By Maria Shevchuk
Kherson region was under the control of enemy troops almost from the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion. They fired artillery, launched missiles and used aviation to shell the region from the territory of Crimea. Social networks are still debating how it happened, who betrayed who, and who allowed this to happen in the first place. However, the invaders put considerable effort into capturing the region and quickly put Kherson and all its inhabitants under occupation.
The war came when journalist Oleh Baturyn was in the Kherson region, in his native Kakhovka. The city was occupied from the first days, and this area remained virtually cut off from other Ukrainian territories. Despite these circumstances, he continued to cover the events in the region where the Russian military began its rule. What he saw and heard was very different from the images that the Kremlin propaganda tried to present to people. The occupiers did not care for the man’s activities, and on March 12, they kidnapped him.
The journalist was held in captivity for over a week; on March 20, he was released. All this time, he spent almost without food. For several days he was not even given water. The man was threatened with death, humiliated, and beaten, and they tried to break his spirits. He was not sure that he would return alive. According to the CT scan results, Oleh was diagnosed with fractures of four ribs after the captivity. It was dangerous to stay in the occupation, so the man and his family left the Kherson region.
“I advise everyone under occupation to leave, to find a way to get to the Ukraine-controlled territory. There are huge problems with medical care and all kinds of drugs in the Kherson region. All goods and foods are very pricey, except for vegetables. Local farmers are forced to sell them for next to nothing. Vegetables and fruit are the only things that are now sold for pennies. But it is hard to imagine what will happen in October when you won’t be able to pick something in the garden or the field and eat it. It is already difficult for people who can not leave because of their illnesses or the illnesses of their loved ones. It is difficult for them to get medical care. And there is no hope that this situation will improve for as long as the occupiers remain there,” – Oleh Baturyn said.
Of course, the way to evacuation is not easy. The road, which usually takes several hours, takes several days now, even without considering artificial delays created by the occupiers. Routes are constantly changing because some areas are shelled more, others – less. There were cases when convoys of cars trying to leave the occupied territory were gunned down. No green corridors have been created, and residents of the Kherson region leave for the Ukraine-controlled land at their own risk.
According to Oleh Baturyn, leaving was easier for those who had their transport. In March-April, only car owners could leave the occupied territory. Even then, there was a black carrier market of drivers who demanded outrageous sums of money for transportation. However, since mid-April, there has been virtually no problem finding a carrier that will take a person anywhere for a price. However, some residents do not have such funds.
People in some settlements, particularly in the Kakhovka district, believe that it is possible to wait out this horror somehow. They made peace with their situation and are trying to survive. Some people do not care if there is war or prefer not to notice it. And some are ready to pick up the Russian tricolour, but few people are like that.
Despite the difficult situation, the region’s anti-Russian resistance is still going strong. In the early days of the war, people actively went to rallies against the occupiers, demonstrating their position. Now, this is a rarer occurrence. The occupiers began to kidnap active residents with a pro-Ukrainian position.
Many people, who worried about their safety, left the region. However, there are still people waiting for liberation. One is an accountant, Maryna (name changed – ed.). The woman won’t leave her native Kherson because she wants the “Ukrainian spirit” to remain in it.
“My love for the city keeps me here. I love my home, the streets and paths familiar from childhood. And people who are close to me and share my views. And in general, if everyone leaves, then who will stand ground until liberation? We are waiting for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Kherson, and we will keep waiting. Incredible and unbreakable Kherson residents inspire me every day. For some reason, ruscist flags are falling daily, and yellow and blue colours are flying on every pillar, fence, and house. Our well-known volunteer uncle Grisha drives around the market with a loudspeaker, which yells, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the nation! And f*ck the Russian Federation!”. You look at them and understand: we are strong and unbreakable. We will survive! And faith in our military also keeps us going!” – Maryna expresses her position.
According to the woman, life in Kherson has changed dramatically, and, unfortunately, only for the worse. It’s as if the city went back thirty years: the nineties are back, there is no work, no money, and food prices have tripled. The town has turned into one continuous bazaar because this is the only way people can somehow survive. Many of them are in an information vacuum. Cell service and Internet work poorly, and people walk around the city searching for Wi-Fi points. There are armed Russian military men everywhere, checkpoints, and a curfew.
Kherson’s residents are trying to hold on, not to give up. Survival is the most crucial task for them now. Maryna says that people live only by faith in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and everyone wants liberation from the Russian occupiers. Liberation of Kherson is the most significant thing Kherson residents dream about, pray for and hope for. Of course, everyone is scared. And everyone who stays in the occupied city feels this fear.
Despite everything, the Ukrainian spirit is felt here.
Residents of Kherson are scared when missiles fly over their houses, it is scary to hear explosions outside the city, but the biggest fear is that everything will remain as it is now. Patriotic Kherson residents do not want anything to do with the “Russian world”; they resist with all their might to keep the Ukrainian sky above their heads. The footage from pro-Ukrainian rallies, which the occupied city’s residents attended, spread worldwide.
Russian invaders have been ruling the Kherson region for almost four months. They either commit war crimes against the population or create oppression and a lack of understanding that make people question how to go on living. Many people have left and dream of returning home at the first opportunity. And many remain, waiting for the liberation of their lands.
Those who left and stayed debate who did the right thing, and everyone believes their decision is correct. There are different points of view, but every choice deserves respect. There are no clear-cut solutions and answers. The most important thing is that people feel confident and safe. But this is hardly possible as long as the enemy army is at their homes.