Serhiy Perebyinis found out his family had been killed as much of the world did.
Photos flashing on his Twitter feed showed four people lying next to a World War II memorial just outside Kyiv after they were fired on by the Russian military. One of them was his wife, and two were his children.
“I recognized the luggage, and that is how I knew,” Perebyinis told the New York Times, whose journalists witnessed the incident. Photographer Lynsey Addario captured a widely viewed photograph of the four victims.
It showed Perebyinis’s wife, Tatiana, 43, and their two children, Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9. The fourth victim was Anatoly Berezhnyi, a 26-year-old church volunteer who had been crossing with the family, the Times reported. All four died.
Perebyinis confirmed that account in a brief interview with The Washington Post early Thursday, explaining that he recognized his family in the photos from their clothes and personal belongings. He was not with his wife and children because he was caring for his mother in Donetsk.
“This is a war crime, and someone needs to be held accountable,” he told The Post. “I lost everyone and lost the meaning of life.”
The incident took place Sunday. As residents of Irpin attempted to evacuate, Russian troops fired mortar shells upon the city, killing at least eight, The Post reported, including Perebyinis’s wife and children. The attack came as Ukrainian officials accused Russia of violating agreements regarding humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians. Russian officials have denied the accusations, yet the images of the woman and her children lying on the ground have been considered lurid evidence of the war’s violence on ordinary Ukrainians.
“My wife, two children and two dogs died,” Perebyinis said. “I was left alone. We lived happily for 23 years.”
Officials are warning of a rapidly rising civilian toll as the Russian military has continued its assault on Ukrainian cities. On Wednesday, a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital killed at least three people, including a child, and injured some 17 more, The Post reported.
Russian airstrike hits maternity hospital, as officials warn of fast-rising civilian toll
Serhiy and Tatiana Perebyinis knew each other in high school and ended up marrying in 2001, he told the Times. They lived in Donetsk, an eastern region in Ukraine, until 2014 when fighting broke out there between pro-Russian separatists and forces backed by Ukraine’s government, Perebyinis told The Post. The family left and settled in Kyiv.
Tatiana Perebyinis worked for SE Ranking, a Silicon Valley software company, joining its offices in Kyiv in 2016 and rising to become the head of the company’s accounting department, Ksenia Khirvonina, a spokeswoman for the company, told The Post. Perebyinis had been in the office with her daughter the day before Russian troops invaded the country on Feb. 24. After that, “no one came to the office, and everyone was hiding or fleeing and trying to leave the country,” Khirvonina said.
In the ensuing days, Perebyinis stayed. Although the company had offered financial assistance for employees seeking to leave, she hunkered down with her children and parents in their home in Irpin, a suburb west of Kyiv. She did not want to leave her son, who was not allowed to exit the country because he was 18 and of fighting age, Khirvonina told The Post. Perebyinis was also concerned about how to move her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, the Times reported.
But their apartment building was soon struck by shelling, forcing the family into a basement with no food or electricity, Khirvonina told The Post.
That is when they decided to evacuate. On Sunday, their plan was to join a church group, make their way to Kyiv and figure out a safer destination from there, Serhiy Perebyinis told the Times. They made their way toward Kyiv alongside a damaged bridge and were crossing in front of a World War II monument when they were struck by mortar shells that sprayed out shrapnel shards, the Times reported.
The children died instantly, Khirvonina said, and Serhiy Perebyinis said his wife died at the hospital the next day. Even before the photos hit social media, Perebyinis knew something was wrong because he had been tracking his wife’s cellphone and saw her location jump from the highway to a hospital in Kyiv, he told The Post.
Tatiana Perebyinis’s co-worker knew it was her in the photographs because she had been wearing the coat on a company retreat only weeks before. “My hands just couldn’t stop shaking,” Khirvonina told The Post.
Only weeks earlier, Khirvonina had been paragliding with Perebyinis in the nation of Georgia. It was Perebyinis who had encouraged Khirvonina to take part. She described Perebyinis as a brave woman, a kind mother and a generous co-worker.
“She was a great woman,” Khirvonina said. “And I think it is so unjust that their lives were taken so brutally.”
“There’s no forgiveness, no understanding for those deeds,” she added. “We will never forget that. I am truly scared that this hatred will be with us for … generations to come.”
The latest: Ukraine-Russia talks in Turkey ended without an agreement as President Zelensky condemned as an atrocity a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol that killed at least 3 people. Meanwhile, in the U.S., House lawmakers approved new humanitarian, economic and military assistance to Ukraine worth approximately $14 billion.
Oil exports: Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter, sending more than 7 million barrels of crude oil to countries around the world, including to Germany and other E.U. members.
The fight: Casualties are mounting in Ukraine — including civilians, while Moscow is facing allegations that it has used cluster and vacuum weapons. As many as 4,000 Russian soldiers may have died, according to a U.S. general.
Map: Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been extensive with strikes and attacks across the entire country.
The response: Russia’s war could be a global economic “game changer,” with rising gas prices and shifting trade decisions suggesting change that will be felt for years. Meanwhile, in Russia, online access has been significantly curtailed by censors at home and businesses abroad.
How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.
Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
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