Ukrainian flood survivors rescued amid Russian occupation and destroyed bridges

The quaint southern Ukrainian village of Kardashynka, situated in the marshy lowlands of the Dnipro River’s eastern bank, remains under Russian occupation. Although the city of Kherson was liberated last November, destroyed bridges have prevented villagers from crossing the river. However, this week, amidst catastrophic floods, some villagers managed to make the journey as they were rescued.

Maryna and Valentyna, two elderly residents of Kardashynka, were among those rescued. “A boat was passing, we started shouting and waving,” Maryna recalls. The destruction of the Khakovka dam upstream has caused the Dnipro to devour much of the surrounding area. Their homes are located near the watery front line that separates Ukrainian-controlled and Russian-occupied territories.

“We’ve been waiting for help,” Maryna explains. “Valentyna is 86, I’m 76 but with many illnesses. It’s been very difficult. There was no power, no reception, it was like we were on an uninhabited island.” Overcome with emotion, she begins to weep.

Their friend Viktor Kovalenko, who recently lost his wife to shelling across the river, joins them. Before being rescued, he had to collect her death certificate from the Moscow-installed officials now ruling his neighbourhood. “I buried her next to my mother. I told her to wait for me,” he says, visibly in pain. “I kept cursing the Russians in their faces. I don’t know how they didn’t kill me. If only you knew how great our life was together. Now I have no wife, no house, nothing.”

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The eastern bank has suffered the worst of the flooding, and it’s evident that Maryna, Valentyna, and Viktor are fortunate. Hundreds of people in the area have been posting on the Telegram app, pleading for rescue. Svitlana, for example, writes that there are 35 trapped people at her location, with children screaming and crying. “Three days without food and water, we are dying slowly. Please, please.”

A local list published on Friday includes the names of 150 reportedly missing people. Dozens of people across Ukraine have responded, offering accommodation to those rescued. The Ukrainian military claims to be coordinating rescues from the eastern bank, with “fearless volunteers” carrying out some evacuations.

Volunteer Viktor shares his experience of coming under Russian fire while attempting a rescue. “The problem is, Russian soldiers are waiting there and waiting for volunteers or soldiers to arrive so they can shoot them,” he explains. The BBC has not been able to independently verify these claims.

“Even now, working is difficult. At this very moment, Kherson is under attack. There was also shelling on the island, a rocket struck 30m away from us.” Despite increased shelling in Kherson and military administration advice against venturing onto the water, volunteers like Viktor continue searching for those still trapped and in need of help.

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.

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