Every city has its own face. It consists of its inhabitants and landmarks. Earlier, Chernihiv greeted guests from the capital with its signature – St. Catherine’s Church on the hill, which was lit in the evening by lanterns. With the beginning of the war, they died out. And since March 23, this “face” has been closed due to a damaged road bridge connecting the left and right banks of the Desna.
Today, the first thing those who come to Chernihiv see is “scars”: destroyed and damaged houses on the outskirts, broken bumpers, checkpoints.
The city authorities estimate that 1.5 thousand private houses and 10,000 apartments were completely destroyed during the active hostilities in Chernihiv, and another 37,000 were damaged.
In March, about 200,000 people left the city – almost 200,000 people. It is difficult to estimate how many of them have already returned. But in early May, a month after the blockade, traffic jams appeared on many streets. This is despite the fact that it is difficult to buy fuel in the city: not everyone has enough long lines at the gas station. In recent weeks, it has been sold mainly on coupons and fuel cards.
What Chernihiv looks like now is a report in the stories and faces of its inhabitants.
They are in no hurry to make repairs
|Announcement of measuring windows in Chernihiv|
Such an announcement appeared on the wall of a construction store in Chernihiv a few weeks after the Russians were expelled from the region. People place similar advertisements in local groups on Facebook and Telegram.
Before the war, Andriy Galeta’s company installed shutters, windows and other metal-plastic constructions. And although all this has suffered the most from the fighting, according to the man, people are in no hurry to make repairs.
|Chernihiv house with broken windows|
“Some are afraid that the Russians will return again, some do not have money for repairs, some believe that it is not on time.
Prices for materials and installation services have doubled today. Largely due to the cost of fuel and changes in logistics routes: before the war, some materials were imported from Belarus. Now, to replace a double-glazed window or a window, you have to wait for it for more than a week , “Andriy explains.
To save on expenses, the businessman moved from his pickup to his wife’s minivan. After all, you have to travel a lot: the man lives in the suburbs of Chernihiv – the village of Kiinka. The Russians fired at him several times with cluster shells from the Tornadoes. For the first time – February 28. Many houses were damaged then. The cluster shell also hit Galeta’s house. Fortunately, the family was not there.
On the first day of the war, Andriy took his wife Larisa, children Vlad and Olya and the German drathaar Valera to his relatives in a village in Pryluchchyna. Later, Larissa and her children went to Germany to visit her sister. There, the children have already gone to school, and the woman is learning the language in integration courses and volunteering. Andrew returned home on April 5, as soon as possible.
|A hole in the roof of Andriy Galeta’s house|
“We haven’t suffered much yet, compared to our neighbors. Someone has lost relatives, animals, housing… Our shell damaged the roof, windows and walls on the second floor, ” says Andriy Galeta.
When I first entered the house, it smelled damp and cold. It rained for more than a month through a four-meter hole in the roof. Andrew first covered it with corrugated iron from the fence, and later brought from Pryluky ondulin (roof type – ed.). In Chernihiv, construction stores were closed, and the largest, Epicenter, burned down on the same day that Kyivka was covered with tornadoes.
“I fixed the roof and cleaned up around. I didn’t do anything inside, not before … At first I helped the neighbors to close the holes in the houses. Then they started to receive orders from customers. That’s how I live, ” says Galeta.
Today Kyivka already has electricity and gas. Water is supplied only for an hour, because the water tower is cut by fragments of shells. Shops opened. People are slowly returning home and plowing the gardens.
The dampness and cold from Galeta’s house disappeared. Instead, a sense of loneliness settled. Above all, Andriy dreams of finally meeting his beloved and hugging his children tightly. Just like the millions of families separated by the war.
“Russians ruined my little paradise”
|Valentina Ovchar from Novoselivka|
Valentina Ovchar from Novoselivka, a suburb of Chernihiv opposite Kyivka, was ruined by the Russians not only in her property but also in her jubilee. She turned 70 on February 24. The woman planned to celebrate in a pizzeria owned by her grandchildren, and the next day to gather the family at a table in her “little paradise” – a house along the road outside the city.
Valentina has two daughters: the eldest has a restaurant business and the youngest has a schoolboy. There is also a stepson.
|Valentine’s house along the route|
But the war intervened. And instead of a pizzeria, the grandchildren moved Valentina to Chernihiv to her youngest daughter, where she lived until March 6. When the light and heat in the house disappeared, the family moved to a pizzeria. There, together with other volunteers, they prepared food for the Armed Forces and the Defense Forces. We spent the night in a nearby shelter.
“The same evening our neighbors called us and told us that my daughter’s house was gone. The 13-year-old son-in-law went to work to build that house. I haven’t seen the family for months, he’s still there. And this bastard ruined everything… She is waiting for her husband to return to apply for compensation, “said Valentina Ovchar.
|The roof, walls and doors of Valentina’s house are damaged|
Shells flew into Valentina’s house in Novoselivka in the first days: they damaged the roof, walls and doors. The woman is sure that there were Russians in the yard, and demonstrates a camouflage glove as proof.
|Valentina Ovchar demonstrates a mitten left by the occupiers|
“I have been living here for two days. The first night the dogs barked. The second night there was silence, and it was even more frightening. And in the morning he learned that Novgorod-Siversky was shelled . They will not calm down,” the woman said.
Before the war, Valentina Ovchar worked as a security guard at a Chernihiv school. And in her spare time she wrestled in the garden. She says she had UAH 10,000 from vegetables during the season. Sold at the bazaar. I got to the city by minibus, which stopped almost under the house. And this spring the garden will plow late.
“This year it’s expensive: they charge UAH 150 per hectare, but at least they plow. I’ll plant potatoes and beds for myself. Tomatoes and peppers won’t have time to grow for sale, so the bazaar is canceled. It’s good that I was called to work at the end of April a salary to help the children , “the woman said.
Tulips and daffodils bloom among the ruins in the flowerbeds of Valentina. Roses and peonies also survived. While the woman is cleaning the yard, Iskra Dobra volunteers are repairing the roof with improvised means: cover it with film so that water does not flow inside. There is no gas or light in Novoselivka yet. So Valentina arranged a few bricks and heats the water on them.
Homeless dogs near garages
Equipment that stood in line for straightening and painting
People write so as not to break locks
What was left of the store, where there was ice cream in the summer
Homeless dogs near garages
Equipment that stood in line for straightening and painting
People write so as not to break locksprevnext
Almost in front of Valentina Ovchar’s house is a garage cooperative. The Russian military lived there, leaving behind packets of biscuits and cans. Of the 600 garages, many have been bombed and looted, with locals blaming Russians and looters.
Equipment, cars, tools, materials were stolen… The gatehouse, where the administration and the security guard were, was completely destroyed. There is also a shop and cafe nearby, where ice cream and cold beer are sold in summer.
Like ghosts, there are burned cars that have not waited their turn for straightening and painting. Before the war, many garages worked in these garages: electricians, mechanics, welders, carpenters and other specialists of “garage service stations”.
Now people are dismantling the ruins. Some come to see if anything has survived and to take out the remnants of the good. It is impossible to work here due to broken wires and fallen power poles. Therefore, the whole territory now belongs to homeless dogs who lived here before, during and after the retreat of the occupiers.
|Sasha and Ivan dismantle the damaged wall. Carefully upholster each brick and cinder block of cement, stack. They say they will collect it again. The garage will be used as a warehouse|
Only the cellar and the swing with the sandbox remained
A cellar and a swing with a sandbox are all that is left of the house of Anatoliy and Lyudmila Nazarenko. For 20 years, the couple built their lives in the Bobrovytsia district of Chernihiv. And on March 15, all their property was smashed to pieces by Russian bombs.
|The Nazarenko family on fire. They planted cities. The godparents, the Zhuks, came to help|
The family had just replaced the windows in the house when the war broke out. And in honor of retirement, the children gave their parents a gas stove. Lyudmila baked a cake in a brand new oven only once, for Christmas, when, according to tradition, the godparents came to visit.
On February 24, a daughter with small children, aged 1 and 3, came to Nazarenko. For more than two weeks, the family lived between the house and the basement. While it was light, they baked loaves and black round bread for the whole “corner” because they had a bread machine. Products for “production” consisted of neighbors: someone brought eggs, someone yeast, flour.
And then the air raids began. When it was rumored that “the ground in the loess rose”, Nazarenko decided to move to her daughter’s apartment in the city center. It happened on March 12. And in three days two bombs blew up the house.
“They say the house burned down for a long time. And what kind of bombs it is – live trees burned. And animals as a pity: in the barn pigs burned alive. All our lives here are destroyed, it’s good that they are alive,” – says the hostess.
Now the Nazarenes have returned to the fire to plant potatoes, beds and harvest. It is said that without a harvest it will be difficult to live on one pension. The daughter and grandchildren remained in the village of Vertiyivka, where the family left in mid-March after a shell fell near the entrance to her daughter’s apartment.
The first night “at home” the couple spent the night in the lodge, where they hid from the shelling. What to do next – do not know. Anatoly says that it is very difficult to start life in the early 60’s: there is no energy, time and finances to rebuild.
The family has already received a report from firefighters that the house burned down due to the shelling, and wrote a statement to the police. They don’t know when they will get at least some housing and whether they will get it at all.
Judging by the number of destroyed apartments, there are more than 10,000 such families in the city. On May 16, Andriy Podorvan, director of the Chernihiv Regional State Administration’s information department , said that two modular towns were planned to be built near Chernihiv. 700 people will live there. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
He almost fell into captivity and became a volunteer
Oleksandr Miroshnychenko’s apartment survived, although it is located in the neighborhood that was badly damaged by the shelling. His wife and 5-year-old son experienced the blockade in occupied Voznesensky, 15 km from Chernihiv. Alexander came to the city because his 75-year-old mother stayed there. And he could not return to the village: the Russians stopped at the checkpoint, wanted to take him prisoner, but released him.
“Everyone asked why we want to go to Europe, NATO… From the conversation I understood: the Russians were told that our soldiers are demoralized and will almost meet them with a white flag. And here is such resistance ,” – recalls a meeting with the occupier Alexander.
Now the man is volunteering: he delivers humanitarian aid to families in need. He says food kits have become heavier, so more than five addresses a day cannot be visited. The guy rides a bike. At the time of the interview, public transport was not yet operational. It was partially launched on May 19. The fare has increased by UAH 4 and costs UAH 12.
The Miroshnichenko family has finally reunited. But the work is still difficult. Before the war, his wife worked in a call center, and at the end of February the whole team was fired. Wages and holidays – paid.
So now all the financial responsibility lies with Oleksandr. He works in the field of Internet marketing. He says there are orders, but they are not permanent. The family managed to use the help of the state – UAH 6,500 under the “eSupport” program. They also had their own savings. And so they lived.
The regional employment service says 3.4 thousand people have lost their jobs since February 24. But in practice, this figure is higher, because not everyone is registered. There are also many who are on vacation at their own expense. In particular, “state employees” tell about it. It is said that they were faced with a choice: to return to the city to work or go on vacation “at their own expense.” Some have returned and some have not, because they believe it is still dangerous.
During the month of shelling, the Russians damaged 27 of the 34 schools in Chernihiv. So the children are now at a distance. And the school year in the city was extended until June 24.
In general, Chernihiv is coming to life. There are flowers in the flowerbeds, and their communal workers came out with special love even under the shelling in March. In most places – clean. Although spontaneous trade is still thriving on the streets, garbage is removed quickly.
Beauty salons, supermarkets and shops are already open. There are products and hygiene products, but prices have risen. But alcohol is not sold in the city, banned for the second time since May 4 due to rising crime.
Meanings on billboards and citylights have also changed. Elsewhere, there are still pre-war advertisements for discounts and half-skinned photos of politicians. But on the central avenues – thanks to the military, medics, bakers, rescuers, critical infrastructure workers and utilities.
On the city lights – photos of fighters who were or are at “Azovstal” in Mariupol. And street artists are painting fences with patriotic inscriptions “Kherson is Ukraine” and “Chernihiv is a Hero” should appear soon.
Sirens in the city have not been heard since early March due to damaged power supplies. The mobile application and Talagram channels inform about alarms. But people are used to worries and often neglect them. He is almost fed up and worried, but still anxious and with traces of the destruction of Chernihiv gets used to living in a new reality.
(C)UKRAINSKA PRAVDA 2022