“She hit a Russian soldier on the head.” How the people of Kherson resisted the occupation

“She hit a Russian soldier on the head.”  How the people of Kherson resisted the occupation

Kherson survived 255 days of Russian invasion. In the first months, people went out to protest every day, and the city became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. The Koles family was among the activists: Dmytro, Yulia and their two daughters. From the first days, the husband and wife regularly stood on Svobody Square to prove to the Russians that Kherson is Ukraine. As part of the “Hide Your Own” project, “UP. Life” tells the story of the inhabitants of the hero city, who defended it with all their might. “Fuck you, not Kherson” Kherson was under Russian occupation from March 1 to November 11, 2022. After the Armed Forces liberated the city, the invaders terrorized it with shelling. Just as they did on the very first day of the occupation. “As soon as the Russians entered Kherson, they shelled everything there. They hit the school at once, the high-rise buildings. My friend went out on the landing to take the meter readings. And just at that moment, a shell flew straight into her apartment and destroyed everything. If she hadn’t gone out to check the meter , then she would no longer be among the living,” Dmytro Kolesov tells about the situation in Kherson in the first days of the occupation. Dmytro and his wife Kherson residents did not want to put up with such sad “prospects”, so they immediately began to protest. Thousands of people came to the rallies. “Our peaceful actions began on March 5, when a lot of citizens gathered on Svobody Square near the regional state administration. And we agreed that we would leave like this every day at 12 o’clock,” says Dmytro Kolesov. The largest number of people attended rallies on weekends, especially on Sundays. However, since the middle of March, the number of protesters has been decreasing, because most of them have left. “One day, before another action, we decided to draw a poster. And my youngest daughter Masha, she was 14 years old at the time, said: “Let me draw. What should I write?” And I answer: “Write what you think about the occupation.” And Masha glued sheets of A4 paper, because there were no large sheets, and wrote: “Fuck you, not Kherson.” And this apt inscription lit up everywhere! Wherever it was not shown: both in the American press, and in the English press, and even more so in the Ukrainian one,” the man recalls. Andrii’s family with a poster At the rallies, people peacefully demonstrated to the invaders that they are not welcome here. Slogans rang out: “Glory to the Armed Forces!”, “Kherson is Ukraine!”, “Ukraine is above all!” And the occupiers were shouted: “Shame!” and “Home!” At the same time, the people of Kherson did not provoke the Russians into a forceful conflict, because they understood all the risks. This went on every day for almost a month. But on March 27, the Russians brutally dispersed a peaceful protest with weapons. “We have a monument to the Heavenly Hundred and a stand with photos. And the Russians wrote there that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are murderers. Of course, our guys went to paint over that slander. They are approaching the stele – and those inhumans are standing behind it. And at 12:50 we see that these “comrades” are starting to attack our guys. I don’t know, maybe in Russia people would start running away when the military forces attack them. And we, on the contrary, rushed to meet them. The occupiers, by the way, were very surprised by our actions.” , – says Dmytro Kolesov. And literally immediately, a black minibus drove up to the protesters. One activist was shot in the leg, another was forcibly taken away. The people of Kherson started shouting at these Russians. And they fired tear gas and stun grenades at them. “I was struck by my wife’s actions at that moment. For me, she is a model of patriotism. When the occupiers started to disperse us, Yulia had a poster in her hands. And she took that poster, twisted it into a tube and hit the occupier on the head from behind. And he had a machine gun she stands. She turns around. Everything in my veins froze. He takes her and hits her on the head with his muzzle. Thank God, I didn’t hit her hard, I just pushed her, everything went well. But I was impressed by her courage!”, the Kherson native shares his memories. Since then, the occupiers have constantly allowed themselves to use weapons against peaceful people at rallies. Therefore, it became more and more dangerous to go out. “One day, the Russians once again dispersed the rally. My best man was standing at the bus stop, and a stun grenade flew at him – his leg was damaged, his jacket was torn. And we realized that going to the protests was already too risky, otherwise we would be killed sooner or later. Especially those who who took loudspeakers and started a crowd. We were aware that we were under occupation, and, unfortunately, no one would come to help,” says Dmytro. Any Kherson citizen could be detained for several hours or even days and interrogated. From the first days of the occupation of Kherson, they detained civilians, grabbing them for nothing just on the streets. “There were many such cases. For example, they took away two young guys who were calmly following us. A car with the letter Z drove up, and they were simply grabbed. They were brought to Chornobayivka, already known throughout Ukraine, and tortured for a day – they beat them, broke their arms, shot them leg. Fortunately, both remained alive. The women were also abused. One girl was just walking down the street, and a bunch of Russians met her. They stopped her, surrounded her, took off her skirt and, sorry, pointed a machine gun between her legs. You can imagine how the inhumans abused her ?! Then the poor woman was shaking with terror for several days,” Dmytro tells about the atrocities of the occupiers. Also, any person from Kherson could be detained for several hours or even days and questioned about who organizes rallies and pays for participation in them. Not feeling what love for their country is, it was strange for Russians to understand that Ukrainians go to protests of their own free will, without receiving additional funds. “I know about the detention of an activist for 10 days. He was locked up in our sober house, which was made into a kind of pre-trial detention center. And all that time the Russians tortured our boy with electric shocks, beat him, kept him in the dark and did not feed him. They forced him to say to the camera: “Glory to Russia” etc. People who lived next to this pre-trial detention center said that such screams emanated from it at night that it was impossible to sleep. There were just inhuman screams. In addition, they saw bodies, hands, and even heads being taken away in cars.” , – says Dmytro Kolesov. Read also: Voices from the basements of the Kherson torture chamber. How the Russians mocked the Ukrainians “I want to restore my city” There were few chances to survive in such hellish conditions. At the same time, it was very difficult to leave. The occupiers did not allow a green corridor from Kherson. Everyone left at their own peril and risk. One road was from Kherson to Mykolaiv through Chornobayivka. And the other – through Snigurivka, this is the road Dmytro and Yulia used to get out of the city. “My daughters left first. For us, it was the most important thing – that the children were safe. The older one went with friends, the younger one – with relatives. We were already driving in our car, we took as many people with us as we could. It was April 17. And we was lucky to get out quickly, in just three hours. And an acquaintance who left through Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region already in September, drove for a month and four days,” says the native of Kherson. Now the Kolesov family has settled in Odessa and is actively engaged in volunteering, in particular, transporting humanitarian aid from Europe to Kherson. They rent an apartment, live on savings. Before the occupation, Dmytro had his own business, which, of course, suffered: the Russians stole several work trucks from him. A similar thing happened to Dmytro’s friend: a combine harvester worth 400,000 euros was stolen from him. He found it by GPS in the Tambov region. Since the beginning of the war, almost a thousand residential buildings have been destroyed and damaged in Kherson. The home of the Kolesov family survived, but its windows were broken because one of the shells landed right under the house. Dmytro says that he can’t wait for victory to finally start rebuilding his hometown. “Now it is dangerous to return to Kherson. There is constant shelling, and flights are coming to all areas. However, as a patriot, I really want to return to my region, work and restore it,” says Dmytro. *** On the “Shelter” website, caring Ukrainians can offer housing for displaced persons by placing a corresponding ad. Therefore, IDPs can find temporary shelter in any region of Ukraine or abroad, for a few days or for a longer period. The filter system will help you easily choose the option that meets your criteria and quickly contact the owner. This is a completely volunteer initiative. It was launched on the first day of the full-scale invasion by People’s Deputy of Ukraine Halyna Yanchenko. Later, the “Shelter” program received state support. Homeowners who sheltered displaced persons receive compensation from the state for the payment of communal services – 900 hryvnias per person per month. Now there are about 16,000 ads on the site. The page has been translated into 40 languages. Victoria Yarizhko, specially for UP. Life

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