by Sergey Panashchuk
Irina, 62, and Yury, 74, are sitting on the bench near the building that used to be their home. Volunteers were helping them get their belongings from the ninth store. There is no electricity, and the elevator does not work. A few stories of the building are now destroyed, and it can collapse at any moment.
Irina and Yury are both about to break down in tears while telling their story.
'We were in the apartment when we heard a few explosions nearby. We wanted to run outside immediately, but our cat hid under the couch, and we were trying to get it out. That is what saved us, as when we were already outside, the missile hit the third or fourth floor of the building. Had we run immediately, we would have been at the exact spot when it hit and would not be sitting here. We saw doors and windowpanes flying and were hit by a shockwave', says Irina.
They look at the pile of plastic bags and a plant on the asphalt. This is what all their possessions are reduced to now.
"The government does not tell us yet what is going to be done with the building—are they going to restore or demolish it. For now, it is a house of cards. You take one off and it will collapse", says Yury.
Being in a state of shock, the couple did not realize they were apparently exposed to carbon monoxide.
'We were running down the stairs through heavy smoke.
Probably we were there for too long as we were coughing up the black blood after."
The medics gave them medications and let them go, as they did with dozens of other residents of the building, but their mental state might be an even bigger problem that their physical.
Roman, 24, a volunteer, was at the scene a few minutes after the attack. He helped rescuers hold back the crowd of people who tried to rush into their appartements.
"Some people were in their pajamas. Some are in t-shirts and underwear. The most shocking thing was their eyes. At first, there was fear in them, and half an hour later, the realization of what had happened struck them. After that, they were swallowed by emptiness. Those empty eyes you can't forget".
Irina and Yury are going to live with their daughter in her place. Others who left their apartments were housed either by volunteers or by the government in the city hostels.
According to local authorities, 542 multistory buildings and 467 private houses were damaged by Russian attacks since the beginning of the war. More than 400 people have been left without homes.