Victoria, 47 years old: “I recognized my mother’s body by the shawl: it had sewn-in pearls on it”
We had no electricity, no gas, no water. In early March, severe frosts hit, sometimes down to -20°C. We lived in an apartment building. And if someone had stoves or boilers in private houses, we had to heat a bucket of water on a fire, then we poured it into plastic bottles and put it in beds to warm ourselves. We got up in the morning, and the top of the blankets was wet from condensation: it was 0 ° C in the apartment. They put on two pants, two sweaters, slept in hats. They cooked on fires what someone had left of food. Some people stocked up on food in advance, but our family did not believe until the very end that a war would happen.
Not everyone could leave. Those who had transport tried to leave the city.
In early March, we were fired on for the first time, we were sitting in the bomb shelter of the 11th school, there were about 200 people with us. In the morning, we counted 15 craters around the school and 2 hits on the building. We wanted to make sure our loved ones were alive. They came, saw each other, hugged and ran to see if the apartment was intact. She survived, only the glass flew out due to the shock wave. Around March 6, we were sitting in a bomb shelter when Russian soldiers entered the APC. First they threw a sonic grenade, women came out to say that we were with children. Someone ran in and said that they gave us 10 minutes to leave, we took our things and returned home.
On March 7–8, communication was lost. Cooking had to be done on the street - fires were lit, tea was heated, snow was collected. There was no water at all. The wells were already very muddy. Basically, these wells were pumping and powered by electricity. There was no electricity - there was no water. I made a reserve: I gained 150 liters at the beginning of the war, they came in handy. They used water to wash dishes, heat the same bottles or wash their faces. At first, we used what we had left, saving a lot of food stocks. Then, when everything settled down, they began to bring food to us. The products were expensive, but people took them anyway: you have to eat something.
In the meantime, the so-called cleansing operations were taking place in the city - Russian soldiers went door-to-door, checked apartments, and those who did not open the doors were broken down. My neighbors and I agreed to leave the keys to each other so that in the event of a sweep they could open the door.
On March 11, a text message came from the Czech Republic, it was my sister who said that she had left Izyum. I called her and said: “Tanya, it’s calmed down a bit, I’ll run to our house and pick up my mother.” She answered me: “Don’t you know that mother’s house is no more?” And we really didn't know that they were bombing our house when the planes were flying. We ran to my mother's house, and when we got to the river, they didn't let us in. We begged the military, said that we want to look at the house. They warned: if we try to go there, we will not return back and are unlikely to stay alive. From the side of Zamostyanskaya we have a pedestrian bridge. We reached it, there were tanks. I wanted to tie myself a white bandage on my arm so that they would not touch me, but they began to drive us away and launched a rocket from the shoulder past us. They looked, there were tanks nearby: they started yelling at us to leave. We then sat down, waited for the return line and ran home. On that day, I could not get closer to the house, but I saw from a distance that it was black. Instead of walls - a hole. Didn't get close to him. We were already running back home.
The second time I went there three days later. There were corpses on the bridge, there was a burned-out car. When I came up to the house, a tantrum happened to me: I screamed, screamed ... I found neighbors, they said that my mother was not at home and she left with her sister. I answered that only my sister left, and my mother stayed. They suggested that she could be in another bomb shelter, we ran around them and asked if anyone knew such a thing, but no one knew anything. We tried to dismantle the rubble, but there were such huge slabs that we could not lift them. They came to this house every day, everyone hoped for something.
We came to the ruins of the house every day, everyone was hoping for something
Demolition began on April 1st. First they found three people - Sasha, Raisa Ivanovna Galushko and Lena Kharchenko. Raisa Ivanovna, it turned out, was still alive after the explosion. She screamed from under the rubble, called for help, they brought her water and food, but then she died.
When they got to the basement, the house collapsed even more. By the 20th, they got the Yatsentyukov family of seven people - aunt Natasha, aunt Zina, daughter of Mikhail Nikolaevich Olya, son-in-law Vitalik and three grandchildren. The smallest girl was 3.5 years old, Arisha. Only the grandfather survived, he said that his granddaughter had saved him, asked for tea, he went out to heat tea - and then a bomb.
When they started to take out and identify people, I expected that they would get the bodies, we would come up and see that this one and this one the other. But they were in such an unrecognizable form! There are almost no faces left. They only identified Luda Zarepin by her height, they found her keys in her clothes.
The people who were pulled out from under the rubble were unrecognizable. There are almost no faces
We had a man who could not be identified in any way - either Andrei Yakovenko, or Yura Repin, or Lesha Sudakov. It turned out that this was Petrovich, the chairman of our house. When the guys who were engaged in the funeral arrived, they searched all the pockets, and they found documents on him. And we were thinking about other people. There was only one person who had a smartphone in clothes with one selfie, this is Vladimir Pedun. That's how we got to know him.
They found a woman, there was also a telephone next to her. They looked, the SIM card was working, inserted it into another phone, saw that her daughter Angela and granddaughter Olechka called her, so it was Lydia Ivanovna Efimenko. This is how identification was done.
Mom was there... Although I'm not sure about that. When they got people out, they found some piece of the body. The emcees tell me: "Don't go there, there is a piece of a child's body, it's not your mother." I came home, told my husband, and he said: "I'll go see it myself." I called Mikhail Nikolayevich, our neighbor, and they left. Then he returned and said: "Let's go, let's watch together."
There was a piece of the body without a head. Before that, the lads brought a burnt passport, they could read “Petrova Lyubov Fedorovna” in the sun - this is my mother ... When everyone went to look at the bodies, I saw clothes similar to hers, but I didn’t know for sure if she went to this: she lived with her sister . Everything was covered in dirt, the body was burned, but the fragments of the shawl looked like my mother's: it had pearls sewn on. The rest of the things are not familiar to me at all, a jacket was worn over the coat. I could not understand how it was possible to put on a sweater over a coat?
Everything was dirty, the body was burned, but the fragments of the shawl looked like my mother's: it had pearls sewn on.
I kept this body at home for a week, did not let it be buried and went to look. Then there was no connection, we could not get through to my sister to tell what I found. So I gave this body to be buried, under a number. And when we rode bicycles for 15 km from Izyum near Nikolaevka, I got through to my sister. When I told her that I didn’t understand how you could put a sweater on a coat, she replied that my mother walked like that: she was so warmer.
52 people died in this house. I know my mother's number, where she is buried, but I hope for the exhumation of the bodies - then we will know for sure who died. Because we took out the legs separately, separately the remains of the intestines, separately the torso. It was clearly an airstrike. Yes, tanks were hitting the house, but the tank would not fail him like that. Not only were people torn apart by the blast wave, the emchees were saying that the basement was still smoldering, although more than a month had passed. God forbid someone survive this - to look for their relatives and friends. This is the worst thing, especially when you look through the corpses and do not find among them the one you are looking for.
As for the forests, they say that there are already 450 graves there, but not all of them are dug up. Now I cannot come to Izyum for health reasons, but I want to conduct an examination. The remains of the bodies were buried in different graves - separately for the arm, separately for the leg, separately for the torso. Maybe somewhere else there is some piece of my mother's body. It’s good if they found documents, but basically people and documents were separate.
The remains of the bodies were buried in different graves - a separate arm, a separate leg, a separate torso
When everyone was already buried, we still gathered at the house. I looked at my apartment and sobbed: this is my mother's apartment. I kept thinking: what if she managed to get out of the basement? She came, said goodbye to me in a dream. So much time has already passed, half a year... Recently I gathered my courage and went to church. Batiushka and I held the funeral ceremony in absentia. I don't know if this is correct or not. I still want to believe that they ran away and managed to hide somewhere. So what if they found her passport... Only someone who has experienced such a thing can understand this.
They have no forgiveness.
Inna, 46 years old: “Our area is completely destroyed, there is nothing alive there”
On March 5, heavy shelling of Izyum began. My husband miraculously evacuated, took my mother and they went to Pervomaiskaya, 2. They thought that they would be safe there. Our house stood near the river in the most prominent place - it was blown up on March 9th. The Russians just stupidly fired at him, knowing that civilians were sitting there. This place was a high-rise building, now there is a hole in the middle of the house. People were hiding from shelling in the basement. Arranged sleeping places there, cooked food. As a result, entire families died in this basement - grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, children. My mother, husband, mother-in-law and relative were there, they were not found or identified. In total, 52 people died in this house. But they found only charred parts of the bodies.
In total, 52 people died in this house. But only charred body parts were found
After the high-explosive bomb that flew into the house, there was no one to save. They began to dismantle the rubble only a month later - all this time the dead lay under the slabs. About five people survived the explosion. All those who survived were in the apartments, all those who remained in the basement died.
Now in Izyum, rescuers are clearing the rubble, sappers are working. People, including those who survived the shelling, were present at the rubble. My friend's mother died there, she and her husband tried to identify the bodies. Now there is a cemetery outside the city, where these people were buried under numbers. Only the Stolpakov family with a sign: apparently, one of the relatives was present at the funeral.
We don't know where our relatives are. Now the exhumation of bodies is in full swing, and we do not understand what to do. It was said that someone alive remained in the house: groans were heard under the rubble. In April, rumors began to circulate that some of the residents of the house managed to evacuate before the tragedy. Relatives of the victims tried to independently investigate, but no one helped us. They wanted to involve the leadership of the city, and they answered that they could not do anything, because the Russians were shelling in Izyum. The entire area where our house stood was completely destroyed. There is nothing alive there at all.
Mom was identified by her passport, which was found in her coat pocket. Husband, mother-in-law and another relative were not found, only some parts of the bodies. Maybe they weren't there? Someone said they saw my husband leaving in a car. I want to believe it, but over the past six months I have never spoken to him. Either he is missing or unidentified.
Someone managed to escape, someone successfully got out from under the rubble. People under shelling ran around the city, hiding in basements without food and water, dirty and wounded. Everyone died in the basement of our house, but at least someone survived in the neighboring ones. And this is the story of only two houses, and what happened in the city is a horror in general. An acquaintance lived in the private sector, closer to the forest, and they had gas all the time, they were lucky. And so there was nothing all over the city, people were cooking on fires. Many had to sit in basements for more than a month: their apartments burned down - no water, no gas, no light. Water was collected from a river or from a well in the private sector.
It was difficult to leave the city: there were no humanitarian corridors. Many tried to leave Izyum through Russia, and then - who goes where, by country. Huge sums were paid to carriers just to get from Izyum to Kupyansk. When leaving, you need to go through a document check and filtering. Those who had money were able to leave, those who did not have remained in the city.
Humanitarian brought only the first time. In March, our mayor tried to call in Izium, then bread was distributed in the cellars, but this humanitarian aid lasted 2-3 days, and then such shelling began that you would not go into Izyum.
People were really hungry. Those who had conservation survived at the expense of it. And when the Russians arrived in early April, they began to distribute their handouts. The Russian humanitarian aid bag contained a small bag of food. The locals said that they stole food from our warehouses in order to distribute them later in their packages. At first they gave bread for free, and then - only to those who would work. In the summer, a spontaneous bazaar appeared: someone sold vegetables and fruits from their garden, people went to Kupyansk for groceries. In March, they carried out all the shops there: both looters and Russians.
At first they gave bread for free, then - only to those who will work
We used both rubles and hryvnias. The Russians managed to issue pensions of 10 thousand rubles. It was possible to withdraw money from hryvnia cards only in Kupyansk. And it had to be done either by yourself or someone to ask. For such a service they took a commission - 30%. People who received pensions on cards were grouped, they asked for someone, a person went to Kupyansk and withdrew funds.
There were also such moments: when the shelling began and people died, literally in 10-15 minutes the Russians arrived, took away all the dead and took them away in an unknown direction. When the soldiers were collecting the corpses, their relatives ran to them, shouting: “Where are you going! These are ours!” And they were answered: “We know where we are taking them, we will figure it out.” I think the corpses were taken to that cemetery and buried to cover their tracks.
The wounded were taken to Russia. Some of them decided to stay there, some returned. Our hospital was destroyed, and before that it had just been repaired. There were a couple of surgeons who saved a lot of people, operated somehow.
There was no communication in the city. In Izyum there is Mount Kremenets, people went there to call: only there was a connection. A Russian car stood on the mountain all the time: they listened to the conversations. If someone started saying something “unnecessary”, they immediately turned off the phone.
Near Izyum there is the village of Kapitolovka, where I worked at a feed mill, it was even worse there. People simply disappeared in the village, and then they were found dead. Same story with the private sector.
They took away everyone who was involved in the defense. A friend's husband was an atomist, at the beginning of the war he went to the defense and died there. The Russians came to her, turned the whole house over and then came several more times. She explained that her husband was dead, but they didn't even want to listen. He says: “I just put things in order, they came again, turned everything upside down and insulted me. Thank God, at least they didn’t beat me.”
The invaders took away the cars, and if someone did not want to give them back, they fired at the garage. One person did not want to open the garage, so it was mined. After some time, other military men came, began to clear the garage and defiantly told everyone: “Do you see what your Armed Forces are doing? They mine your garages!” People say: “Yes, yours was mined a couple of days ago.” And they put a machine gun to them and say: “If you say something again, you are finished.”
The invaders took away the cars, and if someone did not want to give them back, they fired at the garage
All schools in the city were destroyed. Of the 7–8 schools, only one is more or less standing, the rest are either completely destroyed, or the walls alone remain, and the premises are burned out. In the 4th school, at the very beginning there was a therodefense, it was completely destroyed, and then a video was made, they say, there was a hotel here. What hotel? This is a pre-revolutionary building that survived the Great Patriotic War, but this one could not stand it.
Everyone complained about the military from the “LPR” and “DPR”. They said they were just creatures that the world had never seen. Rusnya didn’t really communicate with them: they couldn’t stand each other. They came to Izyum naked, barefoot, in slippers - they drank, walked, went into apartments, houses ... They took everything they wanted. Basically no tower.
The military from the "LDNR" came to Izyum naked, barefoot, in slippers: they drank, walked, went into apartments, houses, took everything they wanted
Checkpoints were everywhere. A week before my release, an acquaintance called me and said: “There are so many of them here!” People could not believe that the de-occupation would happen so quickly. The Russian military simply quietly left, there weren’t even any special fights.
Most of the inhabitants of Izium, of course, are happy about the de-occupation. Just yesterday or the day before yesterday, there was shooting somewhere, something flew in, and in the morning there was suddenly silence. People go out into the street, and our people are already walking around the city. Many wept for joy. And those who collaborated with the invaders quickly left the city - the self-proclaimed mayor Sokolov, the former communist Famichevsky and others.
Demining is currently underway in Izyum, and people are asked not to return yet. 80% of the city is destroyed. Some houses are lucky: they only have broken windows. And so you look - there are only charred firebrands. Many houses are no longer subject to restoration, they can only be demolished.
Mikhail Yatsentyuk, 65: “I went out onto the stairs, and then my whole family was covered with a bomb”
There were a lot of soldiers in Izyum after the occupation: checkpoints, constant checks, cluster bombs - there was everything! In one place, the bomb fell - 3 people were killed, in the other - 1 person was killed. A cluster bomb flew near the Savings Bank when people came to receive Russian help - 10,000 rubles. Who dropped her? We don't know.
There were patrols on the footbridge. You go in - they check the documents, you go out - they check the documents. Mostly not Russian troops were standing, but “DNR” and “LNR”. I was already elderly, they didn’t touch me, and men up to 50-60 years old were stripped to the waist, they checked tattoos on their arms, bruises on their shoulders from machine gun belts, and the like. I personally saw it. The Deenergists told us: “We were under occupation for 8 years, now you will feel how it is to be under Russia.” I even made friends with them, brought beer and the like. You understand, they are the same people as we are, they were simply forcibly mobilized by the Russians.
Of the Russians, we had a commandant's office, somewhere there were troops. Russia began to bring us humanitarian aid: they brought stew, pasta, buckwheat, butter, but there was no vodka: they were hard pressed for it. They searched for everyone who sold moonshine at the market, punished them, put them in basements: the Russian military are people too, they also drank and drank normally. Therefore, they punished us so that they would not drink. At first, vodka was brought from Kupyansk, then it was forbidden to carry it.
In the house where I lived, 52 people died. 42 dug up, 9 unknown, 10 do not know where they went. The house burned for 2 weeks. Everything burned down - a high-explosive bomb. I was there on the day of the tragedy. I lost 7 people: my wife, aunt, daughter, her husband, our relatives and granddaughter. I was with them in the basement.
I lost 7 people - my wife, aunt, daughter, her husband, our relatives and granddaughter
When the shelling began, we lived in the "shield" with the whole family. There we had mattresses, mats and heating. At some point, my granddaughter Arishka said: "Grandfather Misha, bring some tea." I took a thermos, began to go out to heat water, just went out onto the landing - a bomb fell. It was March 9, at 9 o'clock in the morning. I was thrown back under a metal ladder, and my legs were crushed by slabs. At first I lost consciousness, and when I came to my senses, I began to stretch my legs on my own. He stretched one left leg for about 20 minutes, shouted, called his own. There was a book on my leg. From somewhere above her, water began to drip. The book began to get wet, and little by little I pulled a piece of paper out of the book, and after four hours I pulled out my other leg.
Then the stove squeezed his chest, he could not immediately get out into the wild. Little by little he began to loosen it, break it with his hand, and gradually was able to push it slightly away from him. Then the chest passed, and once the chest passed, and I crawled out to the surface. Got out in sweatpants and two sweatshirts, barefoot. Frosts hit up to 15 degrees at night, then I caught a cold in my kidneys. For three days I lived without heat and without food, and then a friend sheltered me, lived with him with stove heating.
Excavations began on 1 April. The first, on April 12, were the ones who unearthed my family. On April 13, I took them to the city cemetery to bury them. They checked me at checkpoints, but they let me through: they saw that I was carrying a load of 200. On April 13, I buried my entire family: I buried my daughter, son-in-law and three children in a mass grave, and my wife and aunt separately.