Chernihiv is located in the north of Ukraine, close to the borders with Russia and Belarus. It became one of the first cities where Russian troops tried to break through. But the Ukrainian defenders held the defense of the city with incredible efforts, restraining the aggressive attack.
However, the city remained surrounded and was mercilessly shelled by artillery. Many civilian objects were damaged in Chernihiv: schools, kindergartens, hospitals, historical buildings. Residential buildings were damaged, there are many that were completely destroyed. There was no water, gas, electricity, or heat in the city for a long time. It was difficult for people to evacuate, because the Russians littered the roads with mines and blew up bridges around the city. In early April, the Ukrainian army forced the invaders to leave the region.
A lot of people were killed. Morgue workers said that more than 800 people were buried in the first two months of the war – the same number was reached annually during peacetime. Sometimes the morgue recieved 40 dead bodies a day. People had to bury other in gardens and yards. Some are still unidentified – in the cemetery, their gravestones mention only where this person was found.
On 6 March, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded Chernihiv the title of Hero City of Ukraine.
Those who know first hand about the war in Chernihiv, share their stories to preserve the memory for the sake of a peaceful future for Ukraine. That’s why they tell their stories to the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.
The Museum of Civilian Voices is the world’s largest archive of accounts from civilians who suffered from Russia’s war against Ukraine. The mission of the Museum is to collect, file, categorize and share the stories of Ukraine’s civilians for a better understanding of life during the war for the purpose of creating a better future. The archive of the Museum of Civilian Voices already contains more than 30,000 first-hand and unique testaments.
These are three stories of people from Chernihiv.
On 18 March, Mykola Kulichenko and his brothers, the elder Dmytro and the younger Yevhen, were taken captive. The russian military broke into their house in Chernihiv. They found a military uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine belonging to one of the brothers, and their grandfather’s wartime medals. The Kulichenko brothers were taken out of the house to be tortured and executed. Only Mykola managed to escape. The bullet went through his cheek. He survived the firing squad, managed to get out of the grave and reach his home on foot, 40 kilometres from the shooting site. You can find his incredible back-from-the-dead story here
Medical assistant Olena Nediy provided medical aid in bomb shelters during the shelling in Chernihiv. She told that all hospitals in the city were left without windows and roofs. Olena took her son to the outskirts of the city hoping that the war would not reach there, but the inferno covered the entire Chernihiv region. She had to get to the area, where her son was, on foot. So that they could continue their escape to safety. Her story is here
She packed her whole life into one suitcase and went to nowhere. This is not how 73-year-old Tetiana Pets from Chernihiv imagined her old age, but she had no more strength to just keep staying in the basement, waiting for bombing. She was born a few years after the end of the Second World War and never in her life did she think that a war could break out again. You can find her story here
The Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation aims to сreate a reliable source of information about the life of civilians during the war told in a first-person perspective with the objective of providing a unique psychotherapeutic project that will contribute to the psychological well-being and mental health of Ukrainians traumatized by the war, through the sharing of their stories.
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation is Ukraine’s biggest private charity. From the first days of the war in 2014, the humanitarian aid provided by the Foundation helped to save 3.5 million people from Donbass. Thousands of those people shared their stories with the Foundation, so they were put together as a unique online museum.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Museum has become an archive of the tragedies of the whole Ukrainian nation. The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s staff members and volunteers continue to communicate with people and record their stories.
To share a story, everyone can visit the Museum’s portal (https://civilvoicesmuseum.org/en) and click on the “Tell a story” button in the top right corner of the main page. There are options: to share a story online now, to send a telephone number, to share the story directly, or to send it via email. Another option is to call the toll-free hotline 0 (800) 509 001 in Ukraine.