‘When I saw our soldiers I cried’: Ukrainians retake a village near Kharkiv

“We left everything there. We took the animals and everything we could put in the car. (It was) two months of terrible fear, nothing else, terrible fear,” Natalia, 28, loosened without wanting to reveal her name.

They reached Kharkiv in about fifty cars, exhausted as if they were coming out of a nightmare, two months after the village had been occupied by soldiers from Moscow, and the last two days of shelling and fighting in the locality.

Ukrainians who arrived in Kharkiv after fleeing the village of Ruska Lozova, April 29, 2022 Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

“We stayed in the basements for two months without food, and ate what we had,” Svyatoslav, 40, explains, his eyes are red from fatigue. He doesn’t want to give out his name either.

Arriving in Kharkiv, they were gathered together in a parking lot on the outskirts of the city.

When smokers see a pack of cigarettes, they rush to order some, explaining that they have not smoked for two months.

Ruska Lozova, about 5,000 inhabitants before the war, is located 18 km north of Kharkiv. The M20 motorway, which leads to the Russian border, crosses the village, and then to Belgorod.

“We were on the front line. On the sixth day, the electricity and water were cut off (…) We went back to our apartment a week later and there were APCs under our window. Terrified.”AFP Tatiana Efimovna, 69 years old.

Tatiana Efimovna (left) and Petro Nilolayevich arrive in Kharkiv after fleeing the village of Ruska Lozova on April 29, 2022 in Ukraine Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

“There was a boy riding a bicycle, they (the Russian soldiers) stopped him, put a bag on his head and tied his arms. Someone asked what they would do with him, and they replied: + We will control it +. It is humiliation above all. Their soldiers searched houses and apartments “, She adds.

The Ukrainian army fired on Ruska Lozova A A position of strategic importance. “From this village, the enemy fired targeted fire on civilian infrastructure and living quarters in Kharkiv.”According to the Land Forces Command.

“Two scary nights”

The northeastern regions of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city – nearly 1.5 million pre-war residents – are daily bombarded with Russian missiles, causing civilian deaths.

Svetlana Perebelica and her dog Bayraktar arrive in Kharkiv after fleeing the village of Ruska Lozova on April 29, 2022 in Ukraine. Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

The village of Ruska Lozova has been liberated after heavy fighting and heavy bombing over the past two days.

“We spent two scary nights, like hell… On the penultimate night, we thought the sky was burning, the whole village was burning”says Svetlana Perebelica, 23, who holds a small dog in her arms.

According to her, “The Russians didn’t come on the first day (of the war). For a few weeks, we were in a little ‘gray zone’, it wasn’t them or us. When they entered the village, they said we cut off from Ukraine.”

Ukrainians who arrived in Kharkiv after fleeing from the village of Ruska Lozova, April 29, 2022 Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

Did they force people to go to Russia? “They threatened us with a huge bombardment because they were going to attack Kharkiv. People didn’t know what to do, so they got on buses and went to certain parts of Russia,” “Weary and terrified,” he adds, referring to families with children.

When Ukrainian soldiers entered the village, after two months of Russian occupation, Svetlana Perebelica remembers their presence “I saw on our street from the window, and cried, but they were tears of gratitude because I was really happy to see them,” I smiled.

Ukrainians who arrived in Kharkiv after fleeing the village of Ruska Lozova, April 29, 2022 Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

this friday morning, “It was quiet (…) We didn’t know if there would be an evacuation or not (…) My father saw that the cars were going. We took our things and our dogs and left”, She explained.

Before they could freely leave from the place where they had gathered upon arrival in Kharkiv, the residents had to undergo a short interrogation.

“They asked me about Belarus and Minsk, because I was born in Minsk and lived there for 23 years. And I said I would love to be here in Ukraine,” Explains Tatyana Efimovna, without being able to determine who conducted the interrogations.

Ukrainians who arrived in Kharkiv after fleeing from the village of Ruska Lozova, April 29, 2022 Agence France-Presse / Dimitar Delkov.

Before leaving, Svitlana Perepilitsa notes that her little dog was born on the second day of the war and is called “Bay, short for Bayraktar”, From the name of the Turkish drone that was equipped with the Ukrainian army.

“He is very brave, now I have my little Bayraktar to protect us”she adds.

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