She leaves in a hurry to take shelter while the commander of the Ukrainian army on the spot asks the press to leave the scene as quickly as possible.
The Ukrainian army, which agreed to take journalists to the village on the condition of not naming it, sent the press out, remaining for about twenty minutes.
Before the Russian fire, the Ukrainians had also sent shells on the positions of the forces of Moscow, in an artillery duel which has lasted for days on the outskirts of Kharkiv, the second city of the country, located in the northeast , near the border.
The Russians have ceased their offensive on Kharkiv to concentrate more troops in the east and south of the Ukraine, but they maintain positions east of the city, firing on its eastern part and the surrounding villages. They thus hope to slow down the Ukrainian counter-offensive in this area.
The traces of this battle are visible with several destroyed houses, blown roofs, fallen walls, as well as numerous craters.
The rural village, which lives partly on livestock, had some 1,000 inhabitants before the war. There are only a hundred left today. “People who have cattle cannot leave them. Otherwise they will die without food and water. Those who only had chickens are gone,” Laryssa explains. But she adds: “This is our land, our home. How can we leave? Our roots are here.”
Laryssa and the other villagers lived under Russian occupation for two months before the Ukrainian army freed them “about two weeks ago”.
– “Not Nazis” –
With the Russians, “it was forbidden to go to Kharkiv. There were only potatoes and some canned food. After a while they let us go to Volchansk”, further east, she continues.
Deprived of water and electricity – this is still the case – the inhabitants no longer had a telephone network. However, they had the right once a day for an hour to go to the top of a hill to pick up the network and call their relatives.
Laryssa says that this “right” was granted by soldiers who said they were from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian separatists since 2014, who are more flexible with the villagers. This habit later became dangerous because other soldiers would “shoot over their heads to scare them”.
“Show me a Nazi in the village. We have a nation and we are nationalists but we are neither Nazis nor fascists,” she said, while one of the stated objectives of the war launched in Moscow is to “denazify” the ‘Ukraine.
Facing the camera, Laryssa asks Russian President Vladimir Putin to “withdraw his troops”.
The cohabitation with the Ukrainian soldiers is idyllic, according to the farmer who brandishes a bag with a carton of cigarettes: “They share everything, cigarettes, food… We have become a family”.
A hundred meters away, her husband, Vitali Kouzmenko, 42, picks up freshly cut grass with a rake for his cow and goats. “We survive as best we can,” he said, jaded by the artillery fire and saying he had learned to distinguish the sound of “shells leaving from those arriving”.
“When there are near strikes, we take refuge in the cellar. I reinforced it with concrete and iron and wooden beams. And I equipped it well, with a stove. At night, we sleep fully dressed in the house and if there are shots, we go to the cellar,” he explains.
“It’s my land, I don’t want to leave,” he says, even though his house was damaged by shells falling in his fields, which blew out his windows and doors. “We were lucky, thank God.”