THE MOTHER of a former Warwick man now living in Ukraine says his family has given up hope of fleeing as bombs continue to rain down on their home city.
Bishop’s Itchington resident Suzanne Smith has spoken of how her son Jacques Quigley, his wife Katyia Kozin-Quigley and five-year-old son Nikolai, are sheltering in the basement of their apartment block as Russian missiles continue to obliterate residential areas of the country’s second city Kharkiv.
It has been targeted by Russian forces since president Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of a full-scale invasion a week ago.
Yesterday (Tuesday) Kharkiv’s opera house, concert hall and government offices were bombed in a series of strikes, killing at least ten people with many more injured. A separate strike took down a hospital resulting in several deaths and numerous casualties.
Thousands of people are continuing to flee the city, leaving behind their homes and the lives they once knew.
But others fear it is too dangerous, with reports of human remains strewn across the streets.
Suzanne described footage sent by her daughter-in-law of a scene near the office where she works.
“There was an attack and people have died on the streets – they’re scooping the bodies up. You’ve got brains and shoes everywhere – those were Kat’s words – it’s horrific. They’re just so frightened and there’s no end in sight.”
She revealed bomb blasts had shaken their home leaving them living in sheer terror.
She told the Observer: “They’re petrified because it’s so close to them.
“They spent the whole day in the basement yesterday because their block of flats was under attack.
“The night before they were sleeping in the bathroom because there’s no windows so it’s the safest place in the flat.
“They’re living in complete terror and having to cook meals in the dark because they’re too afraid to put lights on.”
Despite their bleak circumstances, the couple are trying to retain a semblance of normality – managing to cook pasta bolognese following a request from their young son.
Suzanne added: “He doesn’t understand. He keeps asking if he can go to kindergarten because he loves it and misses his friends.
“And in the next breath he’s saying ‘I need a gun daddy so I can defend myself’. That breaks their heart because a little boy shouldn’t talk like that.”
A recent request by the Ukrainian army for the family and other residents of the building to move their vehicles onto the street for use as shields, was another footnote to the stark reality they and others are facing.
Feeling powerless to help Jacques, who has limited his social media contact for reasons she is unsure of, Suzanne says it is all she can do to gather donations from family, friends and the wider community in the hope it will reach beleaguered communities in Ukraine.
And she has been touched by the generous response.
She said: “I left a canister in my daughter’s salon and somebody walked in and put £100 in – just somebody who we don’t know. But they’re so kind and it’s good to know there are people out there that do care.
“It’s hard to know what else to do other than raise money.
“If I could get on a plane now and fly over there with a load of stuff I would but obviously I can’t so I’m just doing what I can.”
Suzanne is also writing to local MPs Jeremy Wright and Matt Western urging them to encourage the government to act and ‘stop sitting around and talking’.
She is asking the community to do the same and to donate to her online fund-raiser at www.paypal.com/pools/c/8HCW0LBZ4Y.
Residents can also donate cash at the family’s businesses – Steve Quigley Butchers in Leamington, and Posh Paws by Zoe in Warwick.