Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Oksana Puhachova
age: 55
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"Son said, "Mother, if we get killed, we should sleep at least so that it doesn't hurt"

She is a mother of four children. She has always lived in Hranitne. Five houses were bombed during the war. The woman kept some livestock. A shell destroyed everything right before her eyes. It was very hard. We had no electricity. Children and I hid in the basement.

"Grey area". Nobody cares for us. We shed tears every day. I don't even believe I'll ever go home.

I have been living in Hranitne since 1975. We changed five houses during the war. I worked on a collective farm before the war. I have four children. My eldest son lives in Donetsk with his family. The second daughter lives in Mariupol. The middle daughter got married, but lives with me now, she and her child. The younger son is 15 years old. He goes to school. He helps with everything.

We kept some household and worked. You would never have thought that such a thing could happen.  And we have never been in a situation like this, with a begging bowl. It is so hard. When we worked, we never asked for anything.

How the war started –I can't tell you how terrible it was. I went to the market to buy some food. We took some dairy products to sell in Donetsk, Mariupol. We kept the household, so we could sell it. And they started blocking the roads. As it turns out, that was military equipment. But we didn't know much yet. 

It all started on 5 August 2014. Then shells began to fall in the village. And on13 August, our street was bombed. I've never been in a situation like this, and staying with the enemy was terrifying. When there was a shootout, we did not know who, where, or what it was. We started to panic. Should we leave or not?

The bridge was cut off immediately – there was no traffic. People who have cars could move somewhere. And my grandchildren came just from Donetsk. My son and his family are on vacation. Where should we run to? What should we do? Donetsk was already restless. They left here. We thought it wouldn't affect us any way. 

It was very scary. The cattle were coming from the pasture. There were armoured vehicles, soldiers wearing balaclavas. It is very scary when a machine gun is pointed at you. We aren't the enemy, are we? It seemed like a complete misunderstanding.

A military vehicle exploded near our house. The children were killed. The grass caught fire and reached the house. The lack of water made it difficult to put out. We would like to express our gratitude to neighbors and children. They carried water. Everyone helped.

I left my home on 26 April 2015. Our cattle were slaughtered that day. We had five cows. They all died. Now we managed to get two cows. That is how we pull through. 

I can't go back to my house and I can't keep my household there, because the shelling goes on. The road was blocked because of this explosion.

Son said,

There was the last attack on 10 July, that is, the last month. We were at home at that time. Then the village was attacked by Grads for six times. The cattle grunted. We did not have electricity. People were running. It was 11:55 p.m. Everyone started screaming and freaking out. The whole village was clamouring. Cars passed by. Those who had them could leave. 

I just want the war to be over. I don't want anything else. Here's my granddaughter. This year she was five years old. On 31 December, she made a wish. She does not want to get a doll, nothing: "I just wish that the war would end".

She was six months old when it all started. She grew in our basements. The attacks were severe.

Son said,

I didn't even know what to take with me in all this panic. Children brought their toys. Son went back into the house and grabbed a collapsible fishing rod. She said, "Mother, we can stay by the pond, we will be awake for two or three days. It will probably all end by then."

We took the cattle  to the creek by the river. We tied them up there.  They stood there day and night until it got really cold. We just could not take them out to pasture. The cattle got killed at the creek. When we came, my son screamed, "Mother, look, the cows are standing." Their blood just boiled over. One cow stood in the mist, all alone. We ran up to the other one, and her skin was all torn up. 

At one time we lived with my mother. My son was 10. The bombing and shelling happened every evening.  Plastering fell down, I coverred my son with a sheet so that he would not get his face wounded. We started praying.

We did not run to the basement, because we do not have such basements that are safe. Everyone hoped to God that it would pass by us. Son ased, "Mom, are you asleep?" "I'm sleeping, son. You have to sleep too. Don't worry about anything." Son said, "Mother, if we get killed, we should sleep at least so that it doesn't hurt"  Would you be able to say something to your child? No. This is all very difficult.

Son said,

Many people say, "You are stupid. Why can't you just leave? You have to save the child." Where should we go? Where are we and who needs us? I have no idea.

"Grey area". Nobody cares for us. We shed tears every day. I don't even believe I'll ever go home. If it was over, I would have gone home today. I would really like to do that! Everyone here just wishes that everything was over as soon as possible.

Thank you for helping us. Rinat Akhmetov and the Red Cross also help us. That is it.  I used to be able to do everything myself, but now I don't have the strength. And I will only be 54 years old. Constant stress affects my health.

Son said,

We like to work,  we are not softies. And my children are all hard-working.  I have to provide for the family. There was a vegetable garden, we cultivated the land. We kept five cows. And now I can't do anything. 

Our house was hit by shrapnel, windows were blown out. We were given building materials for the roof and the house. We received glass for the windows. And then everything was broken down again, because the shooting continued. 

A 29-year-old girl Olha died in that attack. She ran out to meet my mother at the store. And a shell fell. She got fatal lung wound. She died in my mother's arms.

War is horror and fear. This is tremendous misfortune. 

We have relatives on the other side of the river, in the DNR. We get in touch by phone. I can't see my son. I haven't been there for the whole duration of the war.

Even now I can see bombing and shelling in my dreams. It is very scary.

I only wish that peace would come soon. I would like to see my children so that they can all come to me. I wish there were no borders, no war. I want peace. That is it. Peace is the most important thing. The rest will follow.

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