When someone turns on a hair dryer or something falls, Sasha gets scared and hides. Any loud sound reminds him of the shelling that he and his family had experienced in Maryinka. Sasha is 6, but he acts like a 3-year-old child. His frightened smile conveys fear rather than joy. He doesn’t know how to write or read. His favorite TV show is “Battle of psychic” – the boy believes that they will tell when the war will be over.
“Sasha, do you remember how I called you as a child? – My boy toy! You were so small, funny and active. And you smiled all the time. And now…”
We are talking to Tatiana standing by their house in the very center of Maryinka – the house without any windows or roof. There is nobody around except the Chernayev family. The cold wind hits the torn film, which barely covers the war-torn windows. Tatiana tells us how she and her children are living. While she is talking, she can hardly hold her tears and I feel a deep desire to hug her.
Tatiana Ch. Is a single mother of three children: 6-year old Sasha, 13-year-old Yulia and 20-year-old Vladislav. Tatiana’s mother also lives with the family.
“We used to have a real family nest in Maryinka, until the war came,” Tatiana shares with sadness. “My brother lived here, one house away; and my aunt lived just a little further. We never sat around idle. We owned small grocery shops, planted vegetable gardens…. We had a wealthy life. And now the war scattered us all away. We escaped from war and went to Velyka Novoselka town and have been wondering around rented apartments ever since. My brother got a serious kidney disease because of nerves. He needed an urgent transplantation but it was too late and he died. My sister and aunt went to other towns too. The war destroyed our family nest and separated us all“.
“We would have been dead”
“When has this hell begun? They started bombing heavily… We could not go to the grocery store for many days. Everyone was hungry. On July 12, we gathered some of our belongings and decided to leave. We barely made it through the check point. In Kurakhovo, Sasha’s godmother gave us something to eat. I vividly remember this: we all were hungry but were so afraid of shelling that we couldn’t eat.
We moved to my father’s house in the village. I had a really bad relationship with the father because he divorced my mother. But I still came to him with the children and asked to stay at his house because we had nowhere else to go… 12 days after we left our home, my neighbor called me and said that we were now homeless. These were his exact words.
It turned out that a projectile fell near our house and exploded. All the windows flew out, the roof broke and our summer kitchen burned down.
I can’t express in words what I felt when I arrived to our home town three days later and entered our yard. The blast wave killed all our chickens – they, poor things, laid all around the garden dead … There was a heavy rain that day and everything looked even more sad. My favorite chairs were twisted and charred, curtains were thrown out by the explosion… It was a scary picture. I could only scream with horror and pain.
But then I realized that had we not left 12 days earlier, we would have been dead too. You can buy all of the appliances and furniture over time, but you can never return life”.
We have nowhere to come back to
“Do you remember how you used to meet me from work looking out of that window? You would snuggle up your nose to the glass and wait and run to meet me when I came”, Tatyana asks the oldest son Vladislav.
Silence. Vlad turns away so that we do not see him getting upset. I ask if he has friends, only to fill this awkward pause.
“Of course!!! I have a lot of them and all of them are in Maryinka. I graduated from high school here. We walked these streets with other boys and watched sunsets in the evenings… But now I’m only talking with them on the phone… The war destroyed our house.
Please, don’t think that I am a lazy guy! I do help our mother. I take the work on the construction sites. I am able to earn money to buy some bread and milk for my family! My Mom needs to take care of Sasha before it’s too late … But we really want to go home. They are not shooting as much as they did before. If we had the money, we would have restored the house ourselves. But for now, our income barely covers our food and rent… We have absolutely nowhere to return to. And I want to live at home. I want this war to end and peace to come!”
Please, let me alone!
When the war started, Sasha was only 2 years old. When strong shooting would begin, he would cover his ears with his hands and open his mouth. Since then, he is afraid of everything.
“Mom, will we have to run away from here too?” – this was the only phrase Sasha said while we were in their yard. He looked at us in disbelief. When someone on our team called him, he hid behind his mother. He didn’t talk to us, only smiled occasionally.
“He is a very vulnerable child. He is afraid of the storm and the rain, – Tatiana continues. – If a saucepan falls or a hair dryer falls, he hides and asks: “Will they bomb us again?”
If we go to visit someone, he will not enter the room with people he doesn’t know or make any contact with children. I see a strong difference in development between Sasha and the older children. I heard that the third child should be smarter, but he is not. Sasha somehow stopped in development when the war came. He doesn’t know how to write or read. He likes to build, but only in private when no one interferes with him. And if someone enters the room, he says: “Please, let me alone!”
Definitely, he is like that because of the war. He constantly asks me: “Mom, will we not have a tsunami any more? Will we not be bombed anymore? Will we not run away from the war anymore? Do you promise?”
I am very worried by the fact that Sasha loves watching “Battle of Psychics” TV-show. I say, “Son, you do not need to watch this garbage, go play with the kids”. And he tells me: “Mom, I don’t want to go play. What if they say when the war is over and I miss it?” It hurts me that the child has such “adult” worries.
Only moral courage helps us not to give up
“Only God helps us to endure all this. After we lived with my father for several months, he asked me to leave. Well, what else could I have expected from him? He had divorced our mother and never helped us … When he drove us out, we moved to Velyka Novoselka, and have changed 3 apartments since. It’s hard to wander like that. We all want to go home. And Sasha would feel better at home too. Home walls can cure. Yes, our house has no roof and windows now. But we still love our home very much.
To me, only moral courage helps us not to give up. Many friends started drinking alcohol. And I know that if I drink, my chances of surviving in this world will tend to zero, and children will be completely neglected. So, I believe in a bright future and I cling to every chance”.
We will celebrate the victory!
We have an agreement with our relatives that when the war ends and everyone returns home, we will put up a big table and gather and celebrate the Victory Day! It’s a pity that some of us are not with us any more… Our dream is to return home this spring, Sasha should go to school in the fall. These are just our dreams but we believe that they will come true.
To help the Chernayev family return home, we need to replace windows in their house, fix the roof and buy some furniture and household appliances. The first steps have already been made: thanks to “Pope for Ukraine” initiative, a boiler has been installed in their house, the heating system was started and peat briquettes delivered.
They need 73 000 UAH ($2700) on repair.
UPD: Now is collected 63 000 UAH.
Just another family will return home!
To donate to this family you can here