This Father’s Day, a Ukrainian refugee in Quebec will never be able to thank her enough for orchestrating their desperate escape from Bucha, the scene of a massacre by Russian forces.
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“He was the one who came up with an evacuation plan, who protected us during the bombing, who carried my daughters when they could no longer walk. He saved our lives,” says Inna Silchenkova, who now lives safely in Lévis.
From the first day of the war, the 39-year-old woman fled to her parents with her two daughters, unaware of the horrors that awaited the small town, which quickly fell into enemy hands.
In the days that followed, Inna Silchenkova only remembers the incessant bombardment of the neighborhood and the constant horror of Russian soldiers disembarking.
Her father, Mykhailo Savula, did everything to calm his loved ones and his adored granddaughters who were hiding in the basement. A former military pilot, the 61-year-old had the composure of a veteran, especially in Afghanistan.
“One evening he made it clear to us that no one would come to save us and that our only chance of survival was to go to Irpin,” says the Ukrainian.
A heartbreaking exit
The Savulas left their house the next morning.
“Dad tied a white rag to a stick, the kids taped white squares to their backpacks and we left. I can’t describe my fear,” she recalls.
Her two little girls, aged 5 and 13, closed their eyes to the many bodies scattered on the street.
A little further, Inna Silchenkova says that a few meters in front of them a rocket fell and killed other Ukrainians who were trying to escape. “It’s a miracle that we’re still alive,” the professional beautician drops.
After this desperate escape, her parents made their way to Italy while she waited in Poland before arriving in Quebec.
Since then, Mykhailo, or Misha as she affectionately calls him, has returned to Bucha. “I think he was homesick. He wants to take back control of his life and help rebuild his city,” says his daughter.
If they were together on Father’s Day, Inna would bake him his famous chocolate cake and thank him for being so present to his family. Instead, they scheduled a video call, as they do almost every day.
Of course, the mother of two will also think of her husband, who stayed in Ukraine to defend his country.
“He’s my other hero,” she said.
About a thousand bodies were found in Bucha, a town of about 35,000, when it was liberated by Russian forces on March 31.