We met this Ukrainian couple from Irpin for the first time in 2019 during the presidential elections in Ukraine. So Anastasia and Roman Akulenko could hardly imagine that 3 and a half years later they would have to hide underground with their two daughters, and then run away from home for their lives.
In the first days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this suburb of kyiv was hit hard. The family first went to the countryside in another region. Later, Anastasia and her daughters went to Poland. The family was reunited in the Ukraine at the end of the summer, but the girls have never seen what happened in their home. For her parents, coming here brings back memories of the hardest days of her life.
“It was very scary. My husband was on the balcony and the war planes went right over his head. He thought the rockets were being fired at us and he yelled ‘get on the ground’, we all fell down and then hid in the bathroom, which is where we got dressed and went to the underground cellar.Since then, the kids didn’t want to go up at all. We spent one night in the basement and in the morning, as soon as the curfew was over, we set off,” says Anastasia Akulenko.
All but three people in her building were evacuated by volunteers on a very risky mission a few weeks later. First, the family had no news, and then conflicting news about their house. They watched a video showing two apartments below theirs destroyed after the building was hit by a missile. The family feared the worst.
Finally, they discovered that the fire stopped after burning their balcony. The apartment, its furniture and its equipment were damaged by the proximity of the very high temperatures below, by caustic ash and rust. The good news is that there is a possibility to renovate the place. The couple try to see this as an opportunity to make some improvements.
“The temperature was so high that here, on the fifth floor, the metal construction that held the shelves, the television on the wall, the computer desk, the synthetic clothing, everything has melted,” explains Akulenco, who excitedly recounts the plans for reform: “We already have plans, what we will do differently. We will fix our past mistakes, what was inconvenient in the location of our sockets. The most important thing is that the war ends. And then everything will be better.”
However, the renewal may not begin until next year. Not only because of financial difficulties. First, the authorities decided to demolish the building. Now, Anastasia is relieved that the renovation of the part below Akulenkos’s apartment is planned instead, but with no set date yet.
The roof above is also seriously damaged. With the help of the local politician, charities and volunteers, it was covered with a light tarpaulin to withstand the cold and wet season.
Last winter changed the lives of this family forever. The Akulenkos hope it will bring them victory, security and a chance to turn the page.