‘Bukvy’ continues documenting Russian war crimes and stories of civilian deaths in Mariupol and other Ukrainian territories. These are the stories from ‘Museum of Civilian Voices’ established by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.


Oleksandr Suslov. Mariupol

‘Seconds and millimeters were decisive in Mariupol. Those who were not attentive did not survive.’

Oleksandr is a metallurgist, he worked at Mariupol metallurgy plant. On February 23, the man had a night shift when the war began.

‘My wife and I lived in Mariupol.She is pregnant, so it was quite difficult to keep her from getting nervous, and I was almost always by her side.I tried to be stronger and not show fear and panic.’

Due to the electricity, water and gas supply disruption, the temperature in Mariupol apartments dropped to 5 degrees. Oleksandr, like other residents of the city, despite the unceasing shelling and danger, had to chop firewood, light a fire between the houses.

‘That is why so many people died. Until the water boiled or something was cooked, people spent 2-3 hours on the street by the fires. The shelling killed people. And later air raids started. It was the worst thing, bombs were just dropped on civilians… everything was decided by fractions of a second and millimeters. Got distracted? You may not survive!’

Oleksandr says that the bomb shelters were full of people whose homes were damaged. Houses were hit by bombs and the entire districts with high-rise buildings burned. The rescue services could not save the apartments and houses of thousands of residents, there was no water in the city, and the shelling did not stop.

The man has many relatives and friends left in the occupied Mariupol. ‘The feeling of hopelessness and not knowing what’s going on with your loved ones just kills. I sit down to eat and realize that they are starving there. Thoughts about the terrible loss of dear ones do not leave me. I want to be happy and live on, but everything around is gray…’

Oleksandr shares his most cherished dream: let his child, who is about to be born, will never see what war is like.


Larysa Znarukh. Kharkiv

‘I do not know whether I will have where to return.’

Larysa is 71. She lived with her husband under shelling for 10 days, after which she decided to evacuate.

‘That morning my son called me with the news about the beginning of the war. I thought it was a silly joke. But contrary to common sense, this horror really began.’

From the first day of the full-scale war, Kharkiv was mercilessly destroyed by the invaders with artillery. The woman tells how they spent the night on the floor in the corridor, how the explosions made her heart beat and the high-rise building trembled. Later, the Russians started shelling the queues for humanitarian aid, where children, women, and pensioners were standing.

According to Larysa, her husband could not even get a loaf of bread because of shelling. As soon as the fighting stopped and the civilians went out to get some products and formed queues, bombs and shells were dropped next to the crowd.

‘We wanted to save ourselves. But we didn’t know where to go. We are no longer young, retired. However, we packed things and went to the railway station. There was a train and all the seats were occupied, but no one knew its direction. It turned out that it was going to Lviv. Later, everyone started shouting that only women and children could evacuate, and I could not leave my husband.’

Later, the couple managed to get into the last carriage and escape. According to Larysa, during the entire journey from Kharkiv to Lviv, in complete darkness, there were 22 people in one compartment with only 4 shelves. Later the elderly couple went to Rivne. There the volunteers provided the couple with housing, necessary things and moral support.


Olha Osovska. Vorzel, Kyiv region

‘We don’t want war!’

Olga is a resettled person from Luhansk. After the events in the east in 2014, her family moved to Vorzel, Kyiv region. It was there that she continued her life’s favorite work – teaching and working with children. On February 24, Olha turned 66 years old, but instead of congratulations, the woman received terrible news about the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Olha, with eyes full of tears, shares about her students, ‘My children were supposed to congratulate me on my birthday…But the war started. Children were scattered all over the country and abroad. One of my girls had her entire apartment burned down, so she couldn’t even join the online classes.’

The woman says that on the first morning of the war, she immediately ran to the pharmacy and the store, because she already knew how to act, because she survived Russian aggression in 2014. Her son from Hostomel called asking Olha and her husband to leave Vorzel. But the couple did not have time to evacuate. The tanks and artillery of the occupiers moved quickly and decisively right next to the teacher’s street, so the family could not even leave the house in the first days of the war.

‘Almost immediately, electricity, water and heat supply were disrupted. We could not call our sons who were in Irpin and Hostomel. There were thoughts of just walking to them, but I felt bad…’

Olha met her son already in Kyiv, later they reached Uzhgorod by evacuation train.

‘My work gives me strength. Now online learning has finally resumed and I can hear and see my children. We believe together in our victory!’