This last child in a devastated village in northeastern Ukraine was evacuated with his family from the basement where they lived three months after the benefactor read about their plight in the Guardian.
Eight-year-old Timofey Seidov did not want to leave his underground house in Kutuzovka, east of Kharkiv, due to a Russian fire, but on Sunday he was gently persuaded to leave by Rita Sotnikov’s mother and another woman in the basement. , Alla Lisnenko, 59 years old.
“When we took Timothy out of the bomb shelter, he kept holding my hand,” Rita said. “He kept telling me, ‘Mom, let’s go back inside, Mom, let’s hide, Mom, let’s not be outdoors.’
Kutuzovka, 12 miles east of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, was at the forefront of the war. Ukraine since February 24, and three weeks ago it was taken from the Russian army at a high price for those living among its ruins.
The village was bombed everywhere, and of the 1,500 people who lived there, only about 50 remained – most of whom lived next to Timothy in a dark dusty basement where the young boy spent most of his time drawing monsters, tanks and memories. beaches and happy days under the sun.
Together with Rita, his aunt Jana, 33, grandmother Ludmila, 57, and grandfather Mikola, 62, Timofey is now heading for relative security in western Ukraine, but the family’s final destination is Zurich. Switzerland where more than 40,000 Ukrainian refugees have settled since the start of the war.
Their future remains full of uncertainty as they seek to relocate to a foreign country without the money and ability to speak local languages, but Rita said the family had no choice but to flee the fighting.
“At first, Timofey did not want to leave Kutuzovka,” she said. “He was very upset when we told him we were leaving. I think now he is afraid to travel. He cried. He was afraid of artillery shelling when we were taken from Kutuzovka to Kharkiv.
“He is afraid of shelling all over Ukraine. But, like a mother, we all talked to him and convinced him that we were going to a place where nothing would be shot and where everything would be quiet. “
Rita said her son’s health began to decline after 87 days living with 23 others in an almost black basement measuring 40 by five meters under the ruins of a two-story kindergarten and medical center.
“Timothy examined the doctor and diagnosed an allergy to basement dust,” Rita said. “This dust from the basement walls, which Timothy was constantly breathing, began to cause an allergic reaction.”
The evacuation of the family became possible after a Guardian reader, who has ties to the nonprofit Ukraine Now, made contact to offer logistical assistance, and the Ukrainian military agreed to provide a safe passage. The reader declined to be identified, but said he hoped others would donate funds to help Timothy and his family, and called for more political efforts in the West to “prevent the suffering of millions of people caused by the madness of the few.”
Rita said the decision to leave Kutuzovka was difficult, although it was confirmed by the right move when they came out of the basement to see the full extent of the damage done to her village.
She said: “My mother cried all the time, all these days when we were going, she cried. She cried all the way from Kutuzovka to Kharkiv railway station. When we started leaving Kutuzovka, we saw our village being destroyed. We saw that Kutuzovka was in ruins.
“We saw our village for the first time because we were in the basement all these days. And when we went out and saw the scale of the destruction, I had a lump in my throat from pain and sorrow. We have long lived in our peaceful village and at one point it was destroyed. It was very painful for us to look at it. “
She continued: “My parents really didn’t want to go. They did not want to leave their home. But I convinced them. After all, we do not know what will happen tomorrow. We are afraid that tomorrow the war may return to our village. I told my parents it was safe. We will not be constantly under fire, and we had to go. “
Rita added that she hopes to help others escape in the future and will never forget the help she received from Guardian readers. “If I could, I would also help people – I would take them to safe places, I would help them get a job,” she said. “After we went through all this horror in Kutuzovka, I realized how important evacuation is for people from dangerous places.”