Interview and photography by Aydin Cetinbostanoğlu 

 

“80% of Brodyanka was destroyed. So we haven’t the place to return.”

Nataly

“I don’t remember if it was the third or fourth of the month. We went to the grocery store during the daytime, suddenly we saw the tanks coming on the central street, we immediately fled home.

At 2:00 the plane came, the bomb went off, it was the first bomb, then it turned and dropped the second bomb, the walls shook, the windows came off, we hid under the blankets, when the plane dropped the third bomb, I was injured by a piece of glass. After that, almost all communications were shut down (electricity, natural gas, water). We slept on the floor until evening. There were gunfights, I covered my own wound, but the blood was still flowing, the plane came again in the evening and dropped three bombs, this time the evening bombing was even more terrible because this time I heard people’s cries and everything was in flames and smoke.

After a short time, we started to hear the sound of tanks and helicopters then our windows were all broken and the windows were open (voices could be heard clearly). We escaped to the basement. The basement was very narrow, damp, and crowded. I remember a boy standing with a hamster in his hand. The boy asked his mother, “When will we go home, mother?” and her mother replied, “We don’t have a home anymore.” There was no emergency evacuation, the network was very weak, and I could barely reach a friend who told us, “No one will go to your place because your place is surrounded”.

By that time the tanks had surrounded the entire Borodyanka. Then we came back to our house, the house was very cold, we lay on the floor and began to wait, I don’t know what. But we were just waiting. The plane came once again and started dropping bombs once again, then there was silence. Then we heard people speaking Chechen from the street, they were speaking very slang, ordering people to get out of the basement and kneel down and we could hear that they shot them. Then we heard the voice of our neighbor on the second floor, “What did you do, why did you kill so many children, so many women, so many people? what did they do to you? You should have killed your mother in the same way!” she said, then suddenly stopped, I don’t know what they did to her, but I never saw her again and never heard anything about her again.

The Chechens were talking a lot of swear words, they wanted everyone to go out, but we still preferred to stay at home, we thought “if they want to kill us, let them kill us in our house, let’s not kneel”, then a truck came and they started to throw the bodies into the truck, I counted the bodies, there were 28 bodies, then At dawn the truck went and there was silence.” Although the Chechens were very persistent, we survived because we did not go out. Anyone who came out was shot dead. I approached the window, the whole city was in smoke, nine-story buildings had collapsed, our building was five stories. Lots of people had died. I could hear voices shouting “People stayed there” from afar. We didn’t know what to do anymore. Where do we stay where we stay, where do we go if we go. Then I saw a girl with a dog coming out of the smoke, she was walking very slowly. That’s when I said to my husband, “Let’s go”. I didn’t know where we were going, but we wanted to go where the girl was going.

When we left the house, we only took the papers (documents) with us, but after we left the house, we could not see the girl anymore. everything was like in horror movies, everything was in flames and smoke, Stones were falling to the ground, buildings were collapsing. Then I saw a young man running up to him and I asked him “where am I going”, he asked me “where do you want to go”, I asked “will there be an emergency evacuation”, he said “No it will not”, “Borodyanka is completely occupied, any there will be no eviction. Everyone went to the fields,” he said. I asked, “Why did they go to the fields, isn’t it cold there?” He said, “It is thought that there will be no bombs in the fields,” but you will get cold in the fields, go to the basement of the kindergarten. In the basement of the kindergarten, there were mostly women and pets. We spent a while (about 1.5 hours) there, then another plane came, it started dropping bombs, and we realized that we couldn’t get out of there anymore.

The plane started bombing the kindergarten. I was mostly afraid that the entrance would be closed, because the same thing had happened in the adjacent apartments, the entrances were closed, and people were trapped in the basements, unfortunately, there were no survivors among them. Then a young girl came to us, and said that a car came and looked at what was going on. She told us that the Chechens had gone to take the bodies to the next area. We had about 1:30 hours to escape.”

A shuttle for eight people came and 20 people took the shuttle, the driver said that he could only take us to the neighboring village. After reaching the village, the Russians came after us, we heard the sounds of tanks, bombs, and rockets and we fled to the neighboring village, then we learned that the village we were in was destroyed, we changed four villages in the same way. Then I heard a soldier say on the radio, “I want everyone to be evacuated to western Ukraine and don’t think that the villages will not be bombed.” We were not afraid at the time, but we had the will to survive. So we got together in the morning and started asking people to get us out of the village. This was the Novaya Buddha village. The village was behind the forest and so people were sure that this village would not be bombed, but we left the village again.

We went to western Ukraine, first in the village of Peskovka, then along the Jitomir highway to Kolomyia in 18 hours. We were placed in a high school in Kolomyia, we couldn’t sleep for three days and the weather alarm went off as soon as we wanted to sleep. We were told that the air alert is too frequent and that bombs will be dropped even here again. At that moment, the idea of going abroad came to my mind. We decided to leave Kolomyia and go abroad because there were constant weather alarms and we were in bomb shelters all the time, so nothing changed, especially fear began to overtake us.

I can’t sleep at night, so we decided to leave the place as well. Volunteers told us “if you want to go, you have to go alone”, they could not help us at all. So I started asking my friends and through my daughter, we found a man who would take us to the Polish border for 8000 hryvnia. And here the greatest torture began. My foot was swollen from the wound, my pants were bloody, and I couldn’t stand on my feet, but despite all this, we walked to the checkpoint for nine and a half hours. It was like some kind of competition; We walk for a few hours, then they take a break and give us tea, we walk for a few more hours and then they give us coffee. It was incredibly difficult. They let me pass at the border, but they didn’t let my husband through because he was of military age, even though his passport says he doesn’t have to go to the military. I went to Poland alone. We were placed in a good house in Poland, they treated us well. The host was always worried about our comfort, we were 18 people, with children and pets but I was alone in the room. They tried to send me a doctor, but that required insurance. I didn’t have insurance. I did my best to heal my own wound. Then my daughter came to Poland after me and we came to Turkey together.”

 

 

Interview and photography © Aydin Cetinbostanoğlu 

 

 

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