Story #72. The Village that Turned into Ruins

March 8, 2023
The story of Serhiy and his mother from the village of Kamyanka, Kharkiv Oblast. #UkraineWorldTestimony

The small village of Kamyanka lies between Izyum and Sloviansk. After the full-scale Russian invasion, its landscape is truly apocalyptic. There is not a single house left standing in the village. Each and every one has been completely destroyed.

Their village holds only ruins: ruins of houses, shops, destroyed farming equipment, and skeletons of cows. There are many burned out and blown up military vehicles on the roadsides. At first it seems that there is not a single living creature left in the village. But this is not so.

UkraineWorld spoke to local resident Serhiy, who lives in the skeleton of a village with his mother. They live in a small house with a wood stove where they cook food and heat water. Volunteers bring them food, candles, and lanterns. Serhiy and his mother take some vegetables from their garden, but their harvest this year is meager because the area they sowed was bombed. They have no electricity and no water. So they use rainwater and snow.

After capturing Izyum in March and trying to break through further, the Russian invaders shelled Kamyanka very heavily. It was then that most of the local residents fled the village.

On March 21, Serhiy and his mother moved to their relatives in a nearby village, 10 km away. However, by March 26, the Russians occupied both Kamyanka and the village where they had moved in search of safety.

Despite the fact that the village was still occupied, Serhiy and his mother returned home in May. There was no electricity, water, or heating. Their house was destroyed, so they began to live in a smaller one which was more intact. Serhiy and his mother saw signs of Russians living in the village. There was dirt and mess everywhere.

Kamyanka was under enemy occupation until September 11. As they left the village before the liberation of the Kharkiv Oblast by the Ukrainian military, the Russian soldiers did everything they could to spite the locals: they threw grenades into their cars, cut the cables in electrical appliances, and covered pillows and other bedding in mud.

The occupiers wanted to leave nothing but destruction behind. This is the barbaric psychology of the Russian army. It was not Putin or the military commander who ordered the soldiers to cut the cables in people's houses – they chose to do this of their own accord.

Today, after the village’s liberation, the danger to those who remain has not passed. Since there is no heating in the village, people heat with firewood. They have to find firewood in the forest or in abandoned yards. However, these places are often mined, so when looking for firewood, people sometimes set off the explosives, leaving them injured or killed.

Serhiy says that according to rumors, about 150 civilians died in Kamyanka during the Russian occupation. However, he doesn’t know the exact total.

Now, he and his mother continue to live in the destroyed village and have adapted their lives as best they can. His son's family lives in Dnipro, but Serhiy and his mother don’t want to move to them. "We were here during the entire occupation and shelling, and we remain here now." They feed the local cats and dogs and talk with their neighbors. Currently, there are about 10-15 people living in the village out of the 1,700 that were there before the full-scale invasion.

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.

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