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Chernihiv is the city of heroes

I put my car into first gear and set out.

My heavy vehicle jerked and went on crawling past completely rubbled buildings.

Changing into second gear… into third one… checkpoint… into first.

There was uneasy silence inside so I asked:

“Many locals dead?”

“Yes. A whole lot. There, in [the name slipped my memory], we dug out mass graves. Temporary ones. Couldn’t bury them in the cemetery — it was the battlefield. Anyway, when the Russians entered, the first thing they did was roll their tanks over the graves of our ATO combatants. There was an entire sector there. Now their bones are sticking out from the ground.

Changing into fourth… into fifth…

“We haven’t had much fighting here, just artillery and aviation of all sorts. 500 kg air bombs. It is what makes you scared witless. And the outskirts of Chernihiv don’t exist anymore. One hell of a mess was there… Everyone would creep hiding in their basements, while they, the orcs, would pass by and throw a grenade inside just for fun.

Into third gear… into second. A blown-up bridge. We’re driving past the constructions put up by the bridge layer tank. Into first, first, first gear… into second gear, into third gear…

“The pilot was then shot down. He ejected straight on the rooftops. One local dashed right at him with the pitchfork — we were all so fed up with him. So the pilot shot him dead. And that’s where our soldiers took him captive. “You thank heavens that the civilians didn’t lay their hands on you, otherwise you would be finished off,” they told him.

Driving past the town of Kyinka, where the hostile artillery swept away entire residential areas. Shell craters. In the second gear, in the third gear.

“Yes. A stroke of bad luck for them here. Only one day of shelling — and what damage they suffered. Many died. They’ve been battering us from dusk till dawn, dozens of mines per hour. Air raids twice a day. It’s all good now, there’s water supply back on the ground floors, and the electricity is being restored in some districts. Good God, how many plumbers and water utility workers died…

“Were they trying to restore infrastructure under shelling?”

“Yes. They were a target. The people queuing up for humanitarian aid and bread were the target too.”

“There must have been artillery observers somewhere in the vicinity. We saw that in Irpin. They took then the spotter in charge.

“Yes, our guys from the local Territorial Defence unit have hunted down a good deal of them, saboteurs, there were masses of them here.”

The rusty remnants of the Russian column smashed to pieces. Either the Grad or Smerch [Soviet multiple rocket launchers — Ed.] remains are protruding, it’s hard to tell in the dusk.

“And our boys have been and still are defending to the death. They told in plain words that they would hold Chernihiv till the last man. Sometimes they would come by to refuel themselves a bit: a guy takes a spoonful of some meal, eats it, puts his head on his hands, and falls asleep. But his sleep is far from deep… A soft rustle from somewhere, and he jumps to his feet and gazes around…

[Then the dialogue about our losses follows. I’ll leave it out.]

“A good thing that Chernihiv withstood. Were it otherwise, Kyiv would have to get through much harder times. They barely fought off the horde in the north. How far are the troops from the city?”

“Looks like 30 kilometers away. Took to their heels, them, bastards. And they’re just ridiculous: one would tie a wardrobe to his tank, others would snatch and drag TV sets along, they also shoved a cow inside a truck with another one packed with hay for the cow.

Oh, and while stationed in villages, they have pigged out on all the preserves: they haven’t seen either conserved grapes or pears. Slaughtered all the sheep, all the poultry, and swine. And they were so amazed by the fact that there’s a TV or a laptop in every house, there is electricity, and every road is paved in our villages. Strange thing: during their hasty retreat, they shelled the oncology center. What for? Why on earth?

Changing into fifth gear… into sixth gear…

Then we retreated into silence.

I could no longer hold a conversation for the rest of our journey.

Andrii Piven has been keeping silent since our set-out, and I could well understand him.

When we arrived in Kyiv, she added:

“I’m not running away, am I? In the toughest of times, I was doing my best to make life easier for our boys. And now, as we’re coming back on track, I should take care of my grandkids. They need me there more. You take care, boys.”

“We will. Say hello to your grandkids.”

Thanks to your donations to Kryiivka Vilnykh and the coordination of Vlad Samoylenko and Lera-Valeria, today our column supplied Chernihiv with a dozen of tonnes of humanitarian aid: generators, 400 liters of fuel, food, toiletries, medicine for a hospital, cargoes destined to specific places, sundries for our combatants.

The road to Chernihiv is free.

It’s been the first day since the army threw their wonder bridges, and now the 5-tonne vehicles can easily pass back and forth.

Hundreds of volunteers on hundreds of small buses and trucks headed for the fortress of Ukrainian Siveria.

On their way back they picked up the civilians.

I don’t have many pictures because of the time pressure.

Leave that for some Reuters, you’ll take a peep at the snaps later.

Chernihiv is the city of heroes.

Just for you to know.

Chernihiv will be fine from now on.

Meanwhile, we’re sending a ray of joy and goodness to the nuclear physicist Bohdan Lepiavko standing in defense of our land in Chernihiv now.

We’re standing by your side.

Thank you, Bohdan, for your service.

Well, you already know the rest of it.

Support the Armed Forces.

Only thanks to them, most of us are no longer sheltering in basements nor remaining in the mobile crematoriums.

The victory will be ours.

P.S. The curfew was prolonged till April 7 in Irpin, Bucha. A peaceful night to you all.

April 4 at 11:15 p.m.

Ukrainian Text by Anton Senenko, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Apr 14, 2022

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