Nebesna Sotnya: Antonyna Dvoryanets, Liquidator of Chernobyl disaster

By Polina Yeremenko
04.2014–#98,  Esquire
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Deaths of Maidan
During the three months of confrontations in Ukraine, [at least] 102 people died—85 protesters and 17 law enforcement officers. Esquire talked to the relatives and friends of eight of them. [This is one of those stories]:

Antonyna Dvoryanets, 61 years old. Pensioner, a liquidator [specialist in nuclear clean up] of the Chernobyl disaster. She died under unknown circumstances on February 18, 2014 during the [armed] confrontations on Instytutska Street. Her daughter, Svitlana Storozhuk, tells her story.

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 5.06.15 PM“Mom went to Maidan every day. She had to take care of her mother-in-law, who is 90 years old, and three granddaughters, but she found the time to bring food and money to Maidan. On that day, she went to the hospital, gave me a call and said, “I’ll stop by Maidan and then will come home shortly to feed grandmother.” I talked to her last at 3:23 pm EEST.

Then I call her, but she’s not picking up. Some time later, someone picked up the phone and said that my mother was being helped. And then, “Your Mom has passed away.”

It wasn’t supposed to be dangerous on that day. There was a peaceful rally that went in the direction of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament], and then they gave orders to disperse it. We don’t know how she died—either she was trampled, or they hit her with a truncheon. People that were there on that day said they didn’t think about others. One woman told me, “I covered myself with my down coat and started praying that they didn’t finish me off.”

When we picked up my Mom from the morgue, there was no victory yet over the Yanukovych regime, and they didn’t want to give her back to us since she was considered a criminal.

Our Mom was never afraid of anything in her life. I think if she knew how dangerous it would be, she would still have gone. Because she was that stubborn. And so beautiful.

And petite—had the shoe size of 35 [U.S. 5], a “meter in a cap” [Russian saying for short], but she was never afraid of anything in [her] life, and raised the whole family in such a way that we were like well-behaved bunnies.

She was born in Chernobyl; she loved it so much. She went to school there, studied hydraulic engineering there, married my father there. There, my brother and I were born. As children, we picked berries and mushrooms and medicinal plants; the forests were so beautiful there.

I don’t remember the accident very well, just the lines of buses that were leaving Prypyat. All of our family moved to Brovary [a town] near Kyiv, but our parents continued to work in Chernobyl—but as the accident liquidators. And that’s how they lived: half a month in Brovary and half a month in Chernobyl. My Mom retired two years ago.

When Maidan took off, my parents started going there and grew younger. They started walking hand-in-hand together. They haven’t done this in a long time; they haven’t embraced. They also celebrated the New Year [2014] on Maidan. We laughed then, that if our Mom went on the war path, Yanukovych had no chance [against her].

My brother and I both have had our own families for a long time now. But we haven’t stopped doing things the way our Mom tells us to. On weekends, my husband and I like to sleep in. She would open the door early in the morning, always with her key, and would come into our bedroom and say, “So, my dear son-in-law, today, on a Sunday morning, without a declaration of war, your mother-in-law has arrived.” I always told her, “Mom, why would you open the door with your key? We might be asleep. We might be undressed.” She said, “Well, get dressed, and I’ll go and put the teakettle on.”

The preschools for her granddaughters she picked out herself, and my sister-in-law and I couldn’t even get a word in. Because Grandma said so. Our Dad has it hard now. Good thing that he at least goes [to work] in Chernobyl. We try not to leave him alone. Together, we go to Maidan, to the cemetery, to church. We drop off our daughter to keep him busy. Because to hear your father sobbing—it’s very hard.

When this happened to our Mom, I started looking at people in a different way. I keep saying, “There are no Khokhols [derogatory for Ukrainians] left, only Ukrainians.” I also changed—I came to love my Motherland so much more. I am not afraid of anything anymore, after I saw my own Mom in a morgue.

I don’t know why, from 45 million people in Ukraine, where women account for over half of the population, God chose my Mom. Probably because so many men were killed, God decided: there should be at least one woman, to look after them. He chose our mother because she was the best.

That’s how I console myself. I cry out all of my mascara in half a day. They say that I shouldn’t cry, but I cannot help it. I don’t have five mothers, and I am not burying my third Mom. I am a grown woman after all, but I start crying in the evening, “I want my Mom. Anywhere, just take me to my Mom.” I want her to come in the morning and open the door with her key.

My Mom is a hero, we are all so proud of her, we should all live now in such a way that she wouldn’t be ashamed of us. But I’d like her to be not a hero, but a regular pensioner, and I would take care of her. The only dress I bought for my Mom was the dress we buried her in. I did not indulge her. I bought her a beautiful dress, navy-blue, but got the color wrong. I told her then, “Mom, sorry, I got the color wrong.”

Image source: Nebesna sotnya


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7 Responses to Nebesna Sotnya: Antonyna Dvoryanets, Liquidator of Chernobyl disaster

  1. chervonaruta says:

    Reblogged this on Euromaidan PR and commented:

    Nebesna Sotnya: Antonyna Dvoryanets, Liquidator of Chernobyl disaster

  2. Lorren says:

    It is amazing to me that there are people in my country, the US, that somehow believe that Maidan was all a Western backed coup, with paid protesters. That it was all just a sham. In eastern Ukraine (my wife is from Donetsk), they apparently also believe that it was all a sham, though one grown of their own corruption, not necessarily of the “West.” But there are so many stories like this one, stories of genuine heroes, of everyday Ukrainians who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and became extraordinary themselves. If it’s a scam, it’s the most believable scam ever, with all the little details right and in place. Why is it so hard to believe that people are simply remarkable, and will truly lay down their lives for their children’s future and for their country? It is as if those who find it impossible to believe, who can remain untouched by the terrible majesty of Maidan, are somehow dead inside.

    Maidan is not going away. Maidan is inside all of us. Everywhere.

    Glory and respect to Antonyna Dvoryanets, for a life that brought benefit and inspiration to her family and friends, and a death that brought benefit and inspiration to Ukraine, and the entire world.

    • Jon Barrow says:

      Hi Lorren. I am a British guy who works in Kyiv and was active throughout the whole Maidan protest period. I can assure you that in the many hours I spent in the Maidan area – as well as scouting around ‘titushki’ camps etc. – I never saw any evidence that this was some kind of ‘western plot’; though I saw plenty of evidence of titushki being willing to sell their democratic liberties for 300 UAH a day, or whatever. John McCain and his entourage went to Maidan I think twice, and the US Embassy made a few encouraging noises, and there was a leaked recording of US officials (the ‘Nuland incident’) discussing what might happen if Yanu lost power – that’s their job, for goodness sake!. That was about the extent of it – useful half-truth for Russia to hang propaganda onto, I suppose.

      I actually saw this lady’s corpse on Instituska, lying across a barricade, and checked for signs of life – too late. The story above reminds me why I got involved in the first place – there was a very real chance that freedoms of speech and association were going to be extinguished, and journalists and civic society groups (the only real protectors of these liberties in Ukraine – at least at that time) were being suppressed. And I supported people like this lady, who were taking on the responsibility of creating a better state here in Ukraine. Thanks to those parts of society, I’m hopeful that Ukraine now has a new momentum that might in the end lead to a better life for its population.

      • Lorren says:

        Thank you so much for writing, and for sharing this. It seems that your first hand experience as an “outsider,” with no stake except a love for liberty and a hope for a brighter future for Ukrainians, has great and much-needed credibility. Have you been interviewed by the NY Times or the Guardian or ? One of the strongest things we can all do to counter Russia’s endless propaganda is to dispel the murkiness and conflicting accounts by those with a stake in the outcome, as this very doubt in accounts is exploited by Russia in every way. Frankly, in the West, the first-hand account of a non-news affiliated Westerner who was there is worth 100 accounts from locals alone in establishing credibility in the minds of regular Westerners. For this reason, I hope you will/have spread your accounts.

        My family is in Ukraine several times a year. I hope to visit Maidan on my next trip. I hope to run into you and shake your hand in thanks for your efforts on behalf of my beloved second country, Ukraine!

    • Jon Barrow says:

      Lorren, I fairly recently started writing a blog: during the actual protests I wasn’t really focused on journalism or writing analysis – more the course of events themselves. I have also done some editing work – for instance, for Euromaidan PR. While I can clearly see that news reporters are very important (it’s easy to lose sight of this in our countries but not here, where they are often the only people trying to be objective), in my experience these days they are more interested in chasing the story – for instance, deaths are guaranteed to attract them – than doing much analysis (for which, in any case, they use their own writers or well-known pundits). They (I mean western, definitely not Russian – I’ve seen the most atrocious lies on Russian TV) also seem to have a philosophy of presenting ‘both sides of the story’ as competing but equal narratives – again, understandable; but in the real world sometimes a big kind punches a small kid and grabs his icecream.

      This is my blog, if you’d like to take a look:

      I’d be pleased to meet you on your next trip here (I’ll be away from about 10 to 20 July but otherwise in Kyiv); we could have a look around Maidan together. Just send a Facebook message a week or so before, or email

      Best wishes

  3. Natalia says:

    Вічна пам’ять. Вічна слава., царство небесне
    Eternal memory, eternal glory, God bless her soul

  4. Pingback: Pilgrimage to Maidan » Carolyn Schott, Author

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