The large family of Shapirs from the Mykolaiv region lost their crops and their home during the occupation, and their house after the hydroelectric power plant was blown up. A report about hope that is important to restore

Ghanna Mamonova
Yuliana Skibitska, Kateryna Kobernyk
The large family of Shapirs from the Mykolaiv region lost their crops and their home during the occupation, and their house after the hydroelectric power plant was blown up. A report about hope that is important to restore

Tatyana with her youngest daughter Zlata near the ruins of her house.

Mykhailo Melnychenko / «Babel'»

Tetyana Shapir is standing in the middle of a house destroyed by water and coughing. It is difficult for her to speak because of the strong stench — rotten eggs, garbage, dirt and dry reeds, which were brought by the water after the explosion of the Kakhovka HPP, are scattered around the former living room. The stench does not dissipate, although there is not a single wall in the house. When the Russians blew up the Kakhovka HPP on the night of June 6, the water rose rapidly in the Dnipro and Inhulets rivers. It flooded the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. Tetyana lives in the village of Afanasiivka in the Mykolaiv region, which was the area most affected by the blast. The flood poisoned the water in the village, destroyed the houses and the remnants of the life of Tetyanaʼs family — what remained of him after the occupation. Babel correspondent Hanna Mamonova went to Afanasiivka to tell the story of farmers — Tetyana, her husband and three children. How a large family was almost destroyed by the invaders, about the escape, the loss of the harvest, and now even the home.


Tetyana will turn 40 in July this year, and her husband Oleksandr will turn 50. They have been together for over twenty years and have three children. Son Serhiy is thirteen, the middle Violeta is eleven, and the youngest Zlata is eight. Tetyanaʼs voice is sonorous, she is slim and pretty. She says that her husband is also fit — he works in the field for 12 hours, hauling bags of vegetables.

"How to gain weight in this case?" she jokes.

Her skin is tanned, but the color is not the same as after a vacation at sea, but brown, weathered. You can tan like this only in the field, under the sun and dry, scorching wind.

The family has four hectares of fields. Before the war, the couple grew beets, cabbage, carrots, eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes. Vegetables were handed over to wholesale buyers who took them to the cities of the Mykolaiv region. Over time, a small shop was opened in the village — they sold cereals, flour, water, sweets and canned goods.

Five years ago, the first big trouble happened in the family — six-year-old Violeta was playing on the street and fell. Some kind of object — the doctors did not understand which one exactly — pierced the childʼs eye all the way through. Violeta was treated in Mykolaiv, then in Kyiv, as Tetyana says. It was possible to save her sense of vision. The girl was fitted with a new crystalline lens and prescribed to walk in a special lens. Now Tetyana and her daughter go to Kyiv to order a new lens. They are changed twice a year, and they are made abroad. It costs €600. The first thing that Tetyana and her husband did from every crop sold was save money for a new lens for Violeta.

The water came at such a speed that the waves broke the wall in the house.

Mykhailo Melnychenko / «Babel'»

"There are three children, and everyone needs attention. Serhiy practices karate, Violeta likes to draw, and Zlata always takes care of animals," says Tetyana.

We talk with her at lunch. Tetyana finished working in the field and came to cook dinner. Her husband Oleksandr stayed to work until it got dark.

The family lived in the house inherited from Oleksandrʼs grandmother. Then they were very happy — the house stood on a street that is close to the Inhulets River. Before the start of the Great War, the family finished renovating the house: they plastered all the rooms, pasted wallpaper and furnished the childrenʼs room with new furniture. A large sofa was bought for the living room.

"We will all sit on it together and look out the window, and there are swans," says the woman. "Whoever came to visit us said: ʼYou have paradise here.ʼ Recently, a family of swans lived under our windows, which had five swans. One of them died — someone was burning a reed, the second wing was burnt and for some time it floated on its back as an adult."


On February 23, 2022, a worker came to the Shapirs family to pick 35 tons of beets. On the morning of the 24th, the buyer came and took away the first one and a half tons. He did not know that Russia attacked Ukraine.

"The driver asks: ʼThere are shooting everywhere, whatʼs going on here?ʼ, and we told him: ʼThe war started,ʼ Tetyana recalls. "And he says that he drove at night, turned on the music and did not hear the news. The comadre told us about the war in the morning."

And on February 26, Afanasiivka was occupied. Russian troops advanced to Mykolaiv, surrounded it from two sides — one of the roads ran right through the village.

Afanasiivka is surrounded by water on all sides.

Mykhailo Melnychenko / «Babel'»

"Our beets rotted. Shells or missiles constantly flew through the village — I donʼt know exactly, but something terrible exploded," says Tetyana. "We have a basement in the store. We used to put children [to sleep] there dressed."

Together with her husband, they packed food kits for territorial defense. She wrote to the Armed Forces in messengers if she saw Russian military equipment or where the Russians were standing in the village.

"Part of the [occupation] troops passed by us in transit, and some of them remained. There were not only Russians here, but also fighters of ʼDPRʼ and ʼLPRʼ," says Tanya. "They guessed that we were helping the military or that one of our neighbors had betrayed us. Neighbors came to us and said they were looking for us. We have to run away."

And on April 7, the family left for Mykolaiv. Seedlings that were sown before February 24 were left to disappear in the greenhouses. While reaching the unoccupied part of the region, they passed five Russian checkpoints. They said that the children were being taken away. Fortunately, the Russians at the checkpoints did not check documents and did not ask anything.

The family settled in Pervomaisk, on the outskirts of the Mykolaiv region. Tetyana and Oleksandr were looking for work, but to no avail. Therefore, they decided to rent land and do what they know how to do — grow vegetables.

"We planted beets," says Tetyana. "We took care of them all summer. Found a gym for Serhiy to practice karate, and in the fall the children went to an online school."

On November 10, Snihurivka and Afanasiivka were liberated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Volunteers gathered food and things for the liberated regions. Oleksandr and Tetyana brought them a harvest of beets. They say they gave what they had. They returned home in the early spring of 2023 and immediately sowed seedlings in greenhouses. There was little money, and they calculated that they would be able to plant half of their land. Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and late cabbage were planted. The Russians did not loot their house, so the family found rolls of wallpaper at home that they had bought before the war. Overjoyed, they put them up.

"I told Sasha [Oleksandr], maybe we will stay in Pervomaisk for the second year, the children have settled down, and we have land, " says Tetyana. "And he answers: ʼWhat are you talking about? Letʼs go back to our native house.ʼ And now this house is gone."


379 people live in Afanasiivka. The village is surrounded by water on four sides — the Inhulets River and lakes. Next to the field, almost all the peasants are engaged in farming or keeping livestock, and thatʼs what they live on. The village is connected to the mainland by two bridges. After the detonation of the hydroelectric power plant (HPP), the village turned into an island.

The Russians blew up the dam on the night of June 6. That day the water in the Inhulets River rose, but not rapidly. Within a day, the situation changed completely. Tetyana was not at home at that time — together with her daughters, she went to Kyiv to get a new lens for Violeta. Oleksandr stayed at home with his son. On the night of June 7, they woke up to the sound of waves crashing against the walls of the house. They looked out the window and saw that the yard was already flooded.

Oleksandr and Serhiy spent half the night gathering documents and clothes, putting them in the garret. But then they decided to get off. They climbed through the window, took the dog and ran to Oleksandrʼs parents — they live in the center of the village, so the water did not reach there.

"Sasha calls: ʼTanya, thatʼs all. We have nowhere to live,ʼ says Tatyana. "I am in tears. Our daughter Violeta loves to paint very much. She asks: ʼDad, did you save my paints and cosmetics?ʼ And he answered: ʼHoney, we will buy you new ones.ʼ Zlata asks where her cat Musya is."

The water lasted a week. And when it fell, people found garbage, dead fish and even black bags with human remains in the houses.

"Someone opened the package, and there was a Russian soldier — water was brought it from Oleshky," says Tetyana. "The service came and took the package."

Heavy water flooded 75 houses, but almost all of them can be repaired. The plaster, windows and doors fell off. There are only three houses that cannot be restored. One of them is the Shapirs house.


A few weeks after the flood, electricity and gas were restored in the village. There is still no drinking water. All the wells were flooded. The Mykolaiv Regional Center for Disease Control and Prevention forbids the use of water even for washing dishes and products, you canʼt wash in it either because of infections. Volunteers bring water to Afanasiivka. In the center of the village there are huge rubber tubs. The water in them is tasty only for the first day, then it has rubber aftertaste.

Tetyana lives with Oleksandrʼs parents with her husband and children. They share a small two-room house with his own brother and son, grandparents. There are nine people. Adults sleep on the floor, children — on beds.

"I lie down and think: maybe itʼs all only a dream? Maybe I will wake up in my bed? Every time I have such a dream, " says Tetyana.

Every morning at dawn, she and her husband go to work in the field. In the afternoon, she returns to cook dinner and take care of the children — the grandmother canʼt cope with it. Oleksandr works until sunset.

Oleksandrʼs mother Nina came to live in Afanasiivka from the Kyiv region. Here she got married and gave birth to two sons, and now she has four grandchildren.
Zlata helps her mother with the housework — volunteers have just brought water to the family.
Tetyanaʼs nephew Serhiy carries loaves for all his relatives. After the flood, the boy lives in a small two-room house with his father, Tetyanaʼs family, and grandparents.

Oleksandrʼs mother Nina came to live in Afanasiivka from the Kyiv region. Here she got married and gave birth to two sons, and now she has four grandchildren. Zlata helps her mother with the housework — volunteers have just brought water to the family. Tetyanaʼs nephew Serhiy carries loaves for all his relatives. After the flood, the boy lives in a small two-room house with his father, Tetyanaʼs family, and grandparents.

Mykhailo Melnychenko / «Babel'»

Volunteers came to the family. They wanted to rebuild the house, but after inspecting it, they said it was impossible — the foundation and walls had shifted. The family cannot stay in their parentsʼ house for the winter, because it has no heating. Oleksandrʼs parents turned it off a long time ago in order to save money, they spend the winter in a small kitchen where there is only room for two persons. Tetyana and Oleksandr wanted to rent a house, but there are none in their village and in the district.

"There are only houses for sale, and not in the village, but in the neighboring town of Snihurivka. They are asking $15 000 for them. We donʼt have that kind of money. We didnʼt have enough money for the lens for the child, because there was no harvest for the second year," says Tetyana and shows the receipts.

Half of the amount — €300 — was paid by the family before the flood. The rest were sent to her by people from all over the country, when one of the journalists told about Violetaʼs illness and what happened to them during the war.

Tetyana walks around the room of her destroyed house. He covers his nose and mouth with his hand from the stench. Sheʼs coughing.

"There was supposed to be a gym here. And here — a bathroom," says the woman. He bangs his fist on the wall, and a stone falls out of it.

The postman in the yard asks for meter data. Tetyana climbs through the furniture, pushes aside the cabinet, which the water brought to the meter box.

"The house is destroyed, but bills are coming," the woman says ironically. "We donʼt live here, but they charge us for water and electricity. They sent us a debt — 700 hryvnias. We have to figure it out, just lie down and die. My husband is wasted. He is 50 years old. We saved money all our life, and now we have nothing."

Tetyana sees Violetaʼs paint on the floor, takes the edge of the package and sniffs it. Throws on the floor. Even dried things cannot be restored — they stink.

"My beautiful sofa is covered in slime, the smell is disgusting," the woman points to the furniture.

Zlata haunt her mother. The girl sees the cat Musya, streched itself out on the back of the same sofa. It still offers a picturesque view of the river. Tetyana says that she used to be happy that the water was so close, but now she is afraid of it. Zlata caresses Musya, asks her to go live with her grandmother. The girl says that the cat lies on the sofa all the time, hugging the back with its paws. Zlata is sure that this is how the cat guards what is left of her room. She is afraid that she will not go to live in a new home, which, as she thinks, will appear in the fall, when Zlata goes to school.

"Dad will come up with something," says Zlata to Musya. "We just have to wait."

Zlata comes to the destroyed house every day to feed the cat Musya.

Mykhailo Melnychenko / «Babel'»

The Shapirs family dreams of a new home. If you have the opportunity to help them, here is Tetyana Shapirʼs bank card: 5168 7451 5538 6482