“Some of our neighbors survived, but most of them died,” said Olha, “They lived on the lower levels where everything was destroyed.” Olha Botvinova survived a deadly attack on a residential building in Dnipro, Eastern Ukraine on Jan. 14, when Russians launched a missile attack against the city. One of the missiles hit Olha’s building killing 46 residents including six children.
“Everything was burning, everything was full of smoke,” Olha remembered, “Explosions continued, and we heard many screams. People screamed really loud at first, but soon, there were fewer and fewer voices.”
It was because she was with her husband, a surgeon, that Olha survived. He managed to slow her bleeding while the couple waited more than three hours in the nearly destroyed building before rescuers finally got to them.
“It was like a second birth,” Olha said, of emerging from the destruction.
ESCAPING THE “RUSSIAN WORLD”
Olha and her husband, Yevhen, are originally from Donetsk, which was once one of the biggest cities in Eastern Ukraine with nearly a million residents. Olha worked there as a bank manager, and Yevhen worked as a surgeon in a local clinic.
In 2014, however, things changed for the family. That spring, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and launched a war in Donbas, which affected the city of Donetsk and nearby areas. Russia-affiliated proxies proclaimed a so-called Donetsk People’s Republic effectively separating the region from the rest of Ukraine.
“We decided to leave and moved to Kherson,” said Yevhen, “I found a job there, and Olha started working as a trainer for entrepreneurs. She was always interested in psychology.”
The couple lived in Kherson for eight years. The city is in Southern Ukraine, close to the Crimean Peninsula. It was the first and only regional capital that Russia managed to occupy since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
So the couple had to flee again.
“When Russians occupied Kherson, I managed to evacuate Olha right away,” Yevhen recalled, “I drove her to Dnipro and returned home to help people. But quickly, Russians started putting a lot of pressure on the hospital. They were forcing us to sign documents that we were now working in Russia. We were also supposed to start using Russian money. Of course, I was against that, so I left for good.”
The escape was difficult.
“I had to sleep in the fields to leave the occupied area,” the man said, “It took a long night to pass the Russian-controlled area.”
When Yevhen finally reached Dnipro, he started to work there as a surgeon. Olha was already settled in the city. In June, the couple rented out a one-bedroom apartment in a residential area in Dnipro.
It was that apartment that was hit on Jan. 14.
SURVIVING THE ATTACK