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Olexandr Santymyrov


How did you experience war in 2014? What do you remember from that? How old were you? How did 2014-2015 go for you?
Please tell this story in detail.

I was 16 years old, I had just finished the 1st year of the mining technical college. I remember May 22 or 26. I woke up to the sound of a siren. It was the first time I heard it. I remember that this sound instilled feelings of anxiety and terror. I don't remember well how the last school weeks went. I remember that already after we left for vacation - especially in the evenings - artillery shots were heard, but I did not pay much attention, because I did not understand what it was. I can't remember the dates well anymore. I remember how almost all my acquaintances and friends started leaving the city. My parents and I decided to go to their friends. They lived in a private house, so we decided that it would be safer there, and grandfather stayed in our apartment. The first 2-3 days were more or less calm. Then we ran out of water. My dad and I decided to go to our relatives' apartment to pick up bottles of water. It was about 15 minutes to walk. The house was below the Melnikova turn — in the direction of Proletarska, and we had to go to the old bus station (the locals will understand). We went up to the turn. There they asked us for documents, but we did not have them with us. Well, they let us through and so we came to the place. We decided to rest a little, and after 30 minutes the explosions began. On the balcony glass flew out from the shock wave. We thought: to go back or stay put? Still, we decided to go, took bottles of water and began to move towards the house. There were no people on the street at all and it was scary. When we were about 300-500 meters away from the house, 15-20 people with machine guns ran towards us and we heard gunfire. Out of fear, we ran as far as we could see. Fortunately, there was a basement nearby. There were people there. We sat there for 2-3 hours while the artillery worked. There were pauses and people came out of the basements to the street for a smoke break, and as soon as the explosions began, everyone hid again. During one of these smoke breaks, I looked behind the house and found the corpse of a man in a military green uniform lying about 20 meters away from me. We decided to move in the direction of our house with dad, because we were afraid to go to our friends' house - you could hear the sounds of fighting from that side. We waited for a lull and started running through the backyards to our house. Fortunately, it was nearby - 300 meters away. People were sitting in the back yard as if nothing had happened. We ran to our house. 
I thought about how my mother is, she doesn't know what's going on with us, and we don't know what's with her. There was nothing much to eat, we found some old canned food and ate it. That night I slept restless, waking up from any rustling. At night there were strong explosions, I heard a shot and a whistle and said to myself: Lord, just please not in here. In the morning, someone said that there would be an air strike on Lysychansk. At 2:00 p.m., people were taken out by ambulance. My phone was still a bit charged,, a friend called me and warned me that "ambulances" were driving and taking people away, but they did not come to our yard. My dad and grandfather and I climbed into the basement of our house. We sat there for a long time. Then I heard footsteps and a radio transmitter. It was the soldiers.. They approached the neighbors from the first floor, asked if everything was okay, then we got out of the basement. At night it was also loud as well. In the morning, my mother and parents' friends came. I was very glad that everyone was fine.  Afterwards we went to them. The road there was littered with сartridges and shrapnel. In the evening, we went for water to the spring through the private sector where the street fighting was hapenning. This district is called Muravskyi. Almost every house there was damaged. Some houses were not there at all, some were destroyed or half burned. There were people in some houses, sorting out the debris. When we got to the spring there was a very strong smell of a decomposing corpse. It was the corpse of a man with his legs torn off. I will never forget it. After that the hostilities moved on. As before, there was no electricity, water, or gas in the city, but at least no more shooting took place. We returned home. After a while, we went to observe  the general state: the city was relatively intact, I went to my friend who lived near the central market. The district was called Barkas, and the friend’s name was Vlad, but we always called him Chech. He had light. I don't know how it happened, but he had electricity in his yard and I was able to charge my phone. Later we were given electricity, water and gas. Chech and I went to the city, walked and photographed the destruction. After that, life returned to normal, the summer ended, everyone returned home. Studying has begun, but this summer has been discussed for a long time on. 

"Where were you these 8 years?".
How has this time passed for you, what changed in your life since the events of 2014?
What has influenced you the most during this time?
Please write in detail.

A lot of things happened, both good and bad. I graduated from a technical сollege. Before the war, we were promised that we would get jobs in Luhansk. But in 2017, of course, all of this was already impossible. I was thinking of going to work or continue studying. I wanted to leave Lysychansk, because almost all young people left in search of a better life. Since 2014, because of the war, things have been very bad in Lysychansk. I tried to get a job, with no luck, and there wasn't much to choose from Still, I got a job as a loader in a store.

I was paid there - well, how can I say... now I would never agree to it,, but at the time it worked for me - I received 120 hryvnias per day for 10 hours of work. The job was not easy, so I decided to leave there and try to go to a bigger city - Kharkiv. I studied at one university for six months, but I realized that I didn't like it. I returned home and after a while I decided to go work abroad to earn money to study at the university I want to study at. I went to work in the capital of the Czech Republic — Prague. I didn’t work long there, because we banally got screwed, but I do not regret it at all - I saw a very beautiful city, was abroad for the first time and learned what European life is like. The next time I went to Poland. Everything went well there. I worked in construction. I liked this country too, it was a very interesting experience. I returned to Lysychansk and afterwards went to Kharkiv to enter the university. I did it. There were a lot of people from our region and from Donetsk too in Kharkiv. And they, like me, had in a way combat experience.

What was February 24, 2022 for you like?
Did you believe that a full-scale offensive would begin?Where are you now? What do you do?

What do you think about your future now?

I was in my apartment with my girlfriend. Woke up at five in the morning to two loud explosions. At first I didn't understand what it was, but then I realized what it could be. I never fell asleep again. We got up at seven in the morning. The news started talking about the war. All along the street people were walking with suitcases, and I thought: should I go to work or not? :) In the end,, I went to work - and at that time I worked at a gas station - the queue for fuel was not simply long, but simply huge. Explosions were heard somewhere. By 2:00 p.m., all the fuel ran out and we went home. Many people walked home because all forms of public transport were canceled at that time. We lived under shelling until March 3, when the first airstrike happened in a neighboring house.

After that, we moved with my girlfriend and my friends to the basement. I soonfound out that two of my childhood friends had died. They were in the military. One was named Sasha, he was 24 years old. We studied with him at school and at the technical college. The other friend's name was Vlad. But we all called him Chech... It was the same friend I came to in 2014 to charge my phone. He was 23 years old.

After March 24, the area where we were hiding was heavily shelled, and a few days later we decided to go from Kharkiv to Kremenchuk. I am here now. I sit here without work and think about what will happen next. This is not the first time the war has caught up with me. I had a settled life, I had a job, I studied and lived in my favorite city... What will I do next? Good question. Now I'm just glad that I'm alive and all people dear to me are too.

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