and said that there were two strikes and she hid in the yard. And then there were more strikes, but some people were still standing in the queue. When she stepped out of the yard, she saw 14 black bags. But, since the cemetery was already closed, they were buried in a small forest in there were no coffins, nothing. Just in black bags. A terrible sighte.

We understand that Russians have not been our brothers for a long time

Chernigov is a fairly intelligent city; doctors, teachers and military personnel settled hier. Our family spoke Russian, and we learned Ukrainian from the fifth grade. In the 1970-s the apartments in my parents’ building were given to healthcare and educational workers. My ex-husband actually lives in Moscow, and now he came to visit the child and ended up under “his own” bombs. His parents live in Novy Belous - this village was almost completely destroyed , the bridge was brocken. My poor ex was so scared that he fled through Repky, which is 40 km from Chernigov. He had to circle around through some fields, because civilian cars were targeted. It was like in a safari.

A judge I knew and her 12-year old son wanted to leave in their car. She never made it out. We saw condolences from her colleagues on Facebook. They said she died attempting to leave the city. Therefore, we understand that Russians have not been our brothers for a long time.

Although nobody expected this. Many years ago I was on vacation in Sevastopol and saw some Russian channel on the TV. I was shocked. An economic crisis is looming in Ukraine, famine is beginning , and people are almost eating their children. I immediately turned off this nonsense , but Russians have been listening to this for years.

Girls from 3 to 10 years old with torn genitals were brought to hospitals - only three survived, the rest died from internal bleeding
Our neighbor from apartment #2 told me that she has relatives in Poland; they work in a hospital there. So, girls from 3 to 10 years old with torn genitals were brought to hospitals - only three survived, the rest died from internal bleeding. They were all from Yagodnoe: it’s a village close to Chernigov were Russians have been stationed there since March 3rd. There were tanks hiding between the houses, right along the walls. They robbed and raped. There were soldiers from Buryatiya. Their names were identified; I saw the photos later…

They stole electric kettles and slippers. People’s lives were taken for such trifles. Many of the residents of our building have parents who live in the surrounding villages. They were saying that the soldiers took everything from the summer cottages, even though there was nothing special to take there. Our neighbor Natasha received a call saying that people broke into her place, ate all her food, and took out her bed linen and panties. As well as the shoes and the microwave.

We accidentally found out about the evacuation buses arranged through the synagogue

The only source of information was the radio - my neighbor connected it to me through a mobile phone, and attached a wire in it. We charged the phones from our neighbors’ solar panels. But there was basically no reception, only live communication. I would go out, chat with the neighbors and looked at which side the black smoke was coming from. And run back home.

All the bridges were blown up, and there was no connection with the outside world. We didn’t even know that the evacuation buses were leaving from the synagogue. And then word of mouth reported that everyone had already left, only the husband of some employee remained, who sometimes works at the synagogue.

Later, when the Ukrainian army recaptured some area, the pontoon bridge was restored and buses started leaving again. My friend and I found out about this by accident. She has a school-age kid, and on April 20th, we walked to the synagogue, and so the three of us left. We drove through the outskirt across the Snov river, through Oster – we saw burnt abandoned equipment along the road, charred limbs – no one was cleaning them up. The village burned down; the survivors fled, and everything just stayed like that. There were burned out houses on both sides of the road: a store, a bank office, gas stations, everything burned down. Usually it would take 1.5 hours to get to Kyiv, but this time it took 4.5 hours, and it was all through the fields and back roads.

In Kyiv we waited a week for an evacuation bus from the synagogue in Podol to Hungary – where my daughter and grandson live. Already in Budapest, I contacted the Israeli embassy, passed consulare check, and on May 10th the Jewish Agency put us on a flight. My first impression was: these are my people. We were met by a group of soldiers at the Ben-Gurion airport. Their badges read: Sergei, Anton, Roman, Dmitriy…

The testimony was chronicled on May 17, 2022

Translation: Dr. Mariya Gyendina