Victoria Kovalenko and her husband Peter decided to leave Chernihiv to protect their children — 12-year-old Veronyka and 1-year-old Varvara.
On March 4, 9 days after the start of the war, the family left the outskirts of the city and reached the village of Yahidne. The road was blocked by a blockage of stones from the blown up house, and Peter got out of the car to clear the way. And a few seconds later, the Russians fired on the car.
"There was an explosion or some shots. I was stunned. The rear glass shattered. The husband shouted: "Get out of the car!" recalls Victoria Kovalenko.
A chip cut Victoria's head, she was bleeding. Seeing this, her eldest daughter started screaming in horror, got out of the car, and fell down. The mother ran to the child.
"Then I saw her fall. When I came closer, she no longer had her head," says Victoria about the death of her first child.
He says that a Russian shell hit the car, and a fire broke out.
"I tried to remain calm, holding my youngest daughter in my arms. We had to find a safe place," Victoria continues her story.
She no longer saw her husband Peter, but his silence made it clear that he, too, died.
Victoria and her 1-year-old daughter tried to survive for a day — they hid in a parked car, but the shooting started. Trying to escape from shelling, Victoria was caught by Russian soldiers and taken prisoner. The Russians took Victoria with the child to the village of Yahidne and put them in the basement of the local school, where other hostages were already there. People were not allowed outside and the dead decomposed next to the living. Victoria and her baby spent 24 days in this basement.
People died from a lack of medicine and medical care. There was no light, so candles were used. They did not have enough air because in the room there were, according to the woman, 40 people. People's veins bled from the lack of movement, and they were given bandages. Day after day, the Russians brought in new hostages, and when the Ukrainian armed forces liberated the village, there were already 150 women and children in the basement.
Now Victoria and her daughter are in Lviv. She is safe. Her daughter Veronica and husband Peter are buried in the forest, a few meters from the place of their death.