Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Anna Mykhailivna Firtsak
age: 67
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Chermalyk
Chermalyk
"The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly"

It all started in 2014 - 2015. Their house was shelled many times. The woman would have been dead if it wasn't for the cow – it didn't want to drink water and saved the woman's life with her stubbornness. She remained indoors and escaped injury.

They say you can get used to war. How will you get used to it?

I live in Chermalyk. Before the war, everything was fine. We had work.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

When the war started, everything changed drastically. First, it was terrifying. Second, we had to pull things together. We had no job.  It was hard. I have three children. There's no work, nothing. Everyone went somewhere. I was left alone with my granddaughter.

To survive, I found no other way out but to keep cows. The pension is small, although I have 34 years of experience. I receive 1600 UAH. What can you buy with that little money? Light, gas is expensive. This is not enough for rent. What should live on? 

Gas is so expensive… When winter comes, we literally freeze up. You can't keep warm. We laid gas pipes, and we were glad that we would stop messing with this coal and firewood. We threw out our stoves. Who would have thought that we would need the stoves because of the war? So, you begin to freeze. 

"My son told, "Mother, is this war?"

Life is scary, everyone is nervous. When they start bombing, it is so horrible. Sometimes there was no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing for three or four days.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

You can't go to the cemetery to see your family. They don't let you in because the cemetery  is located on the line of demarcation. The party is the other side of the river. The other party is on this side of the river,. And the cemetery is on the bank. When someone dies, you need to have permission to allow the person to be buried.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

How did we know it was war? My son and I were piling hay. And he said, "Mother, the earth is rattling." I said, "It's like gunshots." And he said, "Mom, they are shooting." He was a military man. "It is something heavy" he said.

It happened in the evening. When the sun went down, then we gathered hay. It was lucerne plants, so we did not want the leaves to fall off. We were busy till the evening. "My son told, "Mother, is this war?"

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

I got immediately afraid, but somehow I didn't want to believe it. We thought there might be an earthquake or something… And then...Oh, No. We heard those were the explosions. Then armoured vehicles drove into the village. Soldiers come in five at a time and check the houses. Maybe someone was hiding here. They looked in the basements. Well, that's how we knew it was war.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

Granddaughter screamed, "Grandma, pray"

We hid in basements. Three shells fell in our garden. Two exploded, one didn't. I called the emergency service. They estimated the damage and danger. One of them came with a mine detector. So the third shell was not found.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

They told me, "Don't walk around the garden with your phone on. It can detonate, and this projectile can explode." It was 2014.

But how can I not go to the garden? I have to cultivate the garden, I live from it. Every time I go there, I get scared. Sometimes I forget it in my dressing gown. You never know who will call you.  So I walk around with my phone on when I forget. Maybe this projectile fell somewhere near the wall. Because there were splinters everywhere.Everything is broken. There is a wooden extension at the neighbors's house. Fragments flew there and you can see how scratched the wood is. Maybe it fell down there somewhere. 

The neighbor's windows flew out because of the two shell that fell. We had a metal summer barn for cows.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

The iron was broken through. It wounded the cow. There was a pig in the summer -and the wool was all burned.

I thought my eardrums would burst when I was hit. The son was in the garage. He went out and shouted, "Mother, are you alive?" It was so horrible.

Shells are flying through our house to the other side of the river. When they begin to whistle, we lie down on the floor. It was terrible to witness something like this. My granddaughter was so afraid! She got hold on to me. What was I supposed to do with the baby? I'm afraid myself.  It's scary, but I have to hold on, because it's a baby. That's how the war started. 

They hit the village, the houses. They hit the warehouse where the ammunition was kept. It started exploding at two-thirty in the morning and ended at five-thirty. The river is very far from us. But it seemed to my granddaughter and me that it was flowing outside our window – there was such a noise from these explosions.

We thought it was accidental engagement. Granddaughter screamed, "Grandma, pray!" We prayed with her all night. We prayed so long that my tongue became numb. It did not last for 10 or 15 minutes. It finished at 06:30 in the morning.

We went to bed dressed out. We went to bed like astronauts, with our staff, documents with us. What if something happens? Where should we run? How do you know where it is coming from? It happened at night. Where would you run? They huddled in a corner and sat.

Then it subsided a little. The telephone was not cut off, for some reason. And my neighbors called me from third street, "Are you alive there?"

"It's a good thing I stayed under the roof because of the cow"

One day I went to water my cow. I gave her a bucket. And she did not want to drink. I said, " Why are you taking so long?" However, it was a good thing that she didn't drink water. I stayed under the roof. The old bathroom was in the courtyard, and I draw water from there and brought it.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

The cow didn't want to drink, so I stood there. And then I heard "pooh" and saw a flash. And then it started to fall, like a big hail when it rains, on the roof. And the roof was made of metal. It was so horrible! Then I heard an explosion. 

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

Something shot out and began to fall on the roof. We collected a huge pile of fragments later. The fragments would be all in me if I went out into the yard. So I stayed under the roof.

I think that maybe it was God. He protected me and ordered not to go out. If I went out, I don't know how many pieces would have hit me. It rained down like hail and rain on the roof. 

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

A man was killed that day. He went out for a smoke, just sat down, lit a cigarette, and  explosion went off. That was it.  They would take him to the hospital, but they couldn't help him. All the fragments were in him.

Why are we called separatists? I'm from Western Ukraine"

We lived well. We had such a rich village. We had vegetables, poultry farming, cattle, pigs. Now we have nothing. All the farms  have been destroyed. All young people went away. I'm 66 years old, where should I go?

But my whole life is like this. My father died at 43, my mother at 50. There were five of us. And our parents died. I studied in a boarding school.

It was so painful. I'm Ukrainian myself. "Why do they call separatists? I'm from Western Ukraine" We have a lot of Westerners here.

I had an older sister. God rest her soul! She moved here to milk cows. It was hard to live there in Zakarpattia. She got married here. I entered Krasnohorivka Technical School. She wanted to be a zoo technician. She had a good husband. So she convinced us to come here. You could get a house here. 

I thought that I would be happy in my old age. Who would have thought that war would come? The first time we encountered it was when shells fell in our garden. It was the year 2014-2015. When warehouses exploded, it was 2016. Well, when the man died, it was this year [2019], a month ago.  This is how we have lived since 2014. It was terrifying.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

Children who could support their parents have left. They need to provide for their families. There is no work here. How can people get money here? I used to have a family, and now there's no one around.

"Granddaughter rushed home, all shaky"

You don't know where to hide. They showed on TV how people wanted to hide in the basement but did not have time. They stayed in the house. Just when a shell hit the place right where they did not have time to reach. And I thought that they would see us in the house. Who' would dig you up in the basement? So we didn't go into the basement any more. Staying in the basement was scary. Everywhere was scary. 

When they start shooting, your heart starts pounding. So many sores come out. I have many diseases, but my heart troubles me the most. A person needs peace. My blood pressure rises when  granddaughter begins to cry. What should we do? God  is the salvation. That's all. 

Everyone is so scared, not just me. We are all like that here. Granddaughter has recently asked me in the evening: "Grandma, can I go for a walk?" She's already in Grade 9. Well, I allowed. They started shooting at that time. She rushed home, all shaky. I said, "Well, dhow was your walk?" I'm afraid to let her go. Now it seems to be quiet, but  you can get under fire in a second. 

How should I behave? You know how they say, my home is my fortress. I said, "Valya, let's hide in that corner." There we have a building so that it is dug into the ground by 80 centimeters. I said ,"Well, if anything happens, this is the most appropriate corner."

"You just have to exist. We didn't look back or were afraid any more.We didn't hide any more"

They say you can get used to war. How will you get used to it? 

A woman was recently injured here. She was walking in the yard when a fragment hit in the neck and collarbone. She was in intensive care. She said, "I was born in a shirt." Luckily, she is alive.  The other man was not that lucky. He went into the garden. He lived on the edge of the village, near the cemetery. And a fragment right in the heart  that there wasn't even a drop of blood. A man has fallen and he died.

The cow held me up. If I went out into the yard, all the shards would hit me directly

There are many people, wounded by fragments. they had their legs and hands crippled. Thank God, the hospital delivered proper treatment. They are still alive. 

Sometimes a shot goes off and cows fall.  The cattle are afraid, they lie down on the ground, they tremble when they hear the shooting sound.  They are even more sensitive than humans. If they lied down, they jump up immediately. This is terrible, this constant  fear. We have lived like this for past five years. If it wasn't for the chores, I would go crazy. 

I dream that the war will end. Nothing else. If the war ends, everything will be fine.  Every citizen dreams of peace in the world. When there was peace, no matter how hard it was, you could go earn money, you felt calm, you just lived. We didn't look back or were afraid any more.We didn't hide any more. It means a lot.

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