She had to leave her native Kharkov as a child when her family was forced to flee from approaching Nazi soldiers due to her Jewish background. Now war has come to his city for the second time. The brave woman endured the Russian bombardment of Kharkov for weeks, but a few days ago she decided to leave.
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Although she was deprived of her home by the Russian occupiers and lost her beloved husband in the first month of the war, they did not take her courage. “I wasn’t scared,” the woman said in a CNN interview, describing the five weeks she spent shelling Kharkov.
The conversation took place in Krakow, Poland, which became a stopover on the way to Margaryta Zatuchna’s visit to relatives in America, where she is likely to remain until the end of the war in Ukraine, unleashed by the President Russian Vladimir Putin.
-CNN (@CNN) April 4, 2022
Escape from death
Margaryta Zatuchna was born in 1940 to a Jewish family in Kharkov. “I was only one and a half years old when the war with Germany was approaching,” the woman said in an interview.
Just days before Nazi troops arrived in Kharkov, where Zatuchna grew up, his parents decided to leave the city. By coincidence, they had the opportunity – the factory where his father worked moved away from the city, away from the front, and he went to work. This decision ultimately saved the lives of the entire family. “While the family lived in exile, the Nazis murdered approximately 16,000 Jews in Kharkov. Many were shot at close range or thrown into mass graves, where they slowly died,” CNN said.
Margaryt Zatuchna and her parents spent two years of the Nazi occupation of Kharkov in a small village in the Urals, in places that are now part of Russia. It was a hard life, but at least there was no fear of death. “We lived in a small village with several thatched cottages, at the end of which there was already a forest. Sometimes wolves come to us, but as a small child you don’t realize the danger,” Zatuchna described life during the Second World War.
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The family returned to their native Kharkov after the city was liberated by the Red Army. From then on, Margaryt Zatuchna lived in a Soviet-dominated country, but at the same time her life went well – she graduated from college, became an engineer, got married, gave birth to a son. “Forty years ago, she divorced and remarried Valery Verbitsky. Her life was calm and simple, ”says CNN.
But that only lasted until February 24 of this year. On the day Russian troops entered Ukraine during the massive military invasion, the quiet life of Margaryta Zatuchna, a woman with a constant smile, was once again turned upside down by war. Paradoxically, under the cover of the occupiers’ false claims of “denazification” and, as CNN notes, accompanied by the destruction of monuments commemorating Nazi atrocities perpetrated against Ukrainian Jews during World War II.
The explosion blew the windows
Margaryta Zatuchny’s house, Kharkov, as Ukraine’s second largest city, quickly became a target for occupiers. Explosions began rocking the metropolis every day and 1.4 million people were surrounded by Russian forces. According to reports on the spot, life in the city came to a complete halt and residents had to start hiding in shelters and subway stations. “There was no water, no electricity, we couldn’t buy food. It became impossible to survive. The sirens practically did not stop howling, the explosion replaced the explosion. A real war ” , Zatuchna said in an interview in a city in conflict.
Tens of thousands of people fled when Ukrainian officials successfully negotiated the establishment of the first evacuation corridors from Kharkov. But for the eighty-two-year-old, leaving was out of the question at the time. “She decided to stay to take care of her weak and sick husband, and she had to rely on the generosity of her neighbors,” explains CNN, whose journalist has been following the fate of Margaryta Zatuchna for some time.
But the bombs dropped by the Russian occupiers quickly approached the home of the brave woman. “The explosion destroyed all our windows. After this shock, my husband Valerij was getting weaker and weaker,” Zatuchna said.
The constant psychological pressure and fear caused by the war took their toll. On the morning of March 20, Margaryta Zatuchna discovered that her husband, with whom she had lived for forty years, had died in his sleep. “We couldn’t bury him because of the constant fighting. His body is still in the morgue,” she said.
Two days in complete safety
After her husband’s death, Margaryta Zatuchna decided it was time to leave Kharkov. She managed to contact her younger brother, who now lives in New Jersey, USA, and he gradually approached the charities that organized the woman’s evacuation from the bombed-out city. “It was so hard to see my beloved city, my beautiful city, in which I have lived all my life, destroyed. I don’t understand why such destruction is necessary,” Zatuchna asks.
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She left her native Kharkov in a car so damaged by previous attacks on the city that the driver had to cover the windows with stamped glass with foil. The trip to Lviv took two days and passed through extremely dangerous places, where there was still fighting. “It was a very difficult journey. We received information about where he was bombing and drove on bumpy, unpaved roads. I felt so bad,” Zatuchna remarked.
Only in Lviv was a woman who survived the Holocaust expelled from Putin’s house. From there, an ambulance driven by a Norwegian volunteer took her to Krakow, Poland, where she found temporary refuge. And in the Jewish center of Krakow, beautiful bouquets were already waiting for her, which made her smile again.