As fighting intensifies on Ukraine’s southern front, Tanya and her daughter Anastasia are miraculous survivors. While Tanya was quietly washing the dishes with her daughter, a Russian rocket crashed into their kitchen. The attack took place on Sunday 17 April, both escaped unharmed, a real “miraclethe mother assures.
Mala Tokmatchka, where the incident took place, illustrates the increase in shelling. For several weeks, rockets have been raining on this village 70 km from Zaporojjia, the major city of the region: one of the schools has been gutted, as well as the building where the teachers are housed, and a hole adorns the facade of the cultural center.
Among many other buildings destroyed, several houses were the victims of Russian air strikes on Sunday, according to Yuri, a humble resident who became director of the local territorial defense.
One of them, of which only the walls seem to remain, seems to have become the kingdom of cats. Half a dozen tomcats bask in his yard, left behind by the owners of the place.
Los’ house was much luckier. A corner of the kitchen, isolated from the main body of the house, was pierced by a rocket. A plastic sheet now covers two parts of the wall in the room, the floor of which is bruised.
“Without the fridge, my daughter would have been killed”is moved Tanya, 59, a modest woman with hunched shoulders. “The icon protected us”, she continues, with another religious calendar hanging on the wall. Anastasia, 24, too shocked according to her, refuses to talk to the AFP team.
The remains of the arugula, kept behind the kitchen, make it possible to understand his fear. The silver tube, at least six feet long, cut in half and from which the warhead and rear fins have come loose, should not have given the two women a chance.
Based on the serial number on the wreckage, AFP was able, through the online archive of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI), to link the craft to the BM-27 Uragan, a model rocket launcher designed in Soviet times.
Whoever hit the Los is said to have scattered his sub-munitions in flight before crashing into the small brick house.
“Now every time we hear sounds of bombing, we run to the basement”says the mother, asking for tranquilizers: “The problem is that it never stops for two days. Day and night”†
During the hour and a half that the AFP was in Mala Tokmatchka, the dull roar of heavy weapons never stopped: often close by, initiated by the Ukrainian army, sometimes further away, broadcast by the Russian camp.
The same in Orikhiv, a town about ten kilometers away.
‘The bombing has intensified for two or three days’said Dmytro Maljovanyk, the deputy head of a unit of firefighters in the city, whose men intervened on Tuesday after a supermarket and medical office were damaged by Russian projectiles.
The suitcase is ready
“A week ago we heard some war sounds, but they came from far away”testifies Ira Pelechko, the owner of a cafe supermarket, plunged into near darkness for most of the day due to power cuts.
“Now when it comes from the Russian side, the houses are shaking and it is much more common”confirms Vitaly Dovbnia, one of his clients who, anticipating a hasty departure, said he already had a suitcase in the trunk of his car.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the start of the Russian offensive against eastern Ukraine on Monday evening, it appears to have started a little earlier on the southern front, from which Mala Tokmatchka and Orikhiv are not only a few dozen kilometers away.
Artur Kharlamov, who met in Orikhiv on Tuesday after fleeing the same morning from Melitopol, a southern city under Russian control, claims to have seen troops from Moscow digging trenches in three different places on the way… Ukrainian side.
Lost in the gray zone between the two camps, the Los are nevertheless trapped in Mala Tokmatchka, alone or almost alone in their village, which is becoming a little more devastated and stripped of its inhabitants every day. Too poor. Without prospects.
Two cows are their only wealth, Tanya says. One of them is going to calve. “I Can’t Leave Her”she sighs softly, to the rumble of heavy weapons as the worst is announced.