My name is Jane. I am a photographer from Ukraine. The war caught up with me when I was in my village, Cherkas’kiy Tyshky, with my grandfather and grandmother. We were occupied instantly on February 24, 2022, at 6 a.m.
15 kilometers is the distance that separated our village, which is under occupation by Russian forces, and Kharkiv, which is held by Ukrainian troops.
My village, which is between Kharkiv and the Russian border, is still under occupation. I managed to escape, but I spent twenty days there, which I will describe in this weekly column.
At war, you begin to understand what is a real miracle in fact. The real miracle is to stay alive when, according to all laws, you were supposed to die. I took a shower while there was a lull in the fighting in the morning. I managed to put on underwear and looked at the clock: it was 8 a.m. There was still some time left. They usually wake up at 9 a.m.
I started combing my unkempt hair.
While fixing my hair, I was getting immersed in the memories of last evening. It was quiet…a bad sign. The horizon was painted in scarlet. Somewhere above me, I could hear a drone drumming, looking at what people were doing in their houses. One drone flew right next to my house. I got scared and hid. I didn’t leave the house that night. It was very quiet. I even took off my socks. How blissful it is to sleep without them. It has been a week since I started to sleep in the house. I did not care about bombs anymore. I was tired of running away and hiding from them. What’s more, I thought that if I died, it was better to do it in my own bed than in a cold cellar.
Somewhere around 3 a.m., Russians started shelling. They brought their armament so close that I could hear the cast of a rocket sinking in the ground. I thought that since they were so close, the reply would hit us. Then I fell asleep.
It was snowing outside. Snow was gently falling on the frozen ground. It was gray and cloudy. The scarlet sunset was predicting not only the distress, but the coming of winter as well. Again. So I managed to brush my hair, put on some clothes, and then it started. Bombs were falling on us. Eventually you learn to distinguish where the bomb is coming from, where is it going and how long will it take. These were coming at us. I started to dress quickly. I put on three pairs of pants, a warm sweater, a cardigan, a jacket and most importantly, a purse with documents that I slept with next to me. I managed to hide behind a fridge and listened attentively, trying to gather where the missile would land. But there is a rule: if a missile is flying at you, you will not hear it. Because it has already landed. That’s what happened to me. Boom! And all the windows blew out. There was a wall of smoke in the yard. As if a sand-storm had started, I could not see anything. It was silent.
It is a good thing that our psyche does not work at war in the same way as in ordinary life. That is why I did not hesitate and left the house, listening. It was silent. I ran into my grandmother’s house. She was peeling onions for the borscht that I asked her to cook yesterday. We had a custom: she cooked, I brought the food.
“Ba, are you alive?”, I asked her.
“Yes, why?”, she answered.
“Shoo! A fucking missile hit us. Leave the onions, we need to hide!” I screamed.
Then I ran out of the house, looking for my grandfather.
“Grandpa! Grandpa!” I screamed.
And what do you know? He left the summer tent with a cigarette in his mouth.
“I’m alive,” he said.
“Did you hide from a bomb in a summer tent?”
In a tent, Carl!
There was a smell of smoke, dust and something burnt. Everything was battered, covered with holes from the shatters. There were hollows in the fence that looked at me like eyes and hypnotized me. I ran into my house again. For a moment, there was a thought in my mind: if I had stayed in the bathroom for a little longer, all the glass would have flown at me.