Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Larysa Mykolaivna Ryabtsova
age: 86
"A shell fell in the yard, I was hit against a tree by an explosive wave"

She loves Ukraine and has taught children all her life. I often get stuck with the problems of a migrant. She does not want to feel guilty for forcing herself to leave her home against her will, hiding from the shelling. She dreams to return to her native village of Shyrokyne.

And then suddenly on 4-5 September 2014, some terrible attacks happened. We stayed in the basement. There were ten of us. We all asked God, "Lord, please Lord, don't let anything bad happen to us". We prayed to God. Plastering fell down. The walls shook as if they were made of cardboard in the basement. The attacks were severe.

My father was the Headmaster of Shyrokyne School. Mother is a field brigade foreman. Like all rural children, we rode horses. My uncle taught me how to box. So I fought with boys. That was my life before. But it was very cheerful and happy.

In October of 1941, the Germans came to us. I was 7 years old. In 1943, two informers wrote that we were communists. My mother was beaten by the Germans. She died two weeks later. And my father died in Berlin in May of 1945. My brother and I were orphaned.

I got through orphanhood. I witnessed hunger the cold. I had a difficult childhood. However, I never gave up. I am a cheerful and energetic person. I studied in elementary school teachers’ training college and worked as a nanny at Zirka State Farm at nights.

Then I graduated from the College. I worked for two years in Anthracite and then returned home to Shyrokyne. I haven't left since. I got employed at Shyrokyne School in 1958. I was retired on 1 May 2015. Thus, I worked for 59 years. 

We started building a house in Shyrokyne. We built it for ten years. My husband was ill. He was injured in the mine. Now he is disabled. We lived on my teacher's salary. We lived normally. We were not rich, but we could not complain. We have a large vegetable garden, thirty-five acres, a gorgeous garden, a lot of fruit. We have raspberries and strawberries. We had everything we needed for life.

"We sat in the basement and asked God, "Lord, please, save us!"

And then suddenly on 4-5 September  2014, some terrible attacks happened. We stayed in the basement. There were ten of us. We all asked God, "Lord, please Lord, don't let anything bad happen to us". We prayed to God. Plastering fell down. The walls shook as if they were made of cardboard in the basement. The attacks were severe.

Then things settled down. Then Minsk Protocol was drafted, and we were so happy that it would all be over and the war would end.

We fled after these attacks to Siedove. We lived there for two weeks. We also lived in Berdianske for two weeks. It was impossible to live in Shyrokyne. The attacks were terrible.

Well, this was the "gray area". There were constant electricity and gas cuts. Food was not always delivered. However, the village pulled through somehow. People worked, the Village Council, hospital, school, post office functioned. However, we, as state employees, were not paid. We received the advance on 14 August, but we did not receive the salary. We worked because we had to work. Since we considered to be  "gray area", we have not been paid for six months.

"A woman says, "I'm going to make some tea" [during the attack]

The shooting was very frequent, especially at night. I took some pills and went to sleep on the kitchen floor My daughter didn't sleep at all. There was never a moment when shells did not fall. If not in the village, then somewhere beyond the village. 

We had a very good Chairman of the village Council —Oleksandr Mykolayovych Hlushchenko. He is an adorable man. He didn't leave us in the dark. He supported us all the time. He knew exactly when the attack would happen. He would warn us, "There will be an attack at two o'clock." But we didn't even think it would happen. One day when I was walking down the street, coming home from school. I hears sudden whistling sound. And explosions... I was so scared!

On the second day, my daughter and I were walking, so we ran under the fence, lay down there and lay while the shelling. It is very scary.

I have already experienced war in my life, and no one among the young people knew what it was. Once, when they were shooting, a young woman who was with us said, "I'm going to make some tea" " Where are you going? A fragment can hit you."  And she said, "Will they reach us here?" That's the impression people had.

I survived World War II. I saw how the Germans came to our village and how it was released. I have experienced everything for myself. However, I was never so terrified as I am now. Probably, there were no such weapons then as there are now. Grads begin to fall– it is so hard to breathe.

"We left the village on foot. I tied a white cloth to a stick"

It's scary when shards of glass whiz past you. When the shells exploded in the courtyard, I was thrown to the ground by the blast wave and hit a tree. My shoulder was broken, and two ribs and a vertebra were bruised badly. I feel pain now when I walk. 

My daughter and the neighbors. were with me. There was a doctor who lived opposite me, and she immediately gave me an injection: she gave me Noshpa and a painkiller. My student bought medicines and brought them. So I sat in the basement. I couldn't lie down. I sat for two weeks because the pain was terrible. But I managed to pull through.

The first people were killed, the first houses were burned. Vanya Noskov was coming from the sea, a shell hit him directly. It was a mine. He was torn to bits. We picked all these pieces and put them in a box. My wife put the suit down and we buried it like this. There were many victims. 15 civilians were killed in Shyrokyne. 27 people were wounded. Even here, in Mariupol, 137 people died. They were from Shyrokyne.

In February 2015, Shyrokyne residents were urgently evacuated. Some were taken to Teatralna Square, but we did not get there. Others were brought to the Pozhyvanivska Church. My daughter and I could not make it again. We left the village on foot. I tied a white rag to a stick, and we reached the village of Berdianske five kilometers on foot through Shpyl.

Then I asked my student, "Take us out, Andriy. Please, take us out." We arrived in Mariupol and lived at my boss's, Lena, place for two weeks. Then we found an apartment. We have been living here for five years. 

"We survived thanks to the help of Rinat Akhmetov"

I am a patriot of my country. I also love the Ukrainian language. I know poems of many Ukrainian writers by heart. Poems by Shevchenko, and Lesya Ukrainka, and Panas Myrny. I know them all. I feel so much pain. Nobody cares for us.

I really appreciate what Rinat Leonidovich does for us. You know, I'll bow low to him and say thank you a few times. If it wasn't for his food rations, if it wasn't for his support, we wouldn't have survived here for the first two years. We did not stand a chance. It is all owing to him.

We are rural people. So we are used to doing something. Be engaged in different works all the time. I can't imagine life sitting on a bench. This is something terrible for me. And now the rhythm of our life has changed. We don't have a roof over our heads. Everything here is strange to us. We sleep in someone else's bed, we eat out of someone else's dishes. It is very hard.

Soldiers recently brought me my three pots, a tablecloth, and an icon. This is a great-great-great-grandmother's blessing. An icon dated 1837.

We don't live, we just exist. The thought that we are from Shyrokyne, that we are a community, helps us pull through. We did not disappear into the environment of Mariupol residents. We stick together.

I taught children to be kind, to love their Homeland, to love their native language. We organized such debates, we organized such readings: Shevchenko, Lesya Ukrainka, Kotsyubynskyi... It was great. Now it is all gone.

The first thing I want is silence, and to end this  war. If they say that in order for there to be peace, you need to go to Shyrokyne on your knees, I would go there on my knees. My dream is to visit Shyrokyne and pay my respects to the graves of my relatives. I really want to go home. 

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