The woman who gave birth in a city under bombing in Ukraine

Anna Tymchenko and her newborn, Alisa

Anna Tymchenko and her newborn, Alisa

Photo: BBC News Brazil

Anna Tymchenko was scared. She had been in labor for hours, but her hometown was being bombed and her apartment was shaking. She and her husband were stranded without electricity, running water or medical help.

The small town of Bucha, 30 km from the capital Kiev, had been under relentless bombardment since the beginning of the war.

Anna, 21, had previously taken refuge in the basement of the building with her husband and brother. But when the electricity was cut and the heating stopped working, the basement was filled with darkness and became very cold.

Anna’s husband, Volodymyr, was torn between staying in Bucha or trying to escape. When they finally tried to escape by car, they had to turn around when they heard that a column of Russian military vehicles was coming towards them.

“So we decided to stay in the apartment,” Anna told the BBC. “I preferred to give birth at home rather than in a dusty basement. I had trouble breathing, my lungs hurt.”

When she went into labor late on March 7, she asked her neighbors for help. They agreed to go there, but none of them had experience with childbirth.

Viktoria Zabrodskaya, a 49-year-old neighbour, told the BBC their concern was that if something went wrong, they wouldn’t know what to do.

The room was lit with candles, and the only water available was cold water from bottles.

Pregnant Anna, photographed before the start of the war, in January 2022

Pregnant Anna, photographed before the start of the war, in January 2022

Photo: BBC News Brazil

“I never imagined that I would give birth in such conditions,” says Anna. “It was surreal. It was my first child, and I didn’t know anything.”

In desperation, Anna’s neighbors tried to contact the medical team, but the phone signal was bad. They finally managed to make contact with a gynecologist in Bucha after getting a signal on the porch. He agreed to go there, but he never showed up.

Later that day, he texted an apology and explained that he had been stopped by a Russian patrol who had broken his phone.

Anna’s neighbors would have to deliver the baby themselves. Only one person among them — Irina Yazova — had any medical knowledge.

“When the baby’s head came out, we were scared,” says Viktoria. “She was blue and we didn’t know what to do. Irina then turned the baby’s head gently, and she came out. She didn’t cry at first — we started touching her, and then she cried and we all clapped.”

Volodymyr wept with relief for his daughter Alisa, who was born on March 8 — International Women’s Day.

Two days later, it was announced that Bucha was one of the humanitarian ceasefire corridors for civilian evacuation agreed by the Ukrainian government and the Russian Defense Ministry.

“We spent the whole night arguing about whether to go or not,” Anna recalls.

She and her husband finally decided to go out with their newborn daughter. They tried contacting others to ask if the route was safe and downloaded maps to their phones.

Leaving Bucha, Anna and Volodymyr saw the destruction caused by the Russian attacks

Leaving Bucha, Anna and Volodymyr saw the destruction caused by the Russian attacks

Photo: BBC News Brazil

The next day, 21 cars left the city for Kiev. Viktoria, who helped Anna give birth, drove in front of the convoy, with a white flag wrapped around a mop attached to her car and a sign saying “Children”.

“On the way we saw horrible scenes,” says Anna.

“I never thought I’d see these things in real life—only in movies. There were bodies lying on the road. The houses were destroyed. Russian tanks parked, pointing their guns at the road. We were too afraid they might fire as we passed.”

After several hours, the refugees safely passed all Russian checkpoints and arrived in Kiev—and from there they went their separate ways.

“When we left, I couldn’t stop smiling,” says Anna. “I couldn’t believe we managed to get away.”

Anna is enjoying motherhood and looking forward to introducing her daughter to her grandparents. But while many of her relatives have already left the country, she and her husband can’t leave — and Anna says she still doesn’t feel completely safe.

“All my thoughts are with what’s going on [em Bucha] and in the rest of the country”, she says.

“It’s just unbelievable, but we hope to be able to return home soon.”

Photos courtesy of Anna Tymchenko.

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About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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