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When the first tank battle broke out outside Natali’s house in Kharkiv, she was horrified and frightened.
The body of a Russian soldier, killed during the fight, was left at the nearby crossroads.
Now she’s just mad.
Natali, 49, lives in the Bolshaya Danilovka district of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been heavily attacked by Russian forces.
“There was a battle near our house with tanks, grenades. Machine gunners drove straight into the pines in front of the shaking house. Then the light was turned off,” she said.
Natali and her family had spent three days sitting in a bomb shelter at their friend’s house.
“We got by with our sense of humor and taking care of each other,” she said.
While they were sheltering, neighbors told them that something was burning near their home.
“We got in the car and tried to go and have a look, but we couldn’t get near our house,” she said. “We heard gunshots, we saw destroyed cables and gas leaking from the distribution network.”
On Tuesday, the family was finally able to return home.
“The soldiers only let us in for 20 to 30 minutes. Part of our house no longer exists – there is a hole in my favorite part, my cozy kitchen where I cooked for my friends,” she said.
The neighbor’s house has completely disappeared. Kira, the family cat who had kittens last summer and loved walking around the area, has died.
“Killed by Russian ‘liberators’,” Natali said.
Their house was looted, like many in the neighborhood.
“We took some stuff and some food, scattered some food around the house for the left and left animals. Now there are no more emotions. Just silence in my head,” she said. “We’re staying with friends and I’m just laying around cuddling my pets.”
However, Natali is determined for things to change and for Ukraine to win this conflict.
“We will restore everything when the invaders die and the war ends,” she said.
“I decided to gather some friends who would like to help me restore our piece of paradise in Ukraine. Everything will be fine!”