Ukrainian family torn apart after airstrike as thousands suffer

Ukraine: President Zelensky visits war wounded in Kiev hospital

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A Ukrainian family has been torn apart after a Russian airstrike obliterated their family home, leaving only “two cups” behind. Father-of-two Vasyl Fedorenko told of the family’s struggle to survive, as a refugee charity boss speaks of the plight facing thousands of Ukrainians across the country in the wake of cruel bombing runs by the invaders.

Vasyl lived with his wife and their two children – a boy, 15 and a girl, 9 – in Makariv, a settlement about 50km west of Kyiv. They were among the last to evacuate the area shortly after the invasion of Ukraine was first launched on February 24, leaving their home behind on March 11.

However, just weeks later, a shell hit their house, burning it completely to the ground. Now Vasyl frequently visits their old family home, sifting through the rubble for anything leftover from their life before the war.

He told that while they still live near each other, the family has been forced to live apart as a result of their displacement in the war.

Vasyl and his son live with relatives in an apartment in Makariv, while his wife, who has recently been able to resume her job in a school, lives with their daughter in a different apartment in the same area. The family are desperate to reunite and rebuild their home, but having lost everything they had in the airstrike, they have no funds for reconstruction.

The father-of-two said he had a “favourite collection of badges and Ukrainian coins”, but they did not survive the blast. All that he was able to recover so far were two mugs, which he said had been found in the bathroom.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, has recently done a tour of the country, visiting those who have been displaced by the war. He told that people are facing a choice between “freezing or fleeing” – with Russian bombing hindering the ability for people to choose the latter.

Me Egeland said one of the most important humanitarian passages is that in Zaporizhzhia, which previously saw a thousand people crossing every day – but after Russia bombed it in September, that number has reduced to just 200.

He added that the efforts to evacuate people was “Different to any other humanitarian operation on earth because half the population moving are old, and many are disabled.”

According to a September estimate by the Kyiv School of Economics, at least 114,700 houses have been destroyed during the war. Vladimir Putin’s use of airstrikes against civilian targets has only increased in recent months, in retaliation to a strong counteroffensive from Ukrainian forces.

He has specifically been targeting civilian infrastructure, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity or heating. Mr Egeland explained that a lack of electricity is not just a loss of lighting – it makes “everything run slower.”

He described a situation where he was crammed among 500 people waiting in a station, but the train didn’t come for hours because it runs on electricity.

He added: “It’s already difficult to imagine living in the countryside with a hole in the roof and no running water or electricity of light, and then there are no trucks to collect firewood, because when the Russians withdrew, they planted mines. Or, if you are in an apartment building, and you live on the 15th floor, the elevator might not work. So you have to – and it is especially bad if you are old – carry the water up 15 floors for use in the kitchen or the bathroom.”

For Vasyl, though, he said that his family had grown accustomed to the daily struggle imposed by constant airstrikes.

He said: “We know now how to get water, what food we need to survive. We used to always be scared when we heard airstrikes – but now we have gotten used to them.”

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This is partly because Ukrainian forces are still “de-mining” the areas left covered in mines, as described by Mr Egeland, and the process can cause explosions similar to that of airstrikes – meaning they are constantly surrounded by the sounds of war.

Asked how he would want the war to end, Vasyl said: “Naturally I want the war to be over tomorrow.”

He joked: “It will be a very good national holiday.”

But the father-of-two then added: “But I want the Russians to have to know what it is like to hide in a basement from air strikes, or what it is like to only have bread to eat for days. I want them to know what it is like to have your home destroyed.”

The Nest Prytula Foundation is aiming to support Vasyl and other displaced families – you can donate to them here.

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