‘I can’t live without them’ The victims of Russia’s deadly missile strike on Dnipro
On January 14, the Russian military spent the entire day l attacks throughout Ukraine. The deadliest strike occurred in the city of Dnipro, where a Russian missile hit a nine-story residential building, killing at least 45 people (including six children). In the days that followed, Ukrainian media told the stories of many of the strike’s victims. Meduza summarizes them in English.
After the Dnipro missile strike, a photo of Anastasia Shvets circulated widely online and in the media. The picture shows her sitting among the ruins next to a bathtub and a piece of what used to be a tiled wall. When the missile hit, Anastasia was home with her parents. While they were making candles for the Ukrainian military, she was in her room, resting up for a night shift that evening. She later recalled being “covered by the door in bed” when the strike occurred, which left her “almost in one piece.” Her parents didn’t survive the attack.
The following day, still not knowing whether her parents had survived, Anastasia wrote on Instagram about how her boyfriend had been killed on the front just several months earlier. “I felt that he would protect me,” she said. Still, she continued, sitting in the ruins of her apartment, the thing she wanted most was for her parents to be found. “I became popular [because of the photo], though I didn’t know it; almost every social media page was publishing me. And I just want my parents. I’m in pain. Do I even exist?” she wrote.
One of the people killed in the Dnipro strike was Mykhailo Korenovsky, the head coach of the Dnipropetrovsk regional boxing team. According to his wife, on the day of the attack, she and the couple’s daughters were outside on a walk, while Mykhailo planned to join them after stopping by the apartment for a post-tournament meal. He was still home when the missile hit the building.
The family’s bright yellow kitchen can be seen in another photo that circulated widely after the strike.
The Babkin family
Rusana Babkina moved to Dnipro from occupied Mariupol. On the first day of the war, both her mother and her father signed up to join Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces. In May, her parents and their fellow servicemembers surrendered to the Russian army in the Azovstal steel plant. Her mother was released in October, while her father is still being held captive. Rusana and her grandmother left Mariupol in March and went to Dnipro, where they moved into an apartment with her sister, who arrived from Kharkiv at the same time.
On January 14, Rusana was in Odessa. At her home in Dnipro, her mother had stayed home with a cold, while her sister was cleaning up at the apartment, and her grandmother was cooking chebureki (fried savory pastries) in the kitchen. Shortly before the strike, Rusana spoke on the phone with her mom, who told her everything was “quiet” in the city. None of Rusana’s relatives who were home that day have been found. Writing after the attack, Rusana ended a Facebook post about her family as follows: “With hatred for all Russians who have ever lived, who are living now, and who are still unborn.”
27-year-old Kateryna Zelenska lived in the Dnipro building with her husband and their one-year-old son. Because she’s hard of hearing, Kateryna wasn’t aware when first responders declared periods of silence so that they could hear survivors’ cries from underneath the ruins. Ultimately, they heard her cries, but she wasn’t rescued from the rubble until the morning after the attack; she spent about 20 hours trapped under the debris in total. By the time she was hospitalized, Kateryna’s body temperature had reportedly fallen to 31 degrees Celsius (about 80 degree Fahrenheit).
Kateryna’s husband and son have not been found. According to her uncle, Nikolai Ivashin, they were most likely killed. “I’m a utility worker myself, and my guys are working in there right now; we’re in constant contact. And I know that [the rescue workers] saw a child. The boy was under the ruins, and he hadn’t survived… As far as Kateryna’s husband, there’s no hope there, either… I was at the site of the incident and I saw everything going on there… Two days had passed. Everyone who could be found alive has already been found,” he told journalists on January 16.
The Figurny family
The day before the strike, Marina Figurna and her husband Andriy Osynskyi traveled from Odesa to Dnipro to visit relatives they hadn’t seen since the start of the war, Figurna’s friend Arina Medvedeva wrote on Instagram. Marina, Andriy, and five other family members were in an apartment in the building at the time of the strike. Only one was saved from the ruins.
“Today is the scariest day of my life. My family; my beloved sister Anna, who’s only 15 years old; Marina and Andriy, who came from Odesa; and my Aunt Yana and Uncle Sasha all came to visit our grandmother and grandfather on Victory Embankment, and a missile hit their building. We don’t have any information; there were seven people, and they’ve only found our grandmother, who’s currently in the ICU. Our grandfather died. I’m in a lot of pain. I can’t live without them,” Ksenia, a relative who wasn’t in the apartment at the time of the strike, wrote on Instagram.
Iryna and Maksym Shevchuk
Iryna and Maksym Shevchuk moved from Nikopol to Dnipro with their children Karolyna and Timur six months ago to escape constant shelling from Russia. According to Valeria Marchenko, a relative of the family, when the rocket struck the building on January 14, Iryna and Maksym were in their apartment, while the children were outside. Karolyna and Timur are currently in the hospital. Their parents didn’t survive the attack.
15-year-old Maria loved dancing and growing flowers. Her father died several years before the strike, so her mother was raising three children on her own. When the missile hit, Maria’s mother was at work. “My sister called [Maria’s] mother Oksana yesterday to find out whether everything was alright. She was at work and didn’t know what had happened; her daughter was at home. The first person who went to the scene was my brother Pasha… But the building was already gone,” wrote Evgeniya Bondarenko, a friend of Maria’s mother, on Facebook. Maria did not survive the attack.
Irina Salamatenko and Olha Usova
Best friends Irina Salamatenko and Olha Usova, both of whom were dentists, were walking by the building when the missile strike hit. They were on their way to the gym. Both women died after being hit by debris. Both are survived by children, according to the Ukrainian news outlet Telegraf.
Before her death, Olha had been forced by the war to relocate multiple times. In 2014, she and her family moved from Donetsk to Dnipro. Later, they lived for a while in Kharkiv. After Russia launched its full-scale invasion in 2022, the family moved back to Dnipro. Irina and her family moved to Poland after the full-scale war began, but she later moved back to Dnipro. According to one of her friends from Poland, came back because she missed her home and her work.
Both Irina and Olha served as volunteers, providing dental care to Ukrainian military service members.
The mother of Ukrainian soldier Evgeny Omelyanenko
According to Evgeny, he was returning to Dnipro from Bakhmut, where he had been deployed, when he learned that his home had been destroyed by a missile. He said his mother (whose name he didn’t say) had miraculously survived in a “piece of the kitchen,” which was the only part of their apartment that survived. On January 16, two days after the strike, Omelyaneno wrote on social media: “Mom is in a stable condition and will be transferred out of the ICU, and I’m returning to Bakhmut.”
Martial arts instructor Yury Vasetsky was near the building when the attack occurred. Hearing the explosion, he realized the missile had likely hit the building where his 10-year-old student Rostislav lived, and he rushed to the scene. “I know that his mother works in the hospital and that she’s raising him alone, so I reacted immediately. With the help of some other people, I managed to climb to the third story and get Rostislav down,” Vasetsky later told journalists.
21-year-old Anton was one of the hundreds of Dnipro residents who helped rescue workers work through the ruins on January 14. At the time of the attack, he was on his way to visit his girlfriend, Eva, to whom he’d recently proposed. Anton was about 300 meters (980 feet) away when the missile struck. He could see that the building’s eighth story, where Eva lived, was partially destroyed, and rather than wait for first responders, he climbed up to search for her.
“Everything was glowing; there was gas. The first responders were yelling for me to come down, and I was standing there, moving slabs of concrete with my bare hands, searching for her. Then soldiers grabbed me ‘by the scruff’ and took me down, saying the gas could explode,” Anton told local journalists.
Anton ultimately spent five hours searching through the ruins. He managed to find two survivors and many more dead bodies. It was only after he ran out of energy and decided to take a break that he was informed that Eva had been found on the other side of the building. She was taken to the ICU in serious but stable condition.
Sabina Dorosh’s parents
Sabina used to message her mother whenever she heard air raid sirens and call her whenever she heard explosions. On January 14, however, her phone’s battery was dead, so she was unable to get in touch with her parents. Eventually, a relative called Sabina’s husband and told him that Sabina’s parents’ house had been hit.
“I didn’t believe it. We started getting our daughter ready, but my husband said it would be better not to risk bringing her there. I was hysterical; I didn’t know what to do or where to run. My husband went there himself. He said that after what he saw there, he no longer believed that my parents could have survived,” Sabina told Ukrainian journalists.
Nonetheless, Sabina’s mother was still conscious and able to call for help. Her father was found later. When he was taken to the hospital, Sabina didn’t immediately recognize him because he was covered in blood. Both parents were put in the ICU. On January 16, two days after the strike, Sabina reported that her father was still in the ICU, but that he was conscious and smiling.