The war broke into their lives on February 24, 2022, with explosions in Piatykhatky, a northern suburb of Kharkiv. At first, they thought it was thunder. But it turned out to be much worse... The family of Serhii and Oksana Petrov lived on the 10th floor of an apartment building in the center of Kharkiv with their two children, eight-year-old Mariia and five-year-old Hryhorii. For two months in a row, they hid from daily shelling in the basement of the building or in the vestibule of their apartment. In the third month of the war, they learned that Oksana was pregnant. During an ultrasound examination, the doctor stunned her with unexpected news: they were expecting twins. Double joy and excitement, multiplied a hundredfold. What to do next? Should they move to another city, leave the country? They decided to stay. They rented an apartment in a safer area of Kharkiv and moved there. "We heard various stories of those who left home to escape the war," explains Mr. Serhii, "Some had money and were able to settle down and feel more confident, others could not stand the realities of a foreign land and returned... We stayed, even though we were aware of all the risks of our circumstances.
At first, the food situation in the city was almost catastrophic. The stores had only margarine, sunflower seeds and a handful of other expired products. To buy a loaf of bread, the line started at 6 a.m., and sometimes they had to stand in it for six hours. All this - under constant enemy fire.
The pregnancy was difficult: stress, lack of necessary medications, inadequate sleep and an unbalanced diet. There was a permanent threat of miscarriage. She had to give birth in the basement of the maternity hospital, because rockets were flying at Kharkiv day and night. Thank God, the children were born healthy. Today Tymofii and Mykyta are seven months old.
"They make us happy every minute. Last night, their teeth started to сut - they are chewing on toy rattles with gusto," the happy dad smiles. "It's an incredible joy to come home from work and know that they are waiting for you, to feel the warmth and support of your family.
He is a builder by profession. He used to have his own company, but the Covid pandemic and then the war turned reality upside down. Now he has no permanent job, only some part-time work. His wife is a hairdresser with unstable working hours. They share household chores and childcare. Mariia is a schoolgirl and studies online. She is a vocalist, dancer, and makes original beaded jewelry. Hryhorii is most fond of cars and sports. They both go in for dancing. They help their parents entertain their brothers. The Petrov family's home resounds with children's voices and laughter almost around the clock.
Yes, there is a constant lack of money: the family is large, and even for basic needs, expenses are constantly growing. We save as much as we can. We buy clothes and shoes as cheaply as possible. Volunteers are very supportive. Do you need clothes for babies, a stroller for twins? They find what is needed and help us! When we received the first aid from Caritas-Spes Ukraine, we were sincerely touched and grateful. Food packages, baby food, diapers for babies - this is a very tangible support for us," say Serhii and Oksana.
Recently, the Petrov family joined the Polish-Ukrainian project "Family to Family" and receives monthly financial assistance. This project aims to support Ukrainian families affected by the war and in particularly difficult financial situations, and has been operating in Ukraine since October last year. In the Kharkiv region, it has been in place since February 2023, and provides care for large families in difficult financial situations. Thanks to the funds received, the Petrov family was able to rent a larger apartment (they used to live in a one-room apartment before) and pay utility bills. Earning enough to buy their own home is their biggest need and a cherished dream. "We will do our best to make it true," adds the head of the family.
Mr. Serhii has a unique hobby. He is a master at painting icons. He received a blessing from the holy fathers for his work. His works adorn several churches in Kharkiv and the region. One of his icons has traveled all the way to Italy. The man does not work to order - he works at the call of his soul and inspiration. He may not pick up a paintbrush for several months, and then he gets inspired to paint several images at once. He is currently painting three icons.
But his biggest inspiration is his family. It gives life a real meaning. "My family is my belief that Ukraine will definitely win this unjust war and overcome total evil. We will not leave our hometown, we will not leave our country. I am glad that more and more of our friends who went abroad at the beginning of the full-scale invasion are returning to Kharkiv. I recently drove by the city's central park - many families with kids... Children are being born. And what is interesting is that recently there have been more cases of twins being born. Two boys were born in Saltivka. Life goes on. I dream that my children will live on their own, peaceful land and be happy here," Mr. Serhii adds in conclusion.
His voice is full of love.