Ukraine war: escaping Kharkiv - the stories of 3 residents who had to leave their homes in war-torn city

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Writing for NationalWorld, Ukrainian journalist Viktoria Pushkina tells of the moment she realised she had to flee her home in Kharkiv

In this exclusive article for NationalWorld, Ukrainian journalist Viktoria Pushkina tells of her escape from Kharkiv - one of the areas worst-hit by Russia’s invasion - and the stories of two other city residents.

My name is Viktoria (24). I am a journalist at Highload.today, part of the Creators Media Group in Ukraine. I was born, raised, lived and worked in Kharkiv. Now I am writing this text in the Czech Republic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

To stay or to leave — this is the choice every Ukrainian faces. There is no right answer. But everyone who decided to leave has a story about the turning point.

For me such a moment came on the ninth day of the war. For my colleague Slava Kutovyi — on the fifteenth. For our colleague Alina Meleshyna — on the sixth.

Here are our stories.

Viktoria Pushkina: ‘A woman in a nearby street had her legs blown off’

Viktoria PushkinaViktoria Pushkina
Viktoria Pushkina | Viktoria Pushkina

My boyfriend and I left our rented apartment in Kharkiv on the first day of the war. We lived five kilometers from the city limits and woke up to the explosions. The first hours passed in slow motion. We were packing, but as if not for real. And without understanding why.

First we drove to my sister and her boyfriend in another district of Kharkiv, closer to the centre, where it was still quiet. Then we all went together to my sister’s boyfriend’s relatives.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There, in a new building with an underground parking lot, it seemed like it would be safe. Until a shell flew over the park right next to the house. Until a woman in a nearby street had her legs blown off.

Everyone had a turning point. Mine was when I refused to leave the vestibule - presumably, the safest place in case of a rocket hit - even for a few minutes, to go into the kitchen to get tea.

But I didn’t admit it until the owner of the flat where we were staying said: "We’re leaving the city". And then a week later my boyfriend said to me, "Go abroad with them".

I’m in the Czech Republic because that’s the way things turned out. The same could be said about Alina and Slava. And about each Ukrainian. The enemy takes away our possibilities of making choices and plans. Of living.

And we are tired as heck of it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alina Meleshyna: ‘It was the scariest morning of my life’

Alina MeleshynaAlina Meleshyna
Alina Meleshyna | Alina Meleshyna

The war also caught marketer Alina Meleshyna, 23, at her parents’ home in Kharkiv. Her husband was at his parents’ house in Kyiv.

"My husband told us about the war. He was awakened by gunshots. He and his parents tried to leave the city at once, but got stuck in traffic. And we spent the first few hours packing — not understanding who was going, where and how," says Alina.

Her husband and his parents managed to leave Kyiv in the evening and reach Uzhgorod in a few days. Alina, on the other hand, with her mother, father and 11-year-old sister, stayed in Kharkiv.

"Every day the sounds of shelling grew louder and we were getting more scared," says Alina. On the morning of March 1, they decided to take the train to Dnipro.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It was the scariest morning of my life," Alina says. Her voice begins to tremble. “We went out on the terrace to pick up our shoes. We put them in the bags and we hear — flying.” Alina begins to cry. “It was the first air attack on the city. The plane dropped a bomb on the houses on the next street".

That same evening Alina, her mother and sister left for Dnipro, and then for the Cherkasy region, where their relatives live. Her father at first went with them but then returned to Kharkiv to defend the city. Her husband left Uzhgorod a few weeks later also for the Cherkasy region.

"I feel good here," says Alina. “There are lots of relatives here, they love me. I am adapting, working a little. But I am worried about my father".

Slava Kutovyi: ‘Our daughter understands everything, she knows why we left’

Slava Kutovyi’s daughterSlava Kutovyi’s daughter
Slava Kutovyi’s daughter | Slava Kutovyi

Designer Slava Kutovyi, 29, woke up on February 24 in his apartment in Kharkiv to the sounds of the explosions. It was about 5:30am.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Usually it’s hard to wake me up," says Slava. “But it was so loud that the windows were shaking."

Slava and his wife already had a war plan. In accordance with it, on the very first day they and their three-year-old daughter moved to another district of Kharkiv, to his parents’ house.

"A couple of days before the war my daughter had something wrong with her health: she felt sick, had a fever, and didn’t want to eat. And after another couple of days at my parents’, her health worsened a lot," Slava shares.

The baby was taken to the hospital, where she and Slava’s wife had to stay for a few days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It was very scary, because there had already been shelling. But we had no other choice," Slava explains.

Tests showed that the child had high levels of acetone in her blood — that happens because of stress. The girl was given some medicine and allowed to go home.

Meanwhile, the situation in Kharkiv was becoming increasingly dangerous, Slava and his family had to spend the nights in the basements and the symptoms began to return. So Slava and his wife decided to leave the city.

First they went as far as Nova Vodolaha - a settlement in the Kharkiv region less affected by shelling - then it became possible to accompany their acquaintances to Vinnytsia in central Ukraine.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Only here my daughter’s condition improved," Slava says. “We try to get her to live a normal life: we walk, we go to the zoo. But she understands everything, she knows why we left."

About Creators Media Group

The Creators Media Group consists of business and creators media MC.today, IT developers media Highload.today and tech review website ITC.ua. All our publications have now refocused from their usual agenda to cover the war and the volunteer initiatives and provide useful information that can support readers and bring victory closer.

Our team consists of 40 journalists whose jobs are now under threat due to the war and the halt in the advertising market. To keep going, we have launched a crowdfunding campaign that can help save our media and support journalists that stayed in Ukraine or left the country.

You can support us by following this link:https://fundrazr.com/cmg-campaign

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.