‘They shot everyone but her’: One woman’s story of war in Ukraine

One day, she led a normal life. The next, she was in a basement with six other families. Such stories are the reality of war – we must tell them. Imagine you are 40 years old. You live in a town of around 50,000 people, in a country that has not been involved in conflict in your lifetime. All your life you have been working, saving, bringing up your children, helping your parents. You build your house, you slowly pay off loans, you plan your old age. One morning, you wake up to explosions. You don’t understand what is happening, where you need to run or what you should do. The explosions and automatic gunfire do not stop, pieces of wall start flying at you. (…) You can’t get food anymore – only a bag of dog food is available. (The dogs, torn apart by shrapnel, lie in the courtyard where you used to plant flowers.) This bag of food is for all the people who live and die with you in the basement. All these people are your neighbours: people you used to wave at when you mowed the grass, the parents of your children’s classmates or people you resent for playing loud music out their windows. You’ve all been in the same basement the size of a kitchen for days. Nobody has cancelled a human’s physical needs, but there are many of you, and only one bucket. Everyone tries to keep from defecating and chooses, instead, to only urinate. It’s a stuffy room, after all. But one’s physical needs remain and, after several days, it feels like your rectum is simply breaking apart from the inside. Then, one day, you see a neighbour your own age cutting her 11-year-old daughter’s hair, as short as it can go. With huge garden shears, she chops off the girl’s hair, which had flowed down to the middle of her back. She thought soldiers would think that her daughter was a boy and wouldn’t rape her. She already knows that even two-year-old children are being raped, because a few minutes earlier, a woman from a neighbouring street had crawled into the basement. For several days, soldiers had raped both the woman and her two-year-old daughter, who died. Your neighbour cuts her daughter’s hair. She does not yet know that boys are also being raped. (…) In the morning, armed men in uniform open the door to the basement. They speak to you in a language you understand and you just can’t believe that they are murderers. They take you all out into the courtyard outside your home. It’s raining. The water coming from the sky is the first you’ve seen in many days. People fall to their knees and try to drink dirty water from a puddle. Someone begins to rub their body with it, smearing dirt onto their face. Everyone from the basement is put on their knees and shot. Everyone except you. And not because the army that came to your land, to your courtyard, wishes to spare you. No. They will tell you straight to your face: you are supposed to stay alive in order to tell others how strong this army is.

via open democracy: ‘They shot everyone but her’: One woman’s story of war in Ukraine

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