Lydia, 85, was passing by a wave of fast-moving passengers passing through the Lviv train station in western Ukraine. Her eyes were on the ground as she tried to continue her son, a few steps ahead, bending almost twice due to spinal cord injury.
But she said her mind was on the village where she had fled and that she could not save herself when the Russian bomb destroyed her house.
Before the war, Lydia lived peacefully with her 61-year-old daughter, Irina, and her paralyzed Irina and two grandchildren in the farming village of Tovenke, near Isiam. Three weeks ago, the Russians began bombing the village: schools, shops and people’s homes.
Lydia and her son feared Russian retaliation and talked about the condition that their last names should not be used.
At 1:30 a.m. on March 26, Lydia got out of bed frozen to put more firewood in the iron oven. Her daughter was asleep. They were alone. His son Volodia, 62, took refuge in the home of a friend. One of her grandsons was hospitalized after being injured in a bomb blast the previous day. With him was his brother.
Then the house shook at the sound of the explosion. The roof split above Irina.
“The ceiling fell and it fell on her,” Lydia said. “Mom, save me!” She shouted!
No electricity. Lydia tried to walk towards her daughter’s bed in the dark, but she stumbled.
“I got up, then I fell, I got up, then I crawled up to her,” she said. “She was saying, ‘Hurry up, hurry up, I’m short of breath,'” Lydia wiped her eyes from the edge of the maw skirt she was wearing in flannel pajama bottoms.
The only light in the room came from the stars, visible through the hole in the ceiling, Lydia said. She painfully recalled trying to move the fallen trees and pieces of clay from her daughter’s top. “She kept saying, ‘Quick, quick,'” Lydia said. “I told her, ‘I can not do it quickly. I do not have the strength.’
Lydia did what she could, removing the small debris that had covered her daughter until the sun rose. In the morning, a neighbor came and removed the huge logs and debris and wrapped Irina in a blanket. She was still breathing, but her arms and legs were blue. They took her to a relative’s house, but there was no way to treat her with a shell attack.
“If she lives, she lives,” Lydia told her doctor.
She died the next day.
Slow deaths like Irina have received less attention than other horrors of war – civilians shot dead in places like Pucha or the bombing of a maternity hospital and theater in Mariupol.
Lydia blamed the death of her daughters, who were weakened by age and arthritis, and the curved spine that did not allow her to stand up straight.
“What can I say? My daughter is dead, ”she cried softly as she sat down next to the plastic bags containing her belongings. “She would have survived if it hadn’t been for me.”
At the train station in Lviv, the mother and son were going to stay with friends in Kmelnitsky in central Ukraine.
Volodya, who has been familiar with the conflict between Russian-backed separatists for many years, described the types of rockets in their village: “They fired mortars and began to attack us with Groats, Smerch, Uragan, etc.”
“My house was demolished, the shed was demolished. My car burned down, ” he said. “I had everything, now I have nothing.”
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