Ukraine: Entrenched soldier takes on armoured vehicle
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Four Ukrainians have detailed their terrifying experiences of being in the middle of a warzone and how they have survived as Russian rockets explode around them. It has been a year since Vladimir Putin ordered scores of troops to invade Ukraine, with tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians killed or badly injured. Ukraine has been hailed around the world for its heroic resilience, with a defiant President Volodymyr Zelensky continuing to insist his country will defeat Russia. Express.co.uk has spoken to four people living throughout Ukraine – employed by EU start-up Bordio – who have detailed their harrowing experiences in the warzone.
Anastasia Kvitka – Dnipro
“The lack of light is not as scary as the lack of mobile internet. Without it, we can’t call anyone, read the news, or contact our families. If you hear explosions, you don’t know where they are or what they are.
“One of the attacks was on December 16. In the morning we woke up from the explosions and went to hide. There was no water and no light at that point.
“Friends from Kyiv wrote that they also had heavy shelling. Dad called from Zaporizhzhia saying that they have counted 12 shellings already. At that point, mobile internet disappeared and I didn’t know how they were.
“All Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we sat there without electricity or water. Those were very long three days. The worst thing was to have no news or updates because there was no Internet.
“When the explosions happen the reflex is to hide. But we understand that only luck will help because a missile can hit anywhere. They are not accurate at all. Sometimes panic sets in, but mostly we keep calm and wait. There’s no way to keep ourselves 100 percent safe anyway.
“A full-scale invasion is certainly worse than the war that came before it since 2014. We could not have imagined that it would be so terrible. The Russians are fighting like they did in the 1940s.
“Of course, it could be worse. There’s a nuclear power plant in occupation now, they’re stupid savages and don’t know how to handle it. There could be a disaster. Or the nuclear weapons they threaten.
“The first months were very hard. Without electricity, it seemed like the world was falling apart. But we got used to it, prepared ourselves. We remembered how we act when we go camping – we use autonomous devices and survival skills, which are taught at school.
“I have electric heating and an electric stove at home. If there is no electricity, the house is cold. There is no way to make tea or food. I had to buy a portable gas burner.
“Right near my parents, the Russians destroyed a boiler house that heated an entire neighbourhood. Some people had independent heating in their homes, but most didn’t.
“People were freezing until the authorities repaired the main heating networks. Some people had to move at this time because it was unbearably cold. Situations like this happen all the time.”
Vitaly Dovzhenko – Lviv (originally from Kherson region)
“After the shelling, for a short time the mobile network disappears completely, then the signal appears, but it is very weak. That’s why sometimes there is no way to contact somebody immediately after the explosion. Some of my relatives are very close to the war zone, so they have the most difficult situation in this regard.
“When an area around you is rocked by an explosion, each time, this is another portion of insane fear and adrenaline. I would like to say that I’m already get used to it, but no. Looking at the explosions in shopping centres, and residential buildings, there is always a feeling that this time it can happen to me. I don’t wish anyone to go through it.
“Electricity now is almost everything, especially in winter – when the daylight hours are very short. Ordinary life needs, such as taking showers, heating, and charging devices, require electricity. It is especially important for IT specialists because without electricity we can’t work. When you lose electricity, you begin to realise its value.
“Of course, winter time is the most difficult for the population, both because of the cold and because of the short daylight hours. It is very difficult, there is no calm and familiar life. But nobody complains. The guys who are on the front lines are in a much more difficult situation than we are.”
Nataly Zalevskaya – Kyiv
“During a recent attack, the rocket hit a TPP (thermal power plant). I was in a public place at the time, working using free WiFi. Suddenly, an air raid alert went off and visitors were immediately asked to leave and shown where the shelters were.
“It was nothing special really until suddenly we heard several explosions very close. Everything trembled in the neighbourhood and people started running to the subway.
“A subway is, naturally, a very difficult space to shelter in. There are lots of people and everyone panics and paces around. Shortly after, mobile connection and internet disappeared. So now all those people are sitting in the subway without communication, without the internet, and have no idea what is going on outside. Complete blackout.
“When the area around us is rocked by an explosion, it’s terrible. This is scary. It’s impossible to describe. Sometimes it seems that you are ready for everything, but when the explosion happens very close, you understand that no, you are not ready.
“I don’t know how much worse it could be. They have done and continue to do terrible things that do not fit in my head.”
Aleksandr Grigorjev – Central Ukraine
“There have been about 7-10 explosions in my region (most of them were our Air defense working on Russian missiles).
“There were cases when rockets flew over my area, I would even say that 100 meters from me. These rockets fly very low. I think at an altitude of 50-100 meters.
“When such a rocket approaches, it makes a whistling, reactive sound (very loud), it feels like it is about to hit right next to you. And it was very scary, because for 5-7 seconds you hear how it is approaching and you don’t know what will happen next – will it explode or not?
“Many Ukrainians knew war was inevitable, but nobody thought Russia would treat the civilian population like that. They killed the unarmed (including children), raped, abused prisoners, launched missile attacks into residential areas, robbed and stole (when the Russians left their positions, they usually occupied residential buildings, and after they left, they mined everything, including toys, household appliances and so on.)
“They absolutely do not adhere to the Geneva Convention and do not respond to the UN, the Red Cross, or the IAEA. It could be worse – it’s only a nuclear strike, and everything else is not so scary.
“I know in many houses and apartments heating works on electricity, and it was one of the most common problems in the freezing winter months. Those with children and the elderly, as they require supervision and care. There was a situation when there was no water for several days, because the pumps were not working.”
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