Viktoria Kovalenko has told how her husband and 12-year-old daughter were killed by Russian shelling in northern Ukraine, and then she and her baby were arrested in appalling conditions
Photo: Kovalenko family)
A mother has told how she and her one-year-old baby were kidnapped by Russian troops and held in appalling conditions after her husband and 12-year-old daughter were killed by shelling.
Viktoria Kovalenko said that she and her baby Varvara were held captive in a school basement and watched people die around them as there was no medical care.
People used charcoal to write the names of the dead so they could be placed on their graves.
She and her family were trying to escape fighting in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine last March when their car was hit by a Russian bomb attack.
Her husband Petro, 40, was killed, as was their daughter Veronika, 12, and the next day she and her baby were kidnapped by Russian troops, who held them in a school basement in Yahidne with 40 other Ukrainians.
Victoria said that BBC : “It was dark, it was dusty, there was no air or windows – it was for storage, not for people. It was unbearable at times.
“In our room we wrote the names and dates of the deceased with a piece of charcoal so that we could place them on their graves. Twelve people died in the basement.
“I didn’t think of anything, I was shocked, I tried to block all emotions. I only talked to humans, but my whole being was focused on surviving.”
People weren’t even allowed to go out to use the restroom, which only had buckets for them.
In those horrific conditions, Viktoria said she tried to come to terms with the deaths of her husband and daughter, while also realizing she needed to stay strong for her baby.
She asked the Russians to bring their bodies to her so she could bury them, and eventually she was given permission.
Viktoria said the bodies were barely recognizable as people and there was practically nothing left of the burned-out car.
“It was March 12. They called me and said, ‘Let’s go and you’ll see where they’re going to lay.’ They were buried in the forest, in two graves, one box was larger, one box was smaller, and two crosses with signs,” she said when they were finally allowed to see the graves.
“We stayed and started covering the boxes with earth but the shelling started so we ran away before we could finish burying them. It was very scary.”
After 24 days of detention, the Russians began withdrawing from northern Ukraine and she was able to flee with her baby to Lviv in western Ukraine.
Viktoria is now stuck in Poland and has been waiting for a UK visa for almost 50 days and already has a sponsor, sources say.
“I’m in Poland right now and it’s going to be difficult for me,” she said. “I need to be in motion, not remembering it, or going over the events in my memories and just not thinking about it.”
A government spokesman told the BBC: “Taken together, our unlimited Ukrainian family programs for routes in Ukraine are among the fastest and largest visa programs in UK history.
“124,400 visas have now been issued, showing that the work we have been doing to speed up the process is working and improving every day.”
Der Spiegel has asked the Interior Ministry for comment.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/mums-kidnap-horror-baby-held-27257768 Mom's horror horrified as she and her baby are held next to bodies by Russians - Archyde