It’s like being resurrected, said Mykola as he recounted a tale which he never thought he would be able to share. He said Russian soldiers buried him along with his two brothers in graves by the side of a remote road in the northern Chernihiv region of Ukraine. Three weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he and his brothers were shot by the soldiers, but he was the only one to survive.
Even though the Russians had occupied the village of Dovzhyk since the start of the war, nothing much changed for Mykola’s family until March 18 — when a Russian column was bombed and soldiers started looking for the ones responsible, CNN reported.
The soldiers had arrived at the house of Mykola, where he lived with his two brothers, Yevhen and Dmytro, along with their sister, Iryna — who still hasn’t forgiven herself for not being home that day.
HOW IT STARTED
The soldiers then asked the three brothers to kneel in front of the yard as they searched the home to find anything linked with the bombed column. Soon, they found military medals of their grandfather and a military bag owned by 30-year-old Yevhen. This reinforced the belief of the soldiers that the trio had something to hide.
TORTURED TILL THEY LOST CONSCIOUSNESS
Mykola and his brothers were tortured until they lost consciousness. After that, the brothers were driven to a basement where they were questioned for three days. As Mykola kept hoping for release, on the fourth day, the Russians had a change of mind. “They beat my whole body with a metal rod, and they put the barrel of a gun inside my mouth,” he told CNN.
Later, they were blindfolded with their hands and legs tied and were driven in a military vehicle to a deserted plot of land. They were made to kneel, still in their blindfolds, while a pit was dug, Mykola said.
Recounting the chilling details of the day, he said, he first heard a shot behind him and then 36-year-old Dmytro, the eldest of the three, fell to the ground. Next, he felt Yevhen, the youngest, drop by his side.
“I was thinking that I was next,” he said. But a miracle happened as the bullet entered Mykola’s cheek and exited next to his right ear. He knew his only hope of survival was to play dead.
He does not know for how long he pretended to be dead after the soldiers kicked the bodies into the pit and covered them with earth. Somehow, even with his hands and legs tied, he somehow managed to manoeuvre his way out from under his older brother’s corpse and back to the land of the living.
“It was hard for me to breathe since Dima (Dmytro) was lying on top of me, but using my arms and knees, I was able to push my older brother off to the side of the pit, and then I climbed out,” he said.
He struggled through the fields and reached a house where a woman took care of him overnight. The next morning, he was able to reach his sister, who was anxiously waiting for days at their father’s home.
“I came home and there was Mykola. I looked at his eyes and asked where are the others? He said there are no others,” Iryna recalled, sobbing.
Saying that his survival was a miracle, he said, “I was lucky… and now I have to just go on living,” he said. “This story needs to be heard by everyone, not just in Ukraine, but around the world because these kinds of things are happening and this is just one in a billion,” he added.
A probe has now been launched into the incident by the Chernihiv region prosecutor’s office. Investigators told CNN that the brothers’ hands and legs had been tied and they had been blindfolded.