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What Occurred on Day 14 of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine — They met in highschool however grew to become a pair years later, after assembly once more on a dance flooring at a Ukrainian nightclub. Married in 2001, they lived in a bed room neighborhood outdoors Kyiv, in an condominium with their two kids and their canine, Benz and Cake. She was an accountant and he was a pc programmer.

Serhiy and Tetiana Perebyinis owned a Chevrolet minivan. They shared a rustic house with mates, and Ms. Perebyinis was a devoted gardener and an avid skier. She had simply returned from a ski journey to Georgia.

After which, late final month, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the combating shortly moved towards Kyiv. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than artillery shells have been crashing into their neighborhood. One night time, a shell hit their constructing, prompting Ms. Perebyinis and the youngsters to maneuver to the basement. Lastly, along with her husband away in japanese Ukraine tending to his ailing mom, Ms. Perebyinis determined it was time to take her kids and run.

They didn’t make it. Ms. Perebyinis, 43, and her two kids, Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9, together with a church volunteer who was serving to them, Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26, have been killed on Sunday as they dashed throughout the concrete remnants of a broken bridge of their city of Irpin, making an attempt to evacuate to Kyiv.

Their baggage — a blue curler suitcase, a grey suitcase and a few backpacks — was scattered close to their our bodies, together with a inexperienced carrying case for a small canine that was barking.

They have been 4 folks among the many many who tried to cross that bridge final weekend, however their deaths resonated far past their Ukrainian suburb. {A photograph} of the household and Mr. Berezhnyi mendacity bloodied and immobile, taken by a New York Occasions photographer, Lynsey Addario, encapsulates the indiscriminate slaughter by an invading Russian military that has more and more focused closely populated civilian areas.

Credit score…Lynsey Addario for The New York Occasions

The household’s lives and their remaining hours have been described in an interview by Mr. Perebyinis and a godmother, Polina Nedava. Mr. Perebyinis, additionally 43, stated he realized of the loss of life of his household on Twitter, from posts by Ukrainians.

Breaking down in tears for the one time within the interview, Mr. Perebyinis stated he advised his spouse the night time earlier than she died that he was sorry he wasn’t along with her.

“I advised her, ‘Forgive me that I couldn’t defend you,’” he stated. “I attempted to take care of one individual, and it meant I can not defend you.”

“She stated, ‘Don’t fear, I’ll get out.’”

After she didn’t, he stated he felt it was vital that their deaths had been recorded in pictures and video. “The entire world ought to know what is occurring right here,” he stated.

The Perebyinis household had already been displaced as soon as by struggle, in 2014, once they have been dwelling in Donetsk within the east and Russia fomented a separatist rebellion. They moved to Kyiv to flee the combating and began rebuilding their lives. When Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine final month, they might hardly imagine it was occurring once more, Mr. Perebyinis stated.

Credit score…Serhiy Perebyinis
Credit score…Serhiy Perebyinis

Ms. Perebyinis’ employer, SE Rating, a software program firm with places of work in California and London, had inspired workers to depart Ukraine instantly as soon as the combating began. It had even rented rooms for them in Poland, Mr. Perebyinis stated. However his spouse delayed her departure due to uncertainty over the way to evacuate her mom, who has Alzheimer’s illness.

A colleague at work, Anastasia Avetysian, stated that SE Rating had supplied emergency funds for workers to evacuate and that Ms. Perebyinis, because the chief accountant in Ukraine, had been busy in her remaining days disbursing them.

“We have been all in contact along with her,” Ms. Avetysian stated in a phone interview. “Even when she was hiding within the basement, she was optimistic and joking in our group chat that the corporate would now must do a particular operation to get them out, like ‘Saving Non-public Ryan.’”

However behind the jokes was a interval of ready and intense worrying, Mr. Perebyinis stated. His son, Mykyta, began sleeping in the course of the day and staying up all night time, maintaining a vigil over his mom and sister. When there have been sounds of combating, he woke them up and all three would transfer right into a hall, away from the home windows. “My son was underneath a whole lot of stress,” Mr. Perebyinis stated.

Credit score…Serhiy Perebyinis
Credit score…Serhiy Perebyinis

Final Saturday, after two days within the basement, they made a primary try at evacuating. However as they have been packing up their minivan, a tank rolled by on the road outdoors. They determined to attend.

The following day they have been up and shifting by about 7 a.m. Tetiana Perebyinis had mentioned the plan in minute element along with her husband. She and her two kids and her mom and father, who lived close by, would be part of a church group and attempt to evacuate towards Kyiv, after which get someplace secure from there.

They drove so far as they might in Irpin, however then Ms. Perebyinis was pressured to desert the minivan. They set out on foot towards a broken bridge over the Irpin River.

To flee, they have been pressured to cross 100 yards or so of uncovered road on one facet of the bridge. As Russian forces fired into the world, many tried to hunt cowl behind a brick wall.

Mr. Berezhnyis, the church volunteer, who had earlier evacuated his circle of relatives however had returned to assist others, was with Ms. Perebyinis and her kids once they started to sprint towards the opposite facet.

By means of the night time, Mr. Perebyinis had tried to observe his spouse’s location utilizing a locator app on their telephones. Nevertheless it confirmed nothing: the household was in a basement, with out cell reception.

Credit score…Lynsey Addario for The New York Occasions
Credit score…Lynsey Addario for The New York Occasions

Round daybreak, he stated, he noticed one ping, exhibiting them at their house deal with. However nothing confirmed them shifting. Cellphone protection had change into too spotty within the city.

The following ping of a location on Mr. Perebyinis’ telephone got here round 10 Sunday morning. It was at Medical Hospital No. 7 in Kyiv. One thing had gone unsuitable.

He referred to as his spouse’s quantity. It was ringing, however no one answered. He referred to as his kids’s telephone numbers, with the identical outcome.

A half-hour or so later, he noticed a publish on Twitter saying a household had been killed in a mortar strike on the evacuation route out of Irpin. A short while later, one other Twitter publish appeared, with an image. “I acknowledged the bags and that’s how I knew,” he stated.

When the mortar shell hit, the household and Mr. Berezhnyi have been about 12 yards away from the crater left by the mortar. They’d no probability. The explosion despatched out a sprig of a whole bunch of jagged, metallic shrapnel shards. Their our bodies slumped onto the muddy road beside a monument to World Struggle II useless from Irpin. A plaque on the monument learn: “Everlasting reminiscence to those that fell for the fatherland within the Nice Patriotic Struggle.”

Ms. Perebyinis’s dad and mom have been behind the mom and youngsters and have been unhurt. They’re now staying with Ms. Nedava, the godmother. The next day, a snowstorm blew over Kyiv. The suitcases, certainly one of which had been knocked open by the explosion or later opened by passers-by, lay lined in snow on the road beside blood stains. It held solely garments: a pink youngster’s tank prime, sweatpants, yellow and blue child-size socks, apparently for Alisa.

When requested to explain his spouse, Mr. Perebyinis slumped in his chair. Ms. Nedava provided that she had a “gentle” spirit, was usually joking and cheered up a room.

Over their lengthy marriage, Mr. Perebyinis added, “We refurbished three flats and by no means argued as soon as.”

Mr. Berezhnyi had moved his spouse to western Ukraine however had returned to Irpin to assist with the evacuation organized by his church, the Irpin Bible Church, the pastor, Mykola Romaniuk, stated in a phone interview.

When the mortar strike started, with shells touchdown first a number of hundred yards away, Mr. Romaniuk stated different church volunteers noticed Mr. Berezhnyi run to assist Ms. Perebyinis. “He took her suitcase and so they began working,” he stated.

Credit score…Lynsey Addario for The New York Occasions

Mr. Berezhnyi, Pastor Romaniuk stated, was quiet and beneficiant. “He was the form of buddy who is able to assist with no phrases wanted,” he stated. “I have no idea how God can forgive such crimes.”

In mid-February, earlier than the struggle began, Mr. Perebyinis had traveled to his hometown, Donetsk, in rebel-held japanese Ukraine, to take care of his mom, who was sick with Covid-19. After hostilities started, the crossing level closed and Mr. Perebyinis was trapped within the East.

To return to Kyiv from separatist-controlled japanese Ukraine after the loss of life of his household, Mr. Perebyinis traveled into Russia and flew to town of Kaliningrad, to cross a land border into Poland. On the Russia-Poland border, he stated, Russian guards questioned him, took his fingerprints and appeared able to arrest him for unclear causes, although he was finally allowed to journey on.

He stated he advised them: “My complete household died in what you name a particular operation and we name a struggle. You are able to do what you need with me. I’ve nothing left to lose.’’

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.

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