Late autumn in the village is the time to finally catch your breath. The vegetable gardens are done, the harvest is in safe storage, you can safely wait for winter. It has always been like that here. But this year is different. This year everything is the other way around. Mrs. Valentyna expects cold weather with anxiety. The change of time paradigm lost its meaning for her in early March when her family was left without a roof over their heads.
"We had a well in this place. The first enemy shell hit here and the house nearby. A two-storey, beautiful house, which she and her husband had been building for forty years and made repairs. Just before the war, they replaced the furniture with new ones, bought a TV and a fridge. There was a garage here with a car in it, a barn for cattle there, and on the other side - a "temporary house" - a house where we lived while building the new one. A shrapnel destroyed and cut everything. The old bathtub made of a very strong material stood in the yard. It became like a sieve - all in holes. And after the explosion the fire started. There was no way to extinguish it..."
On March 7, Russian troops started shelling Zavorychi from the very morning. Mrs. Valentina and her husband were hiding in the cellar. Her son with his wife and two daughters went to their home in Brovary at dawn. The news that a fire was burning in the parents' yard caught him at the entrance to the city. He left the family and immediately returned. On his way, he tried to call rescuers, but in vain - firefighters had a lot of work that day, they did not have time to go everywhere. He arrived in the ashes...He came and stayed until the end of March. Zavorychi and other villages around were cut off from the world by the occupiers.
"First, the church caught fire. The fire was visible right up to us", Mrs. Valentyna recalls. "I went out to the road, looked at the flames and did not want to believe it. A beautiful, wooden, old church... Then I heard shells flying in our direction, exploding nearby. I barely had time to run into the cellar, stood on the first step - and the explosion in the yard, behind my shoulders. If I had not closed the door behind me and held it with all my strength, I probably would not have survived. The blast wave was so powerful that the ground was shaking."
At first, after the fire, the family lived with their in-laws in the other corner of the village. Eight people were hiding in the basement. And then the neighbors called.
"We were holding two cows. When the man was untying them, the fire reached the barn, sparks were already falling on his head. We released the cows and they ran away, they were gone for two days. I thought that tanks had beaten them. There was enemy equipment where we were grazing. And when the cows came for the night, a neighbor put hay for them in the garden... They spent the night and went back to the field. They returned at night. We did not know about it, the first days we were in such a shock... And when people told us, we returned. We survived, and so did our cows."
It is hard to recall everything. It is even harder to have fragments of the past life in front of your eyes. Every return to those events is unbearably painful. "Grapes grew here, it was so nice in the shadow under it in summer ", the woman sighs. "There was a summer table, we used to dine here together. We always had a lot of flowers both in the yard and in the house. We had everything: furniture, household appliances, everyone had their own room. We lived together for a long time, our granddaughters were born here, and they started going to school in the village. Although they are in the city now, they still spent most of their time with us. It was our home. Everything is burned down: their childhood photos and toys, dishes, clothes... We have nothing left, only what we were wearing and shoes."
The neighbor invited them to live in his house. For him it is like a summer house, as he has an apartment in Kyiv. "We are very grateful to the people who responded to our difficulties. but you know what it's like to live in someone else's house. The gas boiler and other property are not ours, we are afraid of accidental damage. So we started to build temporary housing, in the same place where our temporary house once stood. My son is building it on his own - he comes here every day after work. But everything is very expensive now. To build such a stove, masters ask 15-20 thousand hryvnias for the work alone. And besides, we need to buy the construction materials. My husband is 74 years old, I am 67. Our pensions are not so high. It is good that my son and my daughter-in-law have jobs. We still want to spend winter here, if we can cope with the basic work."
The new hut has no floor yet, the walls are without plaster. But there is already a stove, a source of heat. Nuts are drying on the stove, Mrs. Valentyna is moving them with her hands. "This year there is a good harvest of nuts. And in the garden, thank God, everything has grown. We have potatoes, vegetables, and some preserves for the winter. We had to sell one cow, the second one should calve soon."
Mrs. Valentyna and her husband have been living in Zavorychi since the early 1980s. "Decent, hardworking, very serious owners", fellow villagers say about them. They sympathize with their misfortune. Several houses in the village were damaged during the enemy occupation and Russian shelling, but they suffered the most.
Mrs. Valentyna accompanies us to the road. She says goodbye and tells us about her biggest dreams: for the war - to end as soon as possible, for Ukraine - to win, for peace - to come and for all people to live in peace. "Do you know what keeps me going? We lost everything... But our family remained. Family is everything for me. Family is our joy, our hope. We will continue to live, work... We will live."
As part of the Family to Family project, Mrs. Valentyna's family will receive monthly financial assistance from Polish families and parishes of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. Caritas-Spes Ukraine implements the Family to Family project in cooperation and thanks to the support of Caritas Polska. The project aims to support Ukrainian families in need and affected by the consequences of the war in Ukraine.