07 Oct 2022

'We just want Ukraine to be at peace'

'We just want Ukraine to be at peace'

Ania, Timothy, Julia, Victoria and Little Eva told their story on the Humans of Longford Facebook page

Another Humans of Longford post telling the story of Ania, Timothy, Julia, Victoria and Little Eva is equally compelling.

Compiled in the wake of a three hour conversation at the back of Dillons, Ballinamuck it is the emotional and sometimes light humoured experience of a family fleeing their country.
Their home is the epicentre of the most horrific phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"You have heard of Bucha? The Bucha massacre? Well, we're from Bucha, three generations of us. They wanted to kill us, but we were lucky, we survived,” the post opens.

With the help of translator Svetlana Babak the family recall: “I think the Russians wanted to make an example of us. To terrify and scare the rest of our people into submission, They tried to wipe us off the earth.

“They bombarded our town with everything, multi rocket launch systems, helicopter gunships, artillery. It was non-stop for two crazy, crazy weeks. The nights were the worst.”
The first hand account of the terror of war is laid out in stark detail: “When the Russian soldiers entered our area they were not human. They were barbaric savages, out of control. They cut off fingers and ears. They raped women and girls and boys, and then with knives, cut the letter Z on their bodies.”

“It was beyond barbaric, it was insanity released. This in our once quiet, peaceful home. No words can describe our fear, no words.”

The family's recount of the details of the atrocities are astonishing: “Some of our friends and relatives tried to flee. They wrote CHILDREN in large letters on the windscreens or on houses' fences, but the enemy then targeted them with machine guns. Yes, and drove over the cars with their tanks.
“Total horror, we could not bury our dead relatives or friends. When we decided to try to flee we had to leave the wounded to save our own children. Sometimes that didn't work out, they just butchered all.”

Their survival efforts were extreme: “Our family hid in a store room under the house. It was for storing potatoes and utensils, not a proper shelter. It was damp and freezing cold. Nights were the worst, constant bombing. The explosions would blow the door open. “We tried holding a shovel against the door but that didn't work either. Going for firewood or to the toilet was risking your life. We made tea from melted snow, made scones from some flour and melted snow. We washed in melted snow. Once we brought out the baby for some air and a bomb exploded 20 metres for us. ..Every day, we hoped for an end to the bombing but no.”

The war conditions were hard on the family: “Sometimes we had no food. We were only 35 from Kiev but the Russians refused ambulances or medical supplies or food for us. Women gave birth like in prehistoric times. The wounded were left to die, this was March 2022.”

The decision to flee did not come easy: “After two weeks of that hell, we decided to try to escape. To walk because they shot at cars. Every step we thought the Russians would either shoot us in front or behind. To try to keep a bit calm, I took pills, like Valium. Once, when the young boy was going to faint, I gave him half a tablet. We were lucky, the Russians and their war machines were all around us, but we kept very low and silent. To escape was our concern, we had no idea where or how.”
Assistance in the form of Ukrainian troops made a huge difference: “After four hours of walking in the freezing snow and wind, we reached a forest. Some of our own troops found us and helped us a bit. Other soldiers helped us.

“We made our way to Western Ukraine. It was safer but not safe, so my son-in-law wanted us to leave the country to protect the young ones. The men of course were staying behind.”

The family made their way to Warsaw in Poland: “The local people were so kind. Volunteers drove us to Riga. Some were nice, but some said it was our own fault. Every third person there is Russian. We stopped feeling safe and we were finding it difficult to deal with.” The next stop was Ireland: “In June we arrived in Dublin, we had heard the Irish people were kind and caring. Now we're like part of Peter and Margaret Dillon's family in Ballinamuck. Everyone is so nice and kind and caring. Peter and Margaret's family, the local people, the volunteers, just everyone. They help us in every possible way.”
The Ballinamuck welcome has made a profound impression on the family: “To be honest, their care has made us cry many times. We are grateful and thankful for their help and Ireland too for treating us so kindly.”

The family's hopes for the future are very simple: “We would like our pensioners in Ukraine to live as happily as pensioners in Ireland. We hope to return to our peaceful land. We want Ukraine to be a peaceful, strong and independent place. Is that too much?"

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