“Russians broke my fence, entered the house and searched in underpants. They looked for Bandera”

Фото: Олег Батурин, investigator.org.ua

“When Russian occupants came, I was scared to death and was afraid to go out”, as recalls Hanna Voronko, with tears in her eyes, resident of Novoraisk village of Beryslav raion in Kherson region. 

The village and Right Bank Part of Kherson region were liberated from Russian occupants on November 11, 2022. Today Hanna Vasylivna and residents of her village are able to tell about their living under Russian occupation without fear. 

The Center for Journalist Investigations continues to document evidence of war crimes by the Russian military and their collaborators, to record and publish stories of residents of liberated settlements. 

“These horny devils got into my house at the end of April. Their armored vehicle came and broke my fence. Seven people entered my house. Chechen soldier with beard told me: “I hate your Ukraine”. I answered: “I did not ask you to come here. We had normal life, nobody bombed us”. Other people searched my house, they were looking for Bandera. They told me that we were devils. One soldier searched my wardrobe and found female underpants. I asked him: “What are you looking for? You expected there would be Bandera inside?” Then, they found car of my relative in the courtyard. I told them it was broken. They left”, as recalls Hanna Vasylivna Voronko. 

As she says, the living under Russian occupants has been unbearable. Russian soldiers drank at night, wandered around the village and broke in houses. After endless intimidation and harassment, local women complained about drunken “liberators” to their commander. But it did not help. 

“First occupants have been more or less polite. Next occupants have been awful. There were a lot of them. They were like aliens, non-humans”, as tells local pensioner Zinaida Yukhymivna. 

Trenches of Russian occupants in Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

Broken schools, ruined houses 

“It is the class room of my child; it is remnants of interactive whiteboard. We had good school before occupants came,” as says Oleksandr Shokurov, the Head of Novoraisk Village Military Administration. 

He demonstrates the ruins of school in the center of the village. We see the ruins of sports hall. It has been reconstructed just before the Russian full scale invasion. Children did not have the time to train there. 

We do not enter the school canteen as the entrance is buried under ruins of the roof.

We walk cautiously around the crater near underground shelter. The strikes were so powerful that they broke the roof of three floor building and exploded inside underground shelter.

Ruined school in Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

The school has been hit in summer 2022 when Russian troops used it as barracks. Strikes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine turned them into the hell. Many Russian occupants were killed there by Ukrainian shells. 

Only kindergarten has been left intact in Novoraisk community. Schools and kindergartens in Kostyrka and Chervony Mayak have been damaged. Schools in Stepne and Maksym Gorki villages have been destroyed. 

Heads of local self-government are puzzled with the task to renew the teaching for children. However, the schools can be opened only after the liberation of the part of Kherson region located on the opposite left bank of Dnipro. It is still occupied by the Russian military. They regularly shell liberated villages, for example, Chervony Mayak on Dnipro bank. Paramedical points have been damaged in the village, too. 

Ruined school in Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

“We are thinking about restoration of our school in Novoraisk. We understand that we will not need such a big building. Some people will not come back home to our community. In order to resume the tuition, we need school buses for transportation of children from neighboring villages to the school. However, it will be possible only after the full liberation of Kherson region, when the shelling from the opposite bank of Dnipro river will stop. We are going to restore our paramedical points. Today, healthcare services are provided by one point, equipped with generator and necessary drugs. Fire service is working, we have a fire truck”, as says Oleksandr Shokurov. 

As he reports, the community has only one school bus from three pre-war buses. The driver succeeded in hiding it from Russian occupants. They broke down another bus and stole the third bus when they fled from the Ukrainian offensive. 

Ruined school in Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

Only one third from 6 thousand people is living now in the community. Just a few people are left in neighboring Koshara village. Dozens of people live in Zamozhne and Krupytsia villages. Despite permanent shelling, 315 people live in Chervony Mayak village. It has been severely ruined. Over 60 applications about ruined houses have been registered in the community. This number is growing. 

There is no electricity in Novoraisk community. As Oleksandr Shokurov explains, it will be possible to restore its supply only after the Russian shelling of Beryslav and other settlements will be stopped. Humanitarian aid is delivered to the village. The water is supplied with an assistance of generators. Approximately 2,5 tons of fuel are bought each month for their work. Communication is secured with Starlinks. 

Delivery of humanitarian aid in Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

“Some collaborators fled, other people stay”

Residents of Novoraisk and neighboring villages are still suffering from the Russian occupation. As they say, Russian occupants abducted, killed and tortured civilians. Oleksandr Vorony, local headman of Chervony Mayak village, has been abducted. He recovers from hardships of captivity. Family doctor Artem Fartushny from the same village has been kept in prison by Russian occupants since August 10, 2022. 

Artem Fartushny. Photo from social media 

“Russian occupants stopped him at Kakhovka hydro power station and abducted. He went to his patients in Nova Kakhovka. He was kept in torturing chamber in Beryslav and then brought to occupied territory”, as told director of Nova Kakhovka health care center “Bohdan” Irena Lepen. 

As Oleksandr Shokurov, the Head of Novoraisk Village Military Administration, says, Russian occupants were looking for Ukrainian patriots, former soldiers and veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They forced teachers to adopt Russian tuition standards.  

A  number of local collaborators helped Russian occupants. Oleksandra Glukhova, local ex-paramedic, has been the Russian “supervisor” of Chervony Mayak, Krupytsia and Monastyrsky villages. Before libration of Beryslav raion from Russian occupants, she managed to flee to Russian city Tuapse. 

Collaborator Oleksandra Glukhova. Photo from social media 

Valentyna Manuilo served as Russian supervisor in Kostyrka village, Leonid Garmash – in Stepne village, Maria Ochakovska – in Maksym Gorki village. 

Russian “supervisor” of Novoraisk village Sergii Andruschenko has been already sentenced to five years of imprisonment by Prymorsky raion court of Odesa. Before the Russian occupation, he has worked in the department of agricultural development of Beryslav Raion State Administration and in large agricultural company “UTC-Agroprodukt”. As local residents say, Andruschenko was not going to flee with occupants because he did not think he did something wrong. 

“The majority of local collaborators fled with Russian occupants. For example, Leonid Garmash from Stepne village fled to his son in Russian Krasnodarsky region. Ukrainian law enforcement bodies investigate the activity of those collaborators who decided to stay. All of them did a lot of harm; they helped Russian occupants to conduct their “referendum”, as says Oleksandr Shokurov. 

Oleksandr Shokurov. Photo: Oleg Baturin

Feodosii, the head of Saint Gregory Orthodox male monastery of the Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, is also suspected in collaborator activity. Local residents say he fled before the Russian occupation of the village but then came back to monastery when it was occupied by Russians. 

Humanitarian assistance for residents of Novoraisk. Photo: Oleg Baturin, investigator.org.ua

Oleksandr Shokurov says that local residents dream about reconstruction of their community and prepare for repairing works. 

“We survived. It is the most important. We will reconstruct the village”, as he says. 

Hanna Voronko, resident of Novoraisk village, agrees with him. She says she is not afraid after the liberation from Russian occupants: 

“When we were liberated, I cried from happiness. I know we would be liberated. My joy was endless. Now I sleep in peace. Though our village is still shelled by Russian occupants, I know that Ukrainian soldiers will protect me”.