The GPS navigator is dispassionate: it is quite easy for it. It brings us to the given address, as it should be. Both the street and the house number - everything matches. Only the house is gone. There is only the foundation left. Burnt dishes, household appliances, pieces of melted glass are like artifacts of pain. "This is the handle from the front door, and this one is from the living room," Ivan shows two pieces of metal covered in soot. Ivan is fifteen. He is waiting for us in the yard with his mother Valentyna. Let's go around together. Two chickens and a sleepy cat prance behind us. "Two peach trees grew in this place. The explosion uprooted them. Other trees were burnt. Only rose bushes remained. They bloomed all summer and are withering now..."
The war caught the family here - in the village of Baklanova Muraviika in Chernihiv Region. "Dad came to the house early in the morning on February 24 and said that Russia attacked us. That day, sister Polina and I did not go to school. It was very scary," the boy recalls. Loud shelling was heard in the village every day. The family hid in the cellar. When the projectile hit the barn, and the shock wave blew out the windows in the house, it became clear: it was dangerous to stay any longer. On March 11, Ms. Valentina left for Lviv Region with her children and her husband's sister. The man stayed in a nearby village and helped evacuate people as a volunteer.
"One day he stopped by the house to take his phone," the woman says. "From afar, around the corner, he saw that the house already had no roof. And when he ran, it was already too late to save anything. It turns out that the house burned down right in front of his eyes..."
There are no military facilities in Baklanova Muraviika. The Russian missile chose an ordinary village house as its target. The house that Valentyna's family built for fifteen years. Everything they earned was invested in its construction. This summer they planned to complete the renovation and finally move in. "We had a large veranda here, a living room overthere, two rooms on the other side," says the woman. "There was a main entrance on this side, and another one on the other side. A spacious two-story white brick house. Large windows overlooked the garden. It was our dream home..."
Only fragments of the past have survived. Music speakers, children's sneakers, sofa backs were thrown into the garden by an explosive wave. Wooden beams flew for a hundred meters, all the way to the store... Cotton wool, which was used to insulate the walls, hung on the trees. The fence was concrete - not a trace remained.
The husband did not dare to tell his wife the truth for a long time. "I wanted to prepare her for the difficult news". But he didn't have time: one of his fellow villagers posted a photo of the fire on the Internet. At the end of May, the family returned. It was unbearable to see what was left of the house. Only a loyal trio of cats met them in the yard. In February, when the shelling began, the animals ran away where the eyes looked. They were found later. And they were welcoming the hosts.
After returning, the family lived in the village of Buda, with Ms. Valentyna’s parents. "And here we planted a vegetable garden. We need to think about the winter and stock up on food...". The woman speaks quietly. She apologizes for having to ask to repeat: she has had hearing problems since childhood. And her hearing aid also burned during the fire. While leaving, they didn’t have time to take anything from the house. Only a few blankets left. Those that were in the cellar.
Today they are here again, in Baklanova Muraviika. The children had to go to school, so they returned. They were allowed to settle in their friends' empty house. However, the family has no furniture, no household items, practically nothing of their own. They received the most necessary humanitarian aid, and they have to sleep on mattresses.
Every day they come here, to their home yard. "It’s good that the vegetable garden has been cleaned, so now you won't have to come here often. It's hard... It's painful to watch all this."
A fragment from a projectile is still lying in the shed. The building cannot be restored, the damage is significant. The roof was temporarily covered with a film in order to have a storage place out of it.
There is a car near the yard, the only thing remaining from the family estate. This summer, says Ivan, he learned to drive thanks to his dad. In general, technology is his hobby. For example, he mastered tractor at the age of five, when he plowed the field with his grandfather. He loves motorcycles and dreams of becoming a driver. "Now my main task is to study and finish school. And the most cherished desire is to build a house for us. When it will be possible - I don't know..."
Faith in humanity gives us most of our strength, Ms. Valentyna admits. "We are very grateful to everyone who is not indifferent in time of disaster that happened to us. And we have to live on... Live and look for new meanings. Raise a family. We hope that a peaceful life will come. We don't want to go anywhere from here. We are at home here."
As part of the "Family to Family" charity project, Ms. Valentyna’s family will receive monthly financial support throughout the year. The project, which is carried out in cooperation with the RM Caritas Spes Ukraine and Caritas Polska, is designed to help Ukrainians affected by the disaster of war. Funds will come from Polish families and parishes of the Roman Catholic Church of Poland. The project is a pilot one, so it initially covers the territory of the Kyiv-Zhytomyr diocese: Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr and Kyiv regions, embracing 500 families.