A report about a family in Izyum: The city was occupied by the Russians and recaptured by the Ukrainians. There isn’t much left there.
Three dogs guard the house of the Tkachenko family. “Three small children live here” says a sign on the garden fence. The hope was that the property would not be shot at. But it was repeated several times, with rockets, with cluster munitions.
“Come in, it’s cold outside,” says mother Margarita Tkachenko as she stomps the snow off her shoes. The house was badly damaged during the war. The family has repaired the roof with a makeshift plastic sheet, the windows are boarded up.
Only we live here and an old grandmother a few houses further. All other neighbors are gone.
“There is almost no house left on our street. Only we live here and an old grandmother a few houses further. All the other neighbors are gone,” says Margarita Tkachenko while holding baby Sonja in her arms. In the family’s small kitchen, a frying pan with potatoes sits on the wood stove.
There is no normal school anymore
In the room next door, ten-year-old Nikita and seven-year-old Nika are sitting in front of a mobile phone. You are in distance learning. Normal school operations are unthinkable in the war-torn town of Isjum. The city was from March to September occupied by the Russians last year. Tkachenko reports on horrible scenes from that time: “When my husband and I went to the center, we saw corpses lying everywhere. There were dead people in a shot-up car, dead people lying by the bridge.”
You think so, says the mother three children, that it was a Russian sniper who killed those people. “Then one day in autumn, we suddenly saw tanks with white crosses on them driving down the street. My husband said: These are ours, these are Ukrainians. The children were so happy. And I thought: It’s not for nothing that we’ve waited all these months.”
The Russians are gone now. The front is about 75 kilometers east of Izyum. But the consequences of the war remain omnipresent. “Life is hard. There is hardly any help, »says Tkachenko.
Wood from the bombed neighboring house
Her husband lost his job. He is now trying to earn a bit as a day laborer. The money is correspondingly tight. Heat. Eat. Things that were taken for granted before the war now have to be fought for. “We have to heat with the stove, but we have no firewood. That’s why we go to the neighbor’s bombed-out house. He allowed us, we can take all the wood we can find there.”
Survive in the cold after the war
Food can be bought again – but at astronomically high prices, tells Tkachenko. «Once I got 6 bananas for the children for 120 hryvna. My husband has to work half a day for it.”
“I was born here”
The Ukrainian army was able to recapture the area. But the liberated residents are largely left to their own devices. At least that is the experience of the Tkachenkos. The family has not yet received any child benefit. And when humanitarian aid does get into the city, it usually comes from private organizations. The authorities probably have other things to do, Tkachenko suspects. It’s war.
This is my country. Here are all my memories.
Despite all the difficulties, the family wants to stay in Isjum. “Even when the Russians were here, I said: I’m not going away. This is my country, I was born here, my children were born here. Here are all my memories. I’m not leaving here, »says Margarita Tkachenko.