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How I escaped from Bucha twice: The story of journalist Eugenia Bobrik

07 апреля 2022

Journalist Eugenia Bobrik witnessed the horrors in Bucha. She told us her story.

Lately, I've been constantly commenting, recording interviews, and answering questions about how I escaped. Every time I talk about these days, I cry. A friend advised me to tell all this a hundred times to stop crying. I may not have reached that figure yet, but I feel that there is not much left.

Eugenia Bobrik through the eyes of her 15-year-old daughter Nastya

My house in Bucha is about eight kilometers from the airport in Gostomel, so the war started just above my head. The house was designed and built by my husband. He is an architect and designer. Therefore, the house is very elegant, light, and transparent. It has no basement but has large panoramic windows and wooden walls. No one expected that it would be necessary to hide from Russian mines and shells. So on the afternoon of February 24, we had to move in with friends who lived even closer to the airport, but at least they had a basement. We spent the first 14 days of the war there.

It's hard for me to say how the situation developed outside, in the city, because the light disappeared almost immediately, and so did the connection. There was a short episode when the Internet came on, but there was no light then, and we only caught the signal when we turned on the generator. And this happened very rarely, because there was not enough petrol, and we still had to collect water and at least charge the phones a little.

While in the basement, Nastya Bobrik drew all the time

At first, we watched in horror the videos taken from the balconies of houses a kilometer away from us, which were searched by neighbors in the chat rooms of our streets. In these videos, the "elite landing party" wandered between our pines like a flock of sheep, and although they were not at all like the heroes of the "Black Hawk", it became clear that the war came close to us. One day a shell hit a house in a nearby neighborhood. This sound was louder than the others.

Over time, the house without electricity and heating cooled down, from March 8 there was no gas. It was cold, dark, but the constant explosions at some point even ceased to frighten. We saved water, and food, and tried to walk the dogs near the house. Read, cook, play chess, taught children to knit, did everything not to think about what is most likely to happen to us. My daughter painted portrait sketches of the inhabitants of our basement. If I managed to take everything with me, I think an interesting series "The first 14 days of the war in the Bucha basement" could come out.

Life in the basement through the eyes of Nastya Bobrik

There was no communication, and to get the news, we got in the car and turned on the radio. We did not know exactly what was happening in the city. But there was a clear understanding: if we fail to leave, our demise is only a matter of time. There were twelve people in the basement, five dogs, two cats, and one parrot.

Life in the basement through the eyes of Nastya Bobrik

A few months ago I could advise where to park in the center of Vienna and how to buy Prada shoes for a ridiculous price, and today I can advise how much water can be drowned from a bucket of snow (spoiler), when there is no water in the house (from the first day), what to cook so that there is a lot of food that does not spoil for a long time without a refrigerator (soup), and how to wash pots and dishes for 12 people in two liters of water (I can't repeat, but I know for sure that it's real). Occasionally there were reports that someone was able to escape, and someone's car was shot.

There were twelve people in the basement, five dogs, two cats, and one parrot

Finally, on March 4, we made the first attempt to evacuate. Our cars were shot. First from machine guns, then my Jaguar was hit by a grenade launcher. I jumped out of the car when the hood was already on fire. The girl in the passenger seat was injured. While my husband pulled her out of the fire, my daughter and I hid behind the car. Then, while the russians were reloading their weapons, we managed to run across the road and jump into my husband's car. Even the Pomeranian Spitz was saved. We had to return to the shelter. Fortunately, a neighbor, a former paramedic, saw us dragging a wounded girl and came to the rescue. He reported that the wounded had internal bleeding and a bullet in the abdomen. The ambulance refused to come to us because all the streets were being shot at by russians and they didn't care if it was an ambulance or a car with children.

The attempt of the first evacuation from Bucha
Artwork: Nastya Bobrik

We managed to call our friend who was in the territorial defense - the owner of the basement where we were sitting. At the risk of his own life, he took the wounded girl to Irpin Hospital. Later, a friend sent us a message that the city was under occupation and there was no way to leave. We had to sit quietly, not leave the house and wait. There was no further contact with him.

It was the worst eight hours of my life

We left for the second time when the first evacuation column was leaving Bucha. We drove to Kyiv for eight hours. It was the worst eight hours of my life. The column moved very slowly through the damaged city, past destroyed houses, shot cars with the inscription "Children", white sheets, and red crosses. I will never forget seeing the corpse of a man on the roadside near the bicycle, who was already covered with snow. We drove through Russian checkpoints. On one of them, we were forced to open the trunk and my husband was ordered to keep our dog, a 13-year-old giant schnauzer, which is almost gone, the Russian soldier was afraid: "And suddenly he bites me." The dog was barely alive - in the cold basement, he developed pneumonia but has already recovered.

During the second evacuation, the Bobryk family saw cars, corpses, and destroyed houses on the way
Author: Nastya Bobrik

All this time I was called by a friend who kept saying "everything will be fine, you will come, you will not be shot." All our friends, relatives, all acquaintances worried about us and waited. I'm sure we survived only because they were waiting for us.

The worst thing all these days was waiting for death, understanding its inevitability. And also, the feeling of guilt that my daughter, a 15-year-old talented beauty, will die with me. She kept saying that she did not accuse me of not leaving with her before, that I did not send her somewhere when it was still possible when my friends from abroad begged me to do so. She said, "Mom, you did everything right, we're together, I'm not scared." But I knew that was not the case. It was this feeling that drove me out of the basement on March 9 and made me get back in the car and try to save us all.

Eugenia Bobrik through the eyes of her 15-year-old daughter Nastya

Having lost all documents, all things, and almost all nerves, my daughter and I came to the border with Poland, carrying a package of dog food, a bottle of water, an old laptop, two books ("Portrait of Dorian Gray" and "The Hobbit"), two dogs and textbooks English language. A Polish border guard asked my daughter and me to show at least one document, we showed a low-quality photo of our passports on the phone and told the story of the loss. She first asked her colleague "what is a grenade launcher." Then she asked where I was when this grenade launcher hit my car. Then she silently opened the turnstile for us. So now we are in Poland, we are safe.

Eugenia and Nastya Bobrik on the Ukraine-Poland border

For the people of russia, I have no other words than the most common quote of the season: "russian warship, go fuck yourself!"

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