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World Refugee Day: stories of those who lost their homes at The Museum of Civilian Voices founded by Rinat Akhmetov


Today is World Refugee Day. It recognizes the courage and strength of people who have been forced to leave their homes and are building a new life in new conditions. The Museum of Civilian Voices, founded by Rinat Akhmetov has thousands of refugees stories. They are united not only by tragedy, but also by their hope: for victory and return.

Ilya and Olena Matvienko: From Donetsk to Rostov, from Rostov to Moscow, from Moscow to Turkey, from Turkey to Poland, and from Poland to Kyiv. This is the itinerary 10-year-old Illia and his grandmother travelled to come back home, to Ukraine. In Mariupol, the boy lost his mother and he himself got wounded. He was deported to Russian-occupied city of Donetsk...

Tetiana Kostenko: Tetiana, together with her husband, two-year-old son, brother and parents, left Mariupol on 16 March 2022. The family had already passed Vasylivka, and at that moment they came under mortar fire. All of them, except for Tetiana`s mother, were seriously injured. The car was burnt down. "The Russians targeted the humanitarian convoy. Miraculously, one car stopped. And there was only one seat. A father and son were taken away. They were all covered in blood. Later, in the hospital, I received a 6-litre blood transfusion. My husband received even more. It was a miracle we survived," recalls Mariupol resident Tetiana.

Ludmyla Veselko: She was taken prisoner as a sniper. At a russian checkpoint, the invaders found several cartridge cases from her husband’s hunting rifle in Liudmyla’s car. They kept her handcuffed in the cold and in the dark, bullied her, and exerted psychological pressure. Their brains are washed, and Liudmyla saw it for herself. The russians said, “If we had not attacked you, you would have attacked us and killed our children.”

Yana Zinovieva: On the night of 2 February 2023, a missile attack on a 4-storey building in the centre of Kramatorsk completely destroyed one entrance of the building, and severely damaged two neighbouring ones. It took almost three days to clear the rubble. 4 people died and 18 were injured. Vladimir Zinoviev was miraculously pulled out alive from the rubble. The man suffered multiple injuries and fractures and lost a lot of blood. Doctors fought for his life... Yana Zinovieva, the wife of Vladimir, who survived the missile attack, tells us about the incident.

Yana Hara: "I watched my pants turn red. My back hurt terribly. A shrapnel hit me from behind here." She took a toy dog instead of warm pants. The girl was leaving Mariupol with her mother and sister when they came under fire at a checkpoint. There was no pain, only shock. And another shock in the hospital. Where, despite the wound, she and her mother gave all the painkillers to a boy with his legs blown off. With the wounded girl in her arms, Yana's mother hid in the Eva Game shelter a few minutes before the terrible air strike. They were taken out of the city by volunteer Mikhail Purishev.

Tetiana Kukavska: Tetiana Kukavska had to flee the war twice. First, in 2014, from Russian-occupied Lysychansk. Then - from Mariupol. The woman recalls that she and her 14-year-old son lived in the basement for a month. They slept on a cold board. We took turns. Because they shared one for two. She recalls all the air raids and shelling. And he assures that they survived by a miracle. This is a first-hand account of the horrors of war.

Svitlana Getmanskaya: 2 February 2023 was the second birthday for Svitlana Getmanskaya and Roman Romanenko from Kramatorsk. On this quiet and sunny day, the couple came under fire right on the street of their hometown. Svetlana and her husband received numerous serious injuries. The day before, on 1 February, an Iskander missile destroyed the entire entrance of a house in Kramatorsk. At noon the next day, the city came under another attack. The shelling damaged 16 houses, a children's clinic, a school, garages and cars. Six people were injured.

Natalia Apostolova: A Russian shell hit her house. It happened at night, when Natalia Apostolova was sleeping with her little granddaughter. They miraculously survived, but their home was reduced to rubble.

Sergei Kalinichenko: Serhiy Kalinichenko, the head of Azovstal’s heavy plate workshop survived in Mariupol together with his family. He was engaged in the temporary shutting down of the workshop and attended his workplace until 6 March. There was no electricity, no water, no telephone signal and no gas. His flat was shelled several times and the building collapsed. There was no evacuation. When he decided to leave on his own, he was almost taken a prisoner.

Serhiy Kuzmenko: Air bombs, naval artillery and mortars. Serhiy experienced all the horrors of large-scale shelling attacks first-hand when he was hiding in the bomb shelter of Azovstal iron and steel works. The rooms were damp, so things and food were soon covered with mould, and wounded people were rotting alive there. The only thing he dreamed about was to get out of the dungeon with his family and leave for a peaceful part of Ukraine. In two months of shelling, there was not a single day of silence. Their evacuation became possible only in early May. They had to go through the so-called filtration and, finally, Serhiy and his family were able to get to Zaporizhzhia.

Every story about the war is important. To preserve the memory for a better future, tell your story on the portal of the Civilian Voices Museum or on the toll-free hotline (800) 509 001.