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Three Weeks Under Occupation: The Lukashivka Experience

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The village of Lukashivka is located near Chernihiv. The population is just over three hundred. There is a church of Ascension, built at the end of the 17th century, a couple of stores, a medical clinic, and several farms around.

Nevertheless, after the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion, Lukashivka became a settlement of strategic importance, because it gave a “firing point” to the regional center. And it was this small village with Ukrainian soldiers that gave the enemy a days-long battle, which allowed the defenders of Chernihiv to regroup. 

“They started bombing us on March 6. Actively, yes, practically without a break. It was important for the Russians to knock out our military, but they hit, frankly, all over the village, without paying any mind to who was stationed where,” said Hryhoriy Tkachenko, a local entrepreneur and owner of the Neporivske farm.

As the owner of a large enterprise, Tkachenko gathered some of the villagers at his farm during those days. There was a good generator there, so they could charge their phones, and there was a TV set, which meant they could follow the situation in Ukraine.

There was an intense battle with the invaders on March 7th. A three-hour firefight ensued between both sides. The attack was ultimately repelled, and some Lukashivka residents were able to escape to the city.

“On the morning of [March] 8th, the Rashists “congratulated” our women with some serious artillery fire. My farm was targeted by their artillery and planes. Of course, it is subjective, but according to my estimates, around 60 shells were fired at the cowshed, outbuildings, and grain stores. Lots of cattle were killed.” 

After Hryhoriy Tkachenko returned to the liberated village, he learned about the loss of more than a hundred cows and bulls. It took more than a week to collect the cattle carcasses and bury them in accordance with existing environmental regulations.  

The invaders destroyed the farm facilities as well. They stole equipment, burned and bombed the premises and food stockpiles. 

“I had a grain drying complex, the highest point in town, maybe 20 meters high. A Ukrainian flag was planted there. So when the invaders entered the village, they just shot with tanks. They were shooting for a long time because the building was strong and our banner was holding. But they destroyed it eventually. What they cannot steal, they destroy. Tractors, seeders, cars… Barbarians, there is no other word for it”.

It was horrible how the Russians treated the locals, the farmer said:

“Already at 9 a.m., when ours withdrew, the Russians came in from three sides. They drove tanks around the village. Just like in the movies, they celebrated the “capture of an object” by shooting into the air and went away to “settle in”. They took what they wanted, and treated the local people as prisoners. There was no talk whatsoever of “liberation”. And it did not matter to them whether it was an adult, a child, or an old person. Children were put on their knees and shot over their heads. A seventy-year-old man was forced to walk across a minefield under the threat of being shot. It was a nightmare. All in all, during this time, 11 people died in the village. Some were shot, some were hit by shrapnel from shells, and some could not stand the lack of medical care and the inhumane conditions.”

According to Tkachenko, the worst thing was that the invaders had set up their headquarters in the village, through which they communicated with the groups that were entrenched in the surrounding villages. Accordingly, vehicles were constantly driving around the village, and from time to time something was fired in the direction of Chernihiv. The Russians were constantly going door-to-door, checking to see if anyone was missing or if a new person had arrived. They were afraid that the locals were revealing their positions to intelligence and the AFU.

The invaders chose the Church of the Ascension as the place for meetings and ammunition storage.

“The walls there are thick, two meters [wide], plus a solid foundation. They walked around it several times, checking it out, and finally decided to store their ammunition there. Several mortars and artillery mounts were placed on the territory, which they used to fire at Chernihiv. They essentially fed on my cattle. Quite a few of my cows were used for barbecue by the Russians. It was obvious that they were killing animals both for food and just for fun,” the farmer explained.

The village remained under occupation for three weeks. It was only in the last days of March that it was liberated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

After returning to the reclaimed village, the farmer discovered that his house, as well as the farm premises and agricultural land, had been mined. 

“One way or another, all the houses were damaged. Some by bullets, others from shrapnel or shells. More than 40 houses were blown apart. Only the walls were left, and not all of them at that. It was really hard to rebuild. Even though we lost a large portion of the farm, we completed the sowing campaign. We had to combine it with collecting the enemy’s mines and missiles, but there wasn’t any way around that.”

We sowed and are now reaping. Cereals are now being sold for next to nothing, so the hope is that potatoes will be in demand and will offset some of these costs for us.”

According to the farmer, there are some unexpected trends in the post-occupation period of village life: 

“At the beginning of April, about a hundred and fifty people lived in the already liberated Lukashivka. Now, about 95-97% of the residents have returned. They are restoring their destroyed homes, and while the work continues, they even live in sheds, storage rooms, cellars. Everyone is busy. I would even say more, the total number of residents compared to the period before February 24 has even slightly increased. Because a lot of people from the regional center have moved back to their parents. A kind of internal migration. After all, everyone understands that the shelling of cities with missiles continues. And the probability of one striking Lukashivka instead of Chernihiv, is, frankly, low. So there are even more young people. They couldn’t break us.”

 ANASTASIYA USENKO, PAVLO LISNYCHENKO

This article was produced by Bihus.Info as part of the program “Supporting Ukraine’s Regional Media in Times of War” with the financial support of the European Union and the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Norway. The content is the sole responsibility of Bihus.Info and does not reflect the views of the European Union, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Село Лукашівка, розташоване неподалік від Чернігова. Населення - трохи більше трьох сотень. Тут є Вознесенська церква, зведена наприкінці 17-го століття, пару магазинів, фельдшерський пункт, кілька фермерських господарств неподалік. Тим не менш, після повномасштабного вторгнення російської армії Лукашівка стала одним з населених пунктів, що мав стратегічне значення, адже давав “точку обстрілу” обласного центру. І саме це невеличке село з українськими солдати дали ворогу кількаденний бій, що дозволив перегрупуватись захисникам Чернігова. 

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