"He went to his first class without his mother..."

Vyacheslav Nikolaev interviewed the eyewitness.

Tatiana Kharchenko
Photo from Julia Malaya's personal archive

The Russian Kh-101 Kalibr cruise missile, a direct hit, destroyed a medical center in the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa. It happened in the middle of a workday on July 14, 2022. The missile struck the center of the city, killing 23 people and wounding 117. Among the dead was Tatyana Kharchenko, an employee of the clinic. Tanya's cousin Yulia Malaya recalls that tragic day.

- On the day of Tatiana's death, I was working at a college literally a few hundred meters from the scene of the tragedy.

When the rocket attack happened, there was an alarm at first. The college has a bomb shelter. We went down into it and started reading social media. It said there was an explosion near the House of Officers. And Tanya was at work at the medical clinic near the House of Officers at that moment. I ran out of the shelter and started calling Tanya.

When she was busy, I was sure she was okay. She was active, determined, always trying to help people, and I was sure she was saving people's lives. But after 20 minutes the phone began to say that the subscriber was unavailable. 

I called my brother, and he said he was on his way to the scene of the tragedy. The next time I reached him, he was already crying. I said, "Well, did you find your sister?" I guessed from the fact that he was crying that he didn't see Tanya there.

We got very scared, and we rushed to look for her through all the hotlines and hospitals. Then there was information that there was a girl like her in one hospital. Tanin's brother said: "When I know for sure it's her, I'll call you." It turned out that it wasn't her.

But then they called again, and that's when her brother identified her. He recognized the remnants of the chain that was around Tanya's neck. We took two DNA tests to compare it to her remains. The first one showed no resemblance. Probably because it was hard to compare it to what was left of our Tanya. The second one was positive... There was no hope for a miracle.

After that, Tanyusha was buried...

Tanya is 10 years younger than me. She is remembered as a good leader. Tanya knew when to scold and when to praise. She was able to choose her staff in such a way, that everyone treated patients with love, was friendly and gave people kindness. She was very open and cheerful.

We traveled a lot together. We've been to France, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain. I work in the architecture department at the college. My students and I had the opportunity to travel and draw various architectural masterpieces from life. On trips I called Tanyushka with myself. We have a lot of beautiful photos together with her from different countries of the world.

Julia Malaya and Tatyana Kharchenko in Amsterdam. 2019
Photo from Julia Malaya's personal archive

Our mothers are sisters, they raised me and Tanya as our own. We never fought, we stood up for each other. Tanya loved fun music and good food. She was always the organizer of our joint "gastrotours," as she said. If we went to any country, we always tried to try their special dish.

Tanya loved her son very much. He's six now, and he went to his first grade without his mother... My grandmother and I packed him in. Mom didn't have time to take him there, it turns out. Although Tanyushka still managed to buy him all the school supplies. 

It was very hard for me and my grandparents to take Matvey to school on September 1 and to see other children with their parents. In the first days we didn't tell Matvey, and then we told him... that mom is gone, she's in heaven, we told him that mom became a star and shines there.

Tatiana and Matvey welcome 2018
Photo from Julia Maloy's personal archive

Before the war, we never imagined that such a thing could happen in our country and in our family in the 21st century. I only prayed that I would have the strength to survive this terrible grief. On July 14, Matvey was in the kindergarten, also very close to the explosion. He heard everything and was very scared. That day I ran and picked him up. He kept asking me, "What about mom? What about mom?" It was the scariest day of my life, because I didn't know what to answer.

This war has already taken so many lives of innocent people like Tanyushka that I feel only pain and sorrow inside. I believe in our victory, it's just hard to imagine what a huge price we will pay for it. To all the people in Russia I would like to say only one thing: "You know, it's very hard to bury loved ones who could have lived and only made us happy with their presence."

Telling the story of Tatiana, Julia cried. From the first word to the last.

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