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Vladislav Chernyavsky

I am from Gostomel, my whole family lives there. Before the war, I lived in Odessa for some time, was engaged in conducting master classes for artists and actors, and invited foreign acting teachers.

Before the war, I went to Kyiv, where I had an operation to remove a stone from my kidney, after which I went to my family and was in Gostomel for rehabilitation. The day before the war, they pulled a stent out of my kidney.

On February 24, I woke up to the sound of explosions. Our house is located at a distance of 2.5 kilometers from the airfield, which the Russian troops were trying to capture. It immediately occurred to me that the war had begun. I immediately called my friends from the USA, started calling and writing to relatives, we all quickly understood what was happening.

A few hours later we heard the sound of gunshots. We thought that our troops were flying to the airport to take up positions, ran out of the house and saw Russian helicopters flying overhead, a fighter jet was flying behind them and opened fire from machine guns, they were shelling the airfield. Soon a column of flame rose from the other side and poured black smoke.

We sat in the basement for several hours, after which we went up to the house and began to monitor the situation around. Our house is on the main street in Gostomel, which goes straight to the airfield. Soon we saw how Russian equipment was moving along it.

A few days later Russian soldiers came to our house. We were lucky that about 20 minutes before we got a call from my uncle, who lives a little further down the street. He said that the Russians are taking away people's mobile phones. We managed to hide our phones and got out the old ones.

When the Russian soldiers broke into us, they said that we had three seconds to do whatever they asked, or they would open fire to kill. They took our old phones and smashed them, then ransacked the house and turned over all our things. The soldiers ordered us to collect the necessary things and go with them to the airfield. We were lucky that during the search in the house, my sister's cat hid somewhere. She began to panic that she would not go anywhere without him, began to look for the cat, and at that time the soldiers left.

After that, we really packed a few things, took the cat and went outside. Another group of soldiers came to meet us, I think they were Chechens, they told us that we had to go back and sit at home in the basement.

The next days we lived in the basement. We had a supply of water, so we started a diesel generator, from which we charged mobile phones and power banks.

One day, a neighbor came to us to charge the power bank. When he got out and walked to his house across the road, he was shot dead. We heard shots and how he screamed. After that, his wife jumped out, she screamed and knocked on our door. A second shot rang out and everything was quiet. We thought that we had killed her too, but later it turned out that the neighbor was finished off with the second shot, but she remained alive. The next day, Russian soldiers approached the body lying on the sidewalk and rummaged through its pockets. After that, we stopped leaving the house, since our door was in direct line of sight from the position of the Russians.

During the battles for the airfield, many houses in our city were damaged. Some houses were completely destroyed, our house was hit by a shell fragment.

Some of our neighbors at the beginning wrote on their fences "Do not shoot, there are children in the house." I saw one such fence, behind which only ruins remained from the house.

Russian soldiers walked around the city, destroyed everything and took what they wanted. They broke into the kindergarten, took away all the blankets and pillows, cut up the playground in the yard for firewood and lit a fire.

Sometimes Russian tanks drove into the yards of residential buildings and, hiding behind civilians, set up firing points there.

My mother's employee tried to leave the city by car. They were blocked by a Russian armored personnel carrier, which opened fire on the car. Her husband was killed, and her five-year-old daughter was wounded in the arm. The woman and her daughter managed to jump out of the car and hide in the basement. The Russians did not let them out for several days, as a result, when they got to Kyiv, her daughter's arm was amputated.

Hundreds of corpses of our neighbors lay on the streets, there was a lot of enemy military equipment.

On the first day, when the evacuation was announced, we tried to get out of the city without cars. They made their way through the cemetery and the destroyed courtyards of neighboring houses. Some houses were on fire, many were blown up.

On the first day, the evacuation failed. Two armored personnel carriers blew up on the bridge, blocking the road. There were thousands of people, and no one knew what to do.

On the second day of the evacuation, on March 11 we gathered with the whole family and decided to leave in three cars. The evacuation did not go according to plan. There was shooting and a lot of shots. At one point, our convoy stopped, a Russian armored personnel carrier stopped right next to our car, soldiers jumped out of it and started shooting.

We sat in the car in silence, sometimes trying to joke and comfort each other. My younger sister was sitting next to me and she constantly said: “Now they will kill us all, we will not get out.” We were silent and everyone understood that this was so.

During the evacuation, Russian soldiers captured two members of the rescue service. They threatened them with weapons, put them on the ground, but later they managed to convince them that the humanitarian corridor was working and people needed to be released from the city. At first, buses with civilians passed, later they began to let a convoy of cars through, and we were able to leave.

My friend stayed in Gostomel for a few more days. There was no electricity, no gas, no water. They had to melt snow to drink water.

We went to our relatives in the Vinnitsa region and do not know what will happen next. My parents have lived in Gostomel all their lives and have invested a lot of money in housing and business. On average, I think we lost about $500,000 worth of property.

Everyone in the city knew my mother well, she was always an active participant in city life. At first she worked at a school as a primary school teacher, then she opened a store, a hairdresser, rented out premises for the New Post office, and wanted to open a private medical office in a few years.

My uncle was a passenger carrier. He drove local workers to the factory, served weddings and holidays.

Shortly before the war, my parents bought an apartment in installments in a new residential complex in Gostomel. Now this house is destroyed, and I think you won't have to pay for the apartment now.

My parents would like to return. They believe that the war will end, they hope that the state will help to rebuild everything. They want to return, restore everything, return what they had. We don't want to look for another life, we want to go home.

I understand that the Russians are occupiers and enemies. But we saw their soldiers and understood that they also did not need this war. The common man doesn't need it. War is grief and evil for everyone.

When I was little, I used to ask my friend's grandfather to tell me about the Second World War. It seemed very cool, but he never wanted to talk about it. When we started the war, I remembered this and understood why he did not want to talk about it.

In January it seemed that there would be no war. There was a human ordinary logic that this was not necessary, that war was only beneficial on television for propaganda, and most likely it would not happen. I saw the video from Syria and didn't think it could happen here in Europe.

When a war starts, another logic kicks in. The mind works differently. Everything is eliminated, the survival mode is turned on. I lost count of days and weeks, everything is blurry. Now are the first days when I am finally in silence. When there were shelling, there was adrenaline, there was only one thought that you need to survive. Now this stress is catching up - very strong fatigue, that is, the body used energy on credit.

We ate, but due to stress, we lost 5 kilograms in the first days. When we fell asleep in the first days, it seemed that you hear explosions and you cannot understand whether it is on the street or in your head.

In April, I planned to fly to Sweden for my birthday, and I also bought tickets to Hungary for a concert of my favorite band, OneRepublic. At work, we were supposed to conduct training with American colleagues, but it all fell through.

My sister caught popularity on TikTok before the war. She translated the song of her favorite singer from Russian into Ukrainian. The singer noticed her video, thanked her for her work, my sister's video quickly gained 500 thousand views. She found a guy from the neighboring city of Bucha who records music, and wanted to do some tracks with him. But the war also shattered all her plans.

During the war, high things, all plans, fall into the background when it becomes a matter of life and death. We can say that we were unlucky, because everything is destroyed with us. On the other hand, we were lucky because we survived.

Now there is a lot of human grief around. In Gostomel everyone knows each other and when you see the destroyed streets, you don't think about your property, you think about how to survive and save your family.

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