War for Ihor and 100 residents of Lobanivka began at 4:30 am on February 24th. “We heard strange sounds coming from the Belgorod region. We woke up and noticed traces of rockets flying towards Derhachi. That was the first sign – the war had begun. Later that day, we learned that the aggressors had already passed through our settlement, heading towards Kharkiv with tanks. We used to talk to our neighbor every morning and couldn’t believe that russia would launch an attack on Ukraine.”
The first months of the war.
“During the advance on Kharkiv, Russian troops remained unnoticed. But after the Ukrainian Armed Forces pushed them back, they took positions in Kozacha Lopan and set up checkpoints between Prudyanka and Lobanivka, putting us in a gray zone. As a result, we couldn’t travel to Kharkiv and could only move through the fields. The occupiers appeared in our area at the end of April. They checked documents on the outskirts only once, but they frequently appeared on the central streets.”
Despite this, Ihor and his neighbor started helping evacuate residents of Lobanivka, Zubivka, and Tsupivka through the fields to Tokarivka Druha, where two volunteers were already waiting for them. This continued until June 1st when the occupiers found out about it and established a checkpoint in Tokarivka Druha, which operated until September when the Ukrainian Armed Forces liberated part of the Kharkiv region.
“We could no longer risk moving through the fields. There were checkpoints around us, some fields were mined, and others had snipers or mortar crews. So we had to stop. Some managed to go to Kharkiv, while others (and there were such people) decided to evacuate to russia from Kozacha Lopan. Only 12 people remained in Lobanivka who didn’t leave.”
Control by the invaders. “Initially, the fighters from the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics checked passports. Some checkpoints were manned by Chechens and Buryats, while russian National Guard troops were present in Kozacha Lopan, not allowing their own soldiers to flee, as desertion from the russian army was punished from the very first days.”
Ihor tells that the occupiers searched all houses, entered vacant dwellings, and caused damage. They broke doors and looted.