Eduard, 49, shyly removes the oxygen mask from his face, because he does not want the world to see him weak. He sits down on the edge of the bed, leaning on the pillow and points at the wall decoration. "This is all we have left from our previous life”, Eduard begins the conversation in a weak voice. “I lost my friends, my health and all my property. My hometown became a city that no longer exists." Eduard says.
He even had to give his dog Pulia away, who had been like a child to him for fourteen years. Eduard turns his gaze to his wife Vira, who can barely hold back her tears. "If not for Vira, her care and support, I do not know whether I would still be alive. The doctors said that with my health complications only one out of a hundred survive."
Cold basement disease
The spring in 2022 turned out to be very cold. Eduard’s deserted hometown is without electricity, water, and gas. Instead of children's laughter, there are rockets flying, and the ground shakes from the explosions. "Pulia was always the first to run into the basement. It meant that another rocket launch was coming, and we always ran after the dog. We had Pulia instead of sirens, as they stopped working with the power outage”, Eduard recalls. The shelling here does not stop day or night. It is cold and damp in the basement in which Eduard and Vira often have to stay for many hours.
"We were warming ourselves by an open fire. We cooked food right there in the yard. Vira even planted a vegetable garden. We had no plans to leave”, Eduard says. "We survived thanks to home-canned food and stocks of cereals and potatoes. The outskirts of the city were often wandered by abandoned chickens, which we hunted. Several times we even saw cows running around frightened, looking for food."
He begins to suffer from coughing fits, and it becomes painful to breathe. He is out of breath when he takes the stairs. There are no doctors or pharmacies left in the town. When Vira goes out to find water, she meets some medical staff, who give her cough syrup, which help only a little. There is no opportunity to get a professional diagnosis or treatment in the city because there are no services available.
“When a rocket fragment killed our neighbour, - I did not even know how to bury her. We dug a hole to bury her and then the shelling started. The hole saved us. We hid in it and waited for the attack to be over. Afterwards we quickly covered our neighbour’s body and ran home", Eduard remembers. Afterwards Eduard recalls that the whole area of the cemetery was mined. People then bury the dead in their own yards.
Evacuation missions come to the city after Easter. Eduard and Vira are persuaded to leave the city. First, they are taken to Dnipro, and from there the family and their dog go to Lviv by train. In Lviv, Eduard is immediately admitted to the hospital, where his long-term treatment begins. Vira has to give the dog away into good hands, because the shelter they are staying at, no animals are allowed.
Due to constant freezing temperatures and dampness, Eduard gets pneumonia. And due to the lack of treatment in his hometown his disease worsens. In Lviv he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. Eduard stays in the hospital for seven months. But this is only the beginning of his recovery.
Now the family is praying a lot and waiting for a better future. They understand that they have nothing to return to. Everything for which they worked so hard throughout their lives is destroyed by the war. But Eduard knows that they will still have joyful moments, because "God allowed me to survive for a reason." And Vira is waiting for him to recover so that she can go to work, rent her own place and finally bring Pulia back to the family.
Now the family is living in a shelter for internally displaced persons in Lviv, organized by the aid organisation IRF, a CARE partner. Thanks to the financial support of these organizations, they managed to repair the premises and buy the most necessary furniture. Next to the two beds stands an oxygen concentrator, which is now vital for Eduard.