Ukrainian villager's 2,500-mile odyssey from Russia

9 個月前

STORY: 76-year-old Ukrainian Vira Chernukha has been Dementiivka’s sole resident for almost a year.

She says her children and grandchildren used to come here - but now there is nobody.

She returned here after a 2,500-mile journey across three countries from Russia, where she ended up in hospital after her village, near the Russian border, was bombed in February last year - on the day the invasion began.

Missiles rained down outside her kitchen door.

"I went back into the house, I had a bag with documents and my medicines there, it was full of medicines. I grabbed the bag and a towel because I was all covered in blood, I did not know where it was coming from, I crawled into the street and then I have no idea who found me. I woke up in Belgorod in a hospital room."

She spent over a month, sometimes in tears, in the Russian hospital.

"Of course I was upset, I cried and cried, how would I get back home? They kept me there for a month and then they wanted to send me to the refugees' (filtration camp). Even the documents were ready to send me there, to Russia."

Her daughter-in-law found her just in time and volunteers tried to help them home.

After a failed attempt to cross the border, they found another option.

"We travelled via Latvia, Lithuania, Poland to Lviv and then to Vinnitsya. Seven days of riding buses but I did get back to Ukraine."

Ukrainian forces have retaken much of the region in counter offensives.

But the damage to her home has been done. She now spends her days picking up the pieces of her terrorized town.

"The bee garden is destroyed, bees have flown away, there is nothing left. Bee hives were scattered around the garden.

"These were the bomb craters, I am filling them in, there were fifteen craters here. What a nightmare.’’

She’s survived more nights of shelling in her makeshift home since her return to the village.

But even that won't scare her away.

"I am not afraid any more. I have lived my life."