“During the first days of the war, the Russians were entering as numerous military convoys.
Approximately 60 tanks came to our village and stopped nearby. They did not enter the village but went to the Desna river, and built pontoon bridges there, but our soldiers bombed them later.
So they retreated: they came to the neighboring village and stopped there. Our army wanted to bomb them, but something went wrong. After all, they escaped.”
She was 5 months pregnant. We were taking her and her husband from a village in the northern Chernihiv region to somewhere in the south of Ukraine.
“Is that true, that Chernihiv and other cities are destroyed because of bombing like they show it on the TV?” she asked.
I exchanged a glance with Andrii Piven.
“True. You were lucky that the Russians passed through your village quickly, and there were no big battles.”
“Yeah, I get that. My brother and his girlfriend were trying to flee from Chernihiv, but the shelling went on. Now she has an exit wound in her thigh, and he has a bomb fragment in his backbone, it can not be taken out surgically because he might lose the ability to walk. But still, I can not believe this is all happening.”
We were driving through dazzling views of Siveria [a historical region in Northern Ukraine, including the Chernihiv region — Ed.] and there were no signs of the dreadful fights somewhere nearby.
Here the winter crops are turning green, right there a tractor pulled a tank, and storks are circling in the sky over dozens of their fellow birds who are resting in their nests.
Chernihiv, Mena, Sosnytsia, Korop, Krolevets, Konotop…
I have never heard most of these names before.
I haven’t been in most of them and did not plan to be.
Blown-up bridges are almost on every major arterial road.
Devastated roads between villages.
The incredibly beautiful Desna, whether you look at it from a collapsed bridge or from a small village bridge.
War is a weird thing.
Never have I thought that I would discover the beauty of the left bank of Ukraine by transporting humanitarian assistance to the demolished regions and helping to evacuate those in need from dangerous areas.
She seemed older than 70 years old.
She gave a plate of soup to each of us and sat near us, leaning on her crutches.
“I don’t feel sorry for myself. I do feel sorry for our boys. And for our people. Who would’ve thought that something like that could even happen? I wish them all dead, these orcs. I’m telling you, when they were in our village, I was in such a state that if I had gotten a grenade, I would have gone to them. Just like that, on crutches. Nobody would’ve suspected anything. I could’ve taken so many of them — and every single one of them would be mine. For no more deaths of our boys.”
She gave us shelter for the night. Because of the destroyed bridges, 70 kilometers of the road turned into hundreds of kilometers of byroad. So there was no chance we would arrive before the curfew.
“I wish it would end soon. I just don’t have the strength anymore. Absolutely none of it.”
Driving on the roads of Ukraine is like traveling between galaxy-like cities.
Every person is a planet with their own history, civilization, and worldview.
Men at checkpoints, guys in military trucks, locals on bikes showing the way, drivers of the trucks going in the same or opposite direction.
Every phrase that they utter is an entire story. Every conversation with them is a chapter from a history textbook.
Every evening of drinking tea with them is a book.
Every silence with local volunteers, exhausted and withered for these 40 days both inside and out, is the chronicle of the liberation movement.
When the war is over and the victory is ours, I’ll go traveling on these very roads.
Those are the places of power. And of spirit.
With whom are Russians going to fight here?
Have a good night.
April 9 at 9:52 p.m.
Ukrainian Text by Anton Senenko, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Apr 16, 2022