Six days after a Russian missile destroyed their homes, residents of one nine-story apartment building in Kyiv’s northern district Obolon are back to the site of the tragedy.
It’s a short visit as the building is falling apart and it's dangerous to stay for long.
Despite the risks, people come to see what was left of the apartments they spent their entire lives in. This is a regular residential building, one among many in Kyiv and beyond that have become the targets of Russian shells and missiles.
Oleh Sheremet, a 57-year-old electrician, can see what is left of his kitchen from the street. There is no glass or window frame anymore.
“My flat is not just damaged, it's completely destroyed,” Sheremet told the Kyiv Independent as he was visiting the site on March 19.
It was a rough wake-up for Sheremet at five in the morning of March 14. A Russian rocket hit the building's entryway right next to his first-floor apartment.
“I heard a loud pop and then it was something like, you know, when you lie on the seacoast and the tide gets you. The explosive wave passed through me,” Sheremet said.
“I opened my eyes and the first thought that came to me was: ‘Now it happened to me’,” he went on.
Sheremet thinks that he surviving was a miracle. A window frame, a cupboard and a printer fell on him, but he managed to get out uninjured.
“I'm very lucky. I'm alive! Not a scratch on me,” he said.
His beloved cat, Zizu, did not survive the attack.
After the attack that ruined the entryway, Sheremet helped his neighbors to get out through his ruined window. Then, he rushed to search for Zizu.
“I was walking around, calling for her,” Sheremet said. “A young guy from territorial defense came to me, saying: ‘Man, get out of here, the gas is about to explode now’.”
The rescuers had cut off the gas on time and the explosion did not follow, Sheremet said.
When the firefighters found Zizu, he said, she was “beyond saving.”
Zizu, the cat, lived with Sheremet for 16 years and was a real friend.
While Sheremet was grieving the death of his cat Zizu, his neighbor from the fifth floor was happy to find her cat Kindy that had disappeared after the shelling on March 14.
Ever since the attack, Larysa Lupych, 60, had been coming home looking for her three cats. On the second day, she found two of them, Cherie and Maggie.
Now, the last one, Kindy, had returned home, too.
It is a relief that the family is reunited now, said Lupych, a hairdresser: “I am so glad all of our animals are with us now.”
When the rocket hit her building, the cats hid. Only her dog, Archie, came to its owner.
“I grabbed my dog and went to check how to get out,” she said. “There was smoke all around, I could not see anything.”
Lupych took a fire extinguisher and tried to contain the fire with no success.
She then tried to leave the building, but the stairs had fallen. She was trapped.
“The smoke was very acrid. It was hard to breathe," Lupych recalled.
She and her neighbors gathered around a window in between the floors to catch some air as they were waiting for the firefighters to rescue them.
“I was almost the last one to go down the fire escape,” she recalled. “The last man who followed me, he died.”
The man was a retired university lecturer in his 70s. He did not feel well when the shelling started.
“He was lying on the concrete floor while everyone was standing,” Lupych recalled. “He told me to go down first.”
The man died during the rescue operation. He is survived by his wife, who managed to get out of the building minutes earlier.
He was the only resident killed as the result of the attack. Three people were injured and hospitalized.
Both Lupych and Sheremet were among the first residents of this building. They moved here in 1977, the year it was built.
The house faces the sports field where Sheremet had been doing Nordic walking.
Lupych's apartment was dear to her because it was full of memories of her mother Anna that had passed away two years ago.
Now both Lupych and Sheremet, a hairdresser and an electrician, have no home. For the time being, they have found temporary shelter at their relatives.