This is Northern Saltivka, a residential area in Kharkiv and a straight road to the village Tsyrkuny, which had been occupied for a long time.
Tsyrkuny is only three kilometers away from that house, but you can’t go farther — the military won’t let you. It’s not safe, and there are many air strikes.
In a detached house almost next to the checkpoint, men are repairing the roof and are somehow covering the windows from the rain.
A missile hit the building: it got through this entire house and stuck in the neighboring yard.
One of the helpers here is Vitalik. That’s what he calls himself.
I see and smell that he has been drinking.
Seeing us, journalists, Vitalik rushes to give us a hug. I can feel that deep inside it’s very hard for him.
While he is telling us his story, we can smell the alcoholic fumes the entire time, but closer to the end of the conversation I stop being upset about that.
It turned out that Vitalik is from Tsyrkuny, from the first day of the invasion till May 7, he was there under occupation.
When I ask how was it, he can’t hold back the tears. It’s difficult for him to find the right words, he can only say “f*cking hell” and stuff like that.
His friend Konstiantyn asks Vitalik not to swear in the presence of the journalists. I tell him not to worry, for the Brits wouldn’t understand a word.
During all those days in Tsyrkuny, Vitalik was sheltering in the cellar, and he said his last goodbye to life several times.
After the city was freed, he went to his friends, but now he can’t get back because it is not safe there again.
While we were saying goodbye to each other, Vitalik took me aside and asked with pleading eyes: “Do you know when this f*cking hell will be over?”
In the end, I gave him my telephone number because he begged me to call him once the leaders of the country (in his opinion, I have access to them) inform me about our victory and the end of the war.
On my way back home, I was completely aware of the way Vitalik was feeling. And I started to believe that it wouldn’t be long till I call him.
To bring him the good news.
May 17 at 6:45 p.m.
Ukrainian Text by Kostiantyn Andriiuk, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jun 1, 2022