Biography of my war | Episode I: The Story of Ukrainians from Krasnohorivka, Donetsk Region (VIDEO)


In April 2022, two families evacuated from the frontline town of Krasnohorivka, near the occupied city of Donetsk. They first lived in Lviv, and in December they moved to Mohiliv-Podilskii in the Vinnitsa region.

“All our friends started to leave, and the military warned us that a ‘hot’ period was ahead. They told us to go as far as possible and evacuate the children from this area. Then the shells started falling. One day, when the children were at school, the shelling just started,” recounts Natalia Pastushenko, who, together with her seven children, decided to leave Krasnohorivka when the situation became very dangerous. The woman recalls that at one point, Russian projectiles began to hit civilian objects. There is not a single school or hospital that has not been destroyed in the city.

Of course, such attacks could not fail to cause casualties among the civilian population of Krasnohorivka. Nataliia Pastushenko told us about the horrors her friends went through.

My friend, together with her husband, came to Gagarin Street to feed the dog. When the bombing started, they decided to stay there and go home in the morning. In the morning, the house was already destroyed and my neighbors were killed. People dismantled brick by brick to get them out from under the rubble. The man was found dead at dawn and the woman died on the way to hospital.

Author: Natalia Pastushenko, refugee

The volunteers offered a home to Natalia and her husband, this is because they didn’t have their own home – both of them were raised in an orphanage. However, the family did not manage to live in it for long.

“We had a nice house, there was enough space for everyone, everyone had their own room, a bathroom, we had everything there. And later, when the bombings started, we hid in the cellars. It was a good cellar – we set it up. The husband and the eldest son put a sofa, a table, chairs, so that we can heat the water there, put a kettle on, cook steamed pasta for the children, but also for us”. But everything was scary. When you are sitting in the cellars and the rockets fly, as if they fall somewhere nearby… We were afraid that they would fall right on top of us. Of course, we would have turned into a common family grave. It was very scary. My husband then told me that the next day, our volunteer friends would take the people out of the village. I was worried – how to leave without money, without anything. I just took something to eat and left,” recalls Natalia.

During the evacuation, Natalia met Nadia – her brother organized the accommodation of refugees in Lviv, in the “Kovceh” Church. Later, both families moved to the Vinnitsa region and settled in a new location, as they are still unable to return home to Krasnohorivka, where the shelling does not stop. Life in Krasnohorivka became more and more dangerous, people witnessed terrible events, and such an experience was especially difficult for children.

I hear this whistling, when the shells fly… Several times I came under fire. Once I was riding my bicycle from the store, when a projectile flew over my head, but fell in the field. And it exploded. The children were afraid. There were days when we got up at five or four in the morning and went to hide in the cellars. Of course, they were afraid. If there was an explosion somewhere, we would drop to the floor, so that if any rocket debris came in, we would lie on the floor so that the shrapnel that might fly around the room wouldn’t hurt us too much.

Author: Natalia Pastushenko, refugee

This way of life – military, in Krasnohorivka, it has been since 2014, when Russia’s hybrid war for Ukrainian territories began. Since then, people have witnessed many tragic events.

“At that time, in 2014, we also hid in cellars. For a year or so I lived in the cellar of the pantry where I lived then. That’s how I lived for a whole year. Gradually I set up the cellar – when the Grad shells weren’t flying too close. Back then, it was as comfortable as a room in the “white variant”. We had a table there, a stove and a TV – that’s how we lived. When it was quiet, I would go out, with the older son running to the store. We were afraid – houses with no windows, no doors, absolutely nothing. Shards of glass were scattered everywhere – later people came out of the basements and cleaned everything up. The Winter Club and the Church also suffered, there was a fire there, our bakery also burned down. As if it was a dream – not reality!”, says Napalia Pastushenko.

She also remembers that before the war, Krasnohorivka was a beautiful and comfortable town, but now it is in ruins.

It was clean and neat, the city was developed, there were a lot of people, and we had a swimming pool. Actually, it was a beautiful city, and now it has ended up being destroyed. We had many bakeries, there was also a brick factory. Everyone was working, there were enough jobs. Now they have ruined everything – there is no work.

Author: Natalia Pastushenko, refugee

Another family, which lives in this house, has a similar history. They also moved from Krasnohorivka and lived for a while in the Lviv Church. Oleg Holinishchenko and Nadia Priadko are raising four children, but very soon they will have one more. The head of the family works in the public service. When the invasion began, he was not at home.

“At the time of the invasion, I was undergoing advanced training at the Criminal Executive Service Academy in Khmelnytskyi. I called Nadia and told her to leave, because it was very “hot” there, after the events in Kiev began – Irpin, Bucha. I thought we were very close, basically, to the zero line. It was May, when they already started bombing private sectors and people’s homes. Until then, they did not hit houses – the rockets fell somewhere in the field. Then they started bombing the houses, the neighboring streets. The attacks were coming from Donetsk, says Oleg Holinishchenko.

According to the man, shortly before the invasion, the targets destroyed by the Russians during the “anti-terrorist operation” in Krasnohorivka were restored. There were many attacks on the hospital, both in 2015 and 2016 (during the war). Then reconstructions were made, the roof was replaced, the windows were changed, the therapy ward was repaired. The destruction was very great.

I was personally injured in 2015 by shrapnel from a mine that exploded nearby. I had left for work, which was about 25 kilometers from the contact line. The bombings were right next to our institution, so the windows of the headquarters were damaged. I remember I was standing right next to the building when I heard something fly overhead. Next to him was a young man, a student. I pushed him to the door, went in too, then felt something fly behind me.

Author: Oleg Holinishchenko, refugee

Oleg’s wife, Nadia Priadko, was pregnant at the time of filming. Her father was a pastor of a church. Since 2014 he has worked hard to unite people around him and help the residents of Krasnohorivka to survive. While raising four children, Nadia worked from home – making souvenirs, so she had an additional income. Now, at the new location, she continues her business with her children.

Both families now live in Mohiliv-Podilskii, the children go to the local school, play sports. They also have a four-legged friend – a dog. However, the war left its mark on the souls of each of them.

I feel safer now. However, when I enter the school and hear, for example, someone banging on the door, I stop without realizing it, and people look at me and don’t understand why I’m trying to hide. As if instinctively, when I hear noise, I bend down scared by any noise.

Author: Nadia Priadko, refugee

Through these reports, the journalists from I-VIN. INFO wanted to report Russian crimes in Ukraine. Therefore, everything you learn from the stories of the heroes of this project is part of an information campaign for the restoration of justice in relation to the victims of this war.

Lawyer Janna Hrușko comments on the refugees’ testimonies

According to Ukrainian lawyer Janna Hrushko, who was asked to comment on the refugees’ testimony from a legal point of view, in Ukrainian law, there is Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which regulates liability for violations of the laws and customs of war.

In this case, according to this article, the actions can be qualified as crimes against humanity and against property.

According to the rules of international law, these crimes can be qualified under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. “The only question is that today the International Criminal Court records, collects statements and relevant evidence regarding the commission of such crimes. These include: killing the civilian population, torturing both civilians and military personnel directly defending the state’s territory. These are crimes against humanity,” says the lawyer.

In our case, we cannot qualify these crimes under the Rome Statute and bring their perpetrators to justice, because Ukraine has not yet ratified the Rome Statute and, therefore, the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators it will be guided exclusively by the Criminal Code of Ukraine, at least until the moment of ratification. Therefore, the actions will be qualified according to Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Author: Janna Hrișco, lawyer

Regarding crimes against property, we can distinguish: damage and destruction of private property, common property, it can be robbery, as it is possible to have houses or immovable objects that have not been destroyed, but in the premises of which valuables are found or goods. There are also known cases in which houses were looted or looted.

“Any citizen of our state can submit a corresponding application, attaching evidence, photos or videos of crimes committed to confirm such crimes and submit them to the International Criminal Court. The problem of the destruction of civil infrastructure objects, regardless of whether it is in the sphere of education or the sphere of health, depends on the fact that they are communal property or state property,” the lawyer states.

In this case, the applicant for the crimes committed will be the state itself or the relevant central executive authority, to which this object is subordinated. These are crimes against property and destruction of state property of Ukraine.

For this case, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a statement that, in accordance with a series of decisions regulating the issue of armed resistance, will be sent to the International Criminal Court for the classification of crimes, such as the destruction of public and not private property, and the photographs and corresponding videos will be attached to confirm such facts.

Author: Janna Hrișco, lawyer

“Based on the documents, we can talk about the possible subsequent legal liability of the perpetrators, not only those who committed and directly followed the Government’s orders, but also the top leadership of the state that today commits such attacks”, said lawyer Janna Hrușco .


p class=”mb-8 px-6 md:px-0 font-bitter text-s17-l170 md:text-s18-l170 text-c121212″>This video was produced with the financial support of the European Union and the Black Sea Fund for Regional Cooperation. The exclusive responsibility for its content belongs to the Vinnitsa non-governmental organization “Media-Center” and does not necessarily reflect the point of view of the European Union and the Black Sea Fund for Regional Cooperation.

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