Kutuzivka, Ukraine — We walked from the bright sunshine down a flight of stairs into a dark, gloomy basement. It was filled with beds, and whatever personal belongings the people who fled to the building could grab whenstarted hammering their village with artillery.
Kutuzivka is only 15 miles from the Russian border, right in the path of the Russian tanks that rolled through on their way to— and then back again as they retreated. Many of the village’s people fled before or during Russia’s occupation, or left after the town was abandoned by the occupiers.
But while the Russian soldiers are gone, the bombardment hasn’t stopped, so there are still people sheltering in the basement we visited. There used to be about 100 people there, including 40 kids, but we found only one child left.
Tymofiy Seidov was there with his mother, who said they simply had nowhere else to go. Rita, his mother, told us she thought they were going to die every day.
Tymofiy’s pain was incredibly sad to witness. He’s been hiding with his mom in the basement for 84 days. At just 8 years old, he’s endured unimaginable horror. The sound of constant shelling has left him shell-shocked and traumatized.
Whenever our conversation turned to, Tymofiy would go mute. He used to draw cheerful pictures, with the sun and blue skies. Now he draws tanks and monsters.
He remained very quiet and polite while we were there, but his mother said when the shelling starts, he gets hysterical.
All of his friends have left the bunker.
“They ran away,” he said sadly.
Tymofiy misses his best friend, Nikita, the most. He turns nine in July and wants a phone for his birthday, to play games on. He has a pet parrot and a hamster with him in the underground shelter. He may never fully recover from what he’s living through right now.