These are sample stories that we will provide for you to send to your representative.
Each story is translated into English. All you have to do is copy and paste it into the contact form on your representative’s website.
Children Learn to Grieve
The most ordinary children gathered at Gen.Camp. They talk, laugh, cry, and wait for the Tooth Fairy. But each of them looked death in the eyes and lost a parent. All of them are living witnesses of atrocities and crimes against the Ukrainian people.
Meet 15-year-old Yegor from Kharkiv.
Soon after the beginning of the invasion, Yegor, his sister and their dad went out to get some food. The father sent his children to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, but he ran straight ahead. At that moment, the shelling began. When the children reached the body of their dad, he lay motionless, mutilated.
“At first, due to trauma, Yegor refused to speak. Now the kid is trying to communicate with peers, but he doesn’t talk yet. In the camp, he learns how to show his emotions again,” says Oksana Lebedeva, founder of the Gen.Ukrainian Organization, who brought children together in this camp.
Meet 13-year-old Anya from Odesa Region.
“We had an apartment overlooking the sea,” says Anya. On the evening of June 30, 2022, a Russian rocket hit the high-rise building where Anya lived with her parents.
“There was a supporting wall between the kitchen and the corridor, where my parents put me when the air raid sirens started. Mom went to pick up her orchids, and dad to turn off the TV. They didn’t come back,” the girl recalls.
The rocket hit an entrance to the building next to a hardware store. “My godmother told me that people came out of this store alive—a pregnant woman and a 5-year-old child. But we lived further away from the explosion. I can’t understand how it could be: they survived, and in my family, I was the only one left alive”. Anya’s face is full of emotions: anger, indignation.
“Children are angry at their parents who died at the front: why did he leave us and lose his life, and someone is still living at home? The slogan ‘heroes do not die’ is not for these children. Their heroes died,” explains Oksana Lebedeva. She adds that this also occurs when parents get killed while saving their children.
“The main goal of the camp is for children to accept all their emotions. They learn to grieve and experience the loss in order to return to a normal life. Children must live to the fullest so that their parents’ sacrifice is not in vain.”
By Victoria Andreeva. 5/12/2023. Translated and abridged by Alla Mantsur-Shane
Ukrainian military medic in Russian captivity. Part 1
“In Nova Kakhovka he was the youngest prisoner, 18 years old. The Russians pulled his toenails out. I had to redress his wounds for a very long time because he received no medical help after being tortured. Four days later, his fingers started to rot, and only then did the Russians permit me to see him…
In the occupied Nova Kakhovka police department, there were certain rooms, and the things I saw there made me very, very scared. I saw hacksaws, chainsaws, axes, machetes, all covered in blood. I realized that I had never been called to treat people after such tortures; probably, the Russians took them elsewhere afterwards.”
This is an excerpt from Yuriy Armash’s testimonials. Yuriy is a military medic who was captured by the Russians on April 3, 2022, as he was trying to get out of the occupied Kherson region.
Occupiers detained him for more than a year, first in the notorious Nova Kakhovka prison, where he was eventually allowed to provide basic medical help to fellow inmates and torture victims, and later in the infamous penal colony #12 in Russia’s Rostov region, a de-facto concentration camp for Ukrainian POWs and civilians. Yuriy recounts:
“When they brought me to the colony, there were 460 military POWs there; roughly 80 were women. I was shocked at the number of civilians—about 40%. The colony had a “strict treatment” section where the routine was as follows: in the evening, we had to run upstairs to the second floor for the lights-out call, and in the morning, quickly descend for the wake-up call. During this we ran through a corridor lined with the Russians who would hit us with rubber batons. We tried to help those who fell to their feet, otherwise they could be beaten to death.
Those batons broke twice on me. After torture I sometimes would wet or soil myself, and after a beating my face carried their boot marks for a very long time.”
In May 2023, Yuriy was released in a prisoner exchange. Once home, he provided a detailed description of the workings of the terror system built by the Russians.
By Oleg Baturin, Center of Journalist Investigations. 10/20/2023.
Abridged by Lena Nekludova. Translated by Olga Antonyuk
Deadly Russian attack on every family in Groza village
On October 5, 2023, in the village of Groza (Kharkiv region), with a population of 344, a Russian missile destroyed the building housing a general store and a café, killing 52 people.
‘This is a glaringly brutal Russian crime: a rocket attack on a regular grocery store, a deliberate act of terrorism in the Kharkiv region,” stated Volodymyr Zelensky.
The attack occurred at 1:24 PM. “There were local customers in the store, and a funeral reception was going on in the cafe,” said acting Minister for the Interior Igor Klymenko. “Every family in the village had someone present at that reception.”
The reception was for the reburial of a deceased Ukrainian defender. Initially, he was buried in Dnipro, but his relatives wanted to inter him in his native village. The funeral was organized by the family of the deceased. His son, who also served in the military at the beginning of the war, died together with his wife and mother when the rocket struck. All other fatalities are civilians.
A day after the attack, rescue workers continued to find body fragments as they searched through the rubble.
Seven people who sustained severe injuries have been transported to a Kharkiv hospital; one of them died within a day.
“It is a small building; there was no shelter in there; that’s why the death toll is so high,” said regional chief of police Volodymyr Tymoshko. “It cannot be called anything else but a genocide or a crime.”
October 6th through 8th are announced as mourning days in the Kharkiv region.
By Ganna Tsiomyk, 10/5-6/2023. Translated and abridged by Olga Antonyuk
I am not a military man. I never aspired to be a military man. I am a historian, a researcher, a museum worker. And a bit of a writer. I should be devoting my time to research and to writing. But at the moment, I am in the army because there is war in my country.
Every day, we engage in artillery duels, in which one successful arrival of an enemy projectile would turn us into mincemeat. We sleep in the backs of trucks on crates and take a shower once a month. When it rains, we’re wet; when it’s muddy, we’re dirty as hell; and in winter, we get frostbitten. We eat when there is a free moment and catch a bit of sleep when we can. And all the time, the enemy has us in their sights.
And thousands of other practitioners of peaceful professions—historians, writers, accountants, bank employees, IT specialists, teachers, designers—are in similar conditions. Some have already perished. And some who survive will be so traumatized that they will never be able to return to their professions. But we continue to fight. Because Ukraine is behind us. Because if we lay down our arms, our parents will be killed, our wives and daughters raped, our homes destroyed.
We will never surrender. Russia must be defeated. We need you to continue to support us with weapons, materiel, and sanctions. With your help, we will defeat Russia and thereby reduce the threat of a global catastrophe.
We have the one indispensable thing that cannot be bought—motivation. We Ukrainians have left our peaceful professions to fight for our country. Our young people are spending their best years under the threat of death. Ukrainians will fight as long as they can resist.
What will you do?
Abridged. Translated by Lina Bernstein.
* Here is a recent post from Rozlutsky’s Facebook:
In the fall of 2021, I often dreamed of rejoining the army and going to war. Upon waking, I’d think, “Thankfully, it’s just a dream.” Now, I sometimes dream that I’m home. I wake up and think, “Sadly, it’s only a dream.”
A boy rescued after missile strike in Dnipro
At the time of the attack 12-year-old Rostislav Yarochenko was at home alone. His mother, Nadezhda Yaroshenko, a pediatric anesthesiologist, was at work.
“The only thing I remember was a flash, a window flying straight at me, and lots of smoke,” the boy recalled. His mom added: “My son called me, he was screaming on the phone that he can’t see anything, and he can’t breathe, there was so much smoke and fumes”.
Fortunately, right at the time of the strike Rostislav’s coach Yuri Vasetsky happened to be near the building. He immediately called Nadezhda and asked if she and her son were at home.
Yuri ran towards the burning building even before ambulances and firefighters arrived. “It was like a movie scene… part of the building already collapsed, cars parked at the ground level started exploding and burning, pieces of the structure were falling down. People trapped in the burning building were begging for help. I knew that the child was there, but how should I get him out?” Yuri recalled.
While he was climbing up the outside wall using whatever his hands and feet could find like fragments of balconies and window A/C units, he saw a mother with a child trapped in their apartment. He couldn’t continue just climbing up past them. Together with other passers-by who also rushed to help he got them out.
Yuri continued his climb. When he reached Nadezhda’s apartment, part of it was in ruins, the kitchen and entry hall were gone. There was a small area still intact where he found the boy. It was a miracle that the child survived and wasn’t even injured.
For now, the family lives with friends. Despite everything they went through, Nadezhda is determined to stay in Dnipro. “What is so hard to accept is not that we lost our home, but the loss of lives,” she said.
That strike killed 46 civilians including 6 children. About 100 were treated in hospitals.
By Victoria Lemar. 01/21/2023. Translated and abridged by Lora Colvan
Story of Pediatric Rehabilitation Center
Tetiana Chub is the technical director of the medical rehabilitation and palliative care center for children in Kharkiv, which has been under heavy shelling by the Russian army since the beginning of the war. “When they were shelling, we were carrying children in our arms to the basement. Afterwards, we had to carry everyone upstairs. Only two of them could walk independently.”
Tetiana lived in Saltivka, a residential area of Kharkiv that was seriously damaged by shelling. A missile hit the roof of her house, windows in the apartment were blown out. Nothing remained of her summer house. Tetiana and her husband slept on the floor in the office. Now she lives at her daughter’s place.
It was possible to evacuate some of the wards to Germany together with their mothers and medical staff, albeit with great difficulty. But other families serviced by the center could not leave Kharkiv because their children would not survive the hurdles of transportation. Those who are connected to oxygen machines cannot be moved out. “Deterioration of children’s condition is what parents face. And this is the reason why we all began returning to work little by little, regardless of the risks. Now our occupational therapist, physical therapist, pediatrician, and speech pathologists keep working at the Center. It is very difficult to do under the constant shelling, but children cannot make it without rehabilitation.” And Tetiana cannot leave them. “I do not panic at all. I believe in our victory,” she says. “This is our home –we have to be here and fight as best we can.”
By Olena Struk. July 7, 2022. Translated by Khrystyna Mykhailiuk. Abridged by Aya Mantsur-Shane
Polina’s diary, part 1
21-year-old Polina Kovalevskaya was trying to survive in Mariupol from the first day of war (February 24th, 2022) until April 4, 2022. Here are some excerpts from her diary.
March 3. Eighth Day of War
Yesterday we came to this shelter [at the City Cultural Center] because a rocket destroyed our apartment building… At night we managed to get some sleep because we got lucky: our basement room is 15 ft by 12 ft with a high ceiling. This room has an advantage – there is enough space to lie down. There are 15 people and three dogs here (husky is great, but the two little ones bite). In other rooms people sleep while sitting or standing up. There is not enough oxygen, though…
Now we are discussing where to get drinking water at the time when stores are closed and looters are fired at with no warning. By the way, is it considered looting if one takes from a store that has been already destroyed? There is no such thing as personal possessions. We are all in the same boat, so we share everything among 15 people. We take turns fanning [the room] with a piece of cardboard or fabric to make it easier to breathe…
Today the bombs are falling on our building. Children are crying, boys are freaking out because of sleep deprivation, women are praying.
We understand that there is no way for us to escape, and this is true. They bomb 24/7 and you never know where it will land. We are surrounded, the Russians don’t care who they kill, they are trying to raze Mariupol to the ground.
Written by Polina Kovalevskaya, 05/02/2020. Abridged and translated by Aya Mantsur-Shane
A boy who couldn’t even cry
On March 1, Andrii Blyzniuk, a 10 year old Ukrainian boy, fled from a village near Chernihiv together with his parents and uncle. Their family’s car ran across a Russian military vehicle convoy. Although the car was obviously civilian and was not a threat, a Russian armored personnel carrier diverted from the convoy and rammed into their car. The iron tracks wrecked the right side of the vehicle. “My daddy died immediately, but mommy wasn’t injured”, the boy says. Andrii’s legs were trapped by the seat. Russian soldiers pulled him out of the car and threw him to the side of the road. Then they began firing at the car as Andrii’s parents and uncle were inside, aiming for and striking the gas tank. The car was immediately set on fire. Andrii laid on the roadside and watched the car burn down right in front of him. He knew his mother was burning alive.
The boy was found by local villagers, who called his grandparents. His grandmother said that the boy couldn’t even cry.
By Igor Berezhanskij. 05/11/2022. Translated and abridged by Lora Colvan
Wedding at Azovstal plant
On May 5th Valeria and Andrei, two defenders of Mariupol, trapped in the catacombs of Asovstal plant together with hundreds of other soldiers, got married. They had a wedding ceremony under the Russian shelling and bombardment, but they were so happy. Andrei made their wedding rings from foil. He got killed 3 days later when the Russian army tried to storm the besieged plant. Within 3 days Valeria was a bride, a wife and a widow.
“For 3 days you were my loving lawful husband, and I will love you for the rest of my life! To me you are, and always will be the bravest, the most caring and loving man, my hero! You gave me your name, your loving family and the memory of our happiest time together! I promise to stay alive and live for both of us!
By the National Guard of Ukraine, 05/11/2022. Abridged by Lora Colvan
Sex crimes against children
Psychologist and psychiatrist Liliya Shakalova works with two raped girls, aged nine and eleven. They were taken out of the small cities near Kyiv occupied by the Russian soldiers. We do not name the children and release just a fragment of Ms. Shakalova’s conversation with the correspondent of the online issue of “Babel”.
The 9 year old girl from Bucha was wounded very, very badly. Her private parts have already been stitched up.
Her mother went out for water with other mothers and children. One or two children were left alone. The orcs(*) broke in. They raped the girl, she started screaming, and then they beat the woman who tried to rescue her. When the mother returned, she saw her bloodied child. And the little girl said: “Mommy, my cookie hurts, mommy, it hurts so much.”
The 11 year old has no father and lived together with her grandmother. She was raped in front of the grandmother. The woman started screaming and the Russians hit her in the face.
The girl is now suspected of being pregnant because she already had periods before, but doesn’t have any now. Though it may be so because she’s too stressed. This girl is now supervised by a gynecologist. This girl was stitched up earlier, while her settlement still was occupied. The locals managed to find a doctor living there.
Both girls are now safe, they are with their parents, and are undergoing therapy.
(*) orcs – a Ukrainian nickname for Russian occupants.
By Yevhen Spirin. April 11, 2022. Abridged by Elena Lozovsky
“I recently talked to friends. They said that a shell hit some people’s apartment. All the neighbors ran together and started putting out the fire. The second shell killed everyone,” says Ivan.
He lived in New Bavaria, a district of Kharkiv. He says that the Russians bombed houses, dormitories and shops there. “Thirty years ago there was a military base in one of the buildings, and now there is a furniture factory. They had outdated data, so they destroyed it as well,” the young man says.
Cars and houses were on fire. We made our way out running in-between shellings, through the yards. We’ve seen people cooking meals right next to graves—one for an adult and one for a child.
Another time, when we went to check on my wife’s parents, we saw a huge puddle of blood, and in it a brain, you know… yes… just floating. There were a lot of corpses in the city: at bus stops, on benches. They would be wrapped in blankets and taken out. Next to my house, there was a woman’s corpse wrapped in a blanket. It stayed there for 5 days. Next to her, someone made a cross from two twigs. Then, I guess, her relatives decided to bury her. They dug a burial pit in a chestnut alley and buried her among the trees.
Story of a tank mechanic
A T-64 tank mechanic, a trooper of the 28th separate mechanized Brigade of Knights of the Winter Campaign, was wounded in southern Ukraine. On the day of the incident, when he entered – for the second time – the village destroyed by the occupiers, his tank got blown on a mine. “He recalls how he came to his senses, realized that he was wounded, that he was inside a blown up tank and that he needed to get away urgently. He was able to get out, crawl a few meters to the side of the road and roll off it. There were regular explosions, shots, the roar of an enemy tank which was getting closer and closer” – said the report.
The man was able to burrow into the ground, and the enemies did not notice him, but the next battle began immediately, and the seriously wounded tanker spent almost a day under enemy fire. Then, with broken legs, he crawled about 6 kilometers. Once on a hill, he was able to place a call to the fellow fighters who considered him dead. His comrades made it in time to save the tanker.
According to his doctors, he will not be able to walk for at least six months.
By Violetta Orlova. April 12, 2022. Translated by Lena Nekludova
A family doctor
Irina Yazova lives in my apartment building in Bucha. She is a family doctor and a mother of three.
On March 5th my husband and our friend brought home our neighbor Vladimir. He had gone out to check on friends and one of the rashists* snipers shot and badly wounded him. For three hours he was lying on the road next to our building. Tanks drove by. At first, he hoped that they would not run him over, but after a while he thought that it would be better if they would because he couldn’t endure the horrible pain. For four days, Ira, who is not a surgeon, nor a military medic, dressed his wounds and sedated him. We feared that if an ambulance wouldn’t take the wounded man, he would not live until morning. But Vladimir lived till evacuation a few days later, because Ira treated him and nursed him – saved him.
At the same time Ira had to deliver a baby. It so happened that a 9-months pregnant woman lived in our building. And the baby decided to be born on the 12th day of the war. There was no electricity, no water, no heating, no obstetricians in Bucha. Ira.had never delivered a baby before, but no one had any inkling that was the case. For the woman in labor, Ira was the embodiment of confidence, and no one knew how scared she was that night. The obstetric express delivery team of our building (one family doctor plus one designer plus one housewife) welcomed little Alice to this world. She was born in the dark and cold, but everything went perfectly. A few days later, both the mother and the child were evacuated.
Ira does not consider her actions something out of the ordinary, she simply did what she thought necessary at the moment – she was faithful to the Hippocratic oath, helping those who needed help.
* rashist – a new word, combination of Russian and fascist.
By Vika Kurilenko, April 3 2022. Translated and abridged by Elena Lozovsky
Looking for missing relatives
On April 8, 2022, at a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, more than 50 civilians were killed and hundreds injured. In every major news source you can read that. And here is from one of the medics who worked at the scene:
A father comes over to us and says that he can’t find his family, asks for permission to look around. Look around how? Open each body bag? He takes out his phone and dials a number. The ring comes from one of the black bags. This is hell!
By a sergeant in the Ukrainian Army. Translated by Marianna Epstein
Yuliya was staying with her two children in the home of her elderly parents in a village at the outskirts of Chernihiv, when Russian troops entered the village. She recalls:
They came on March 3d and we hid in the cellar. The next day they forced us out and made us go to the schoolhouse. They wouldn’t let us take anything with us, just the stuff we had in the cellar, like a few blankets. Grandma couldn’t walk, so we rolled her in a cart.
Once we got there, we saw that the entire village, around 400 people, had been rounded up and herded into the basement that used to be the school gym. We were packed there like sardines. There were 71 children in the basement; the youngest just a month and a half.
People put pieces of cardboard and blankets on the floor for the children, but the floor was still damp. It was also very hot and stuffy and hard to breathe. The children were drenched in sweat, some fainted. The air was foul; some elderly people couldn’t hold it in and soiled themselves. After a couple of days, a few older people went mad and started stripping off their clothes and screaming.
When old people died at night we weren’t allowed to carry their bodies out till morning.
If the Russian soldiers were in a good mood, they would let us out to use the bathroom at a certain hour. If they were in a bad mood, we would be locked up for the entire day. People had to use buckets. We would beg them to at least let us take out the buckets, and every other time they would allow it. It was a nightmare.
When we asked to let us go to our homes and bring back some clothes, soldiers followed us holding us at gunpoint. My mom and I went to get some underwear and found it had all been stolen, even the used underwear — and all the children’s clothes too.
The worst thing was the worry for the children. My son wouldn’t stop crying and kept asking: “Are you sure they won’t kill us? Are you sure we won’t get killed?”
April 27 2022. Abridged and translated by Lena Nekludova