CRADLING her newborn daughter Yana as she lies in a hospital bed, Lilia Gazimova describes her family’s “miracle” escape from a Russian bomb which hit their home while she was still pregnant.
The blast struck in the Ukrainian’s basement where she usually sleeps — and she only survived because she was in her son Artem’s bedroom instead.
Lilia, 22, went into early labour and gave birth just hours after the bombardment laid waste to her home in newly freed Kherson.
Her ordeal began at 1am on Monday morning when she heard the terrifying sounds of an indiscriminate bombing.
Sy het aan The Sun gesê: “I could hear explosions and breaking glass and I could smell the smoke from the explosions.
“Me and my husband Nikita looked out of the window and we heard two whistles.
“There was an explosion two or three houses away, then ten seconds later we heard another whistle and our house was hit.”
The bomb tore through a brick wall facing Russian positions on the far bank of the Dnipro river and exploded in a semi-basement kitchen, killing the family’s cat Malva.
Lilia added: “If we had been sleeping in the basement like usual we would probably be dead.”
“Normally, when there is shelling, we shelter downstairs and there has been shelling every night for the last four days.
Die meeste gelees in The Sun
“But because I was very pregnant I had a strange feeling and we decided to sleep upstairs in Artem’s room.
“It was a miracle — it was an act of God.”
Their home in Kherson’s eastern suburbs stood 500 yards from the Dnipro river, which marks the new front line after Russian troops abandoned all their positions on the western bank of the waterway in a humiliating retreat earlier this month.
Lilia’s mother Ina, 52, and grandmother Galina, 92, were asleep in an upstairs bedroom directly above the site of Monday’s mortar strike.
‘FACES WERE CUT BY GLASS’
Lilia said: “The windows were blown in and their faces were cut by the glass.
“I was really terrified and I felt the baby begin to move.
“I grabbed hold of Artem. My husband went to clear a way out of the house because the front door was blocked by the wreckage.
“We took all our documents and ran to our neighbour’s house.
“Half an hour later I felt my first contraction.
“I called the midwives but they said I had to wait until the curfew lifted. They said they could not get to me.
“Then at 4am my waters broke. It felt like it was happening — the baby was coming. We called an ambulance but they couldn’t come fast enough.
“So we ran to the main road. I was running and stopping every time I had a spasm.
“When we got to the road we stopped a bakery van.
“It was making its morning deliveries and we begged the driver to take us to hospital.
“He brought me and my husband here. The doctors took me straight to a delivery room and about 40 minutes later it was done.”
Yana arrived at 7.15am — just six hours after the mortar blitz — and weighed in at 6lb 10oz.
Moments after the birth, hero medics wheeled Lilia’s bed into a gloomy, windowless corridor to protect her from flying glass in case of more Russian shelling.
When The Sun met Yana she was wrapped in heavy blankets to ward off the chill as the city has no heating, power or running water.
Maternity ward director Sergey Kachan said they used a hospital generator to light the delivery room but the rest of the unit was in darkness.
We have no power, no water, no heating.
Animals in Britain live in better conditions than we do.
Hospital director Irina Starodumova
Hy het gesê: “It is very hard. Normally new mothers spend three or four nights in the ward but we are sending them home early because it is so cold in the hospital that they are better off at home.”
The wards are eerily quiet as up to two thirds of the city’s 300,000 residents to have fled since February 24 wanneer Poetin unleashed his bloodbath invasion.
Sergey added: “Before the war, on average, we delivered three babies a day, but now it is one a day, sometimes none.”
Hospital director Irina Starodumova revealed that of the 1,200 staff who worked there before the Russian invasion only 646 remained.
Dr Starodumova, 66, gesê: “We have no power, no water, no heating.
Animals in Britain live in better conditions than we do.
“The hospital has generators but they are old, from Soviet times, and keep breaking.
“We have lights for emergency surgery, but otherwise we are using torches.
“Today I hope we will get a few hours heating because it is so cold.”
Lilia’s mother Ina, who suffered cuts to her face from the flying glass, spent the first day of her new granddaughter’s life sifting through the rubble trying to salvage what she could.
Sy het gese: “We are just ordinary people. Why do we have to suffer this war? What is Putin thinking? We are afraid of being killed like this but we do not want to leave our land.”
Lilia’s husband Nikita took four-year-old Artem to his parents’ house on the opposite side of town.
“Hopefully we will be safe there,” Lilia added.
“We can’t live in our house any more, with a huge hole and no heating. It could collapse any time.”
Almost all of Lilia’s pregnancy was spent under Russian occupation.
She told how they were terrified of leaving the house as men were being harassed and sometimes abducted at checkpoints and tortured.
Lilia said: “Life under occupation was terrible. Almost the whole time I was pregnant I was afraid.
“And when there were rumours of nuclear attack we were terrified.
“Our cousin was stopped at a checkpoint and the soldiers took all his money, his phone and his passport.
"Hulle het gesê, ‘If you want your passport back you have to bring us a slab of beer.’
“He walked for 40 minutes to find a shop, managed to buy them some beer and came back.
“They gave him his passport but not his phone or his money. The next day he left and took his family to Finland.
“I was afraid that Nikita would be arrested and my children would not have a father. ”
As soon as the bombardments increased, Lilia and Nikita made a decision to escape for the relative safety of Kryvyi Rih, the birthplace of President Zelensky.
Lilia said: “We were about to leave and then this happened.”
Russian troops captured Kherson with barely a fight in the first days of the war.
Nikita, 26, lost his job as a dock worker during the eight-month occupation and had to work for a Russian supermarket chain which swooped in with invading troops.
But Russia and made an orderly withdrawal over many weeks after commanders admitted they could no longer resupply their troops.
And despite the daily oppression, the city was largely spared the scorched earth destruction of other battleground towns.
Lilia said: “When our military came back in we were overjoyed.
“We went into the central square to celebrate. We were so happy.”
Dan, days after the city was freed, vengeful Russian troops ramped up artillery strikes from the far bank of the Dnipro river.
At least seven people were killed and 21 injured by shelling on Thursday, government officials said.
Now Ukraine has urged civilians to leave if they can, amid fears of a looming humanitarian crisis.
Temperatures are set to plunge below freezing, while more than 40 per cent of Ukraine’s heating and power network has been destroyed by Russian bombardments.
And the Kremlin has bombarded residents with text messages and calls warning them they are not safe.
Officials in Oekraïne fear Russian bombardments could transform the city into a hell-scape like parts of northern Kharkiv, the country’s second city, which endured months of bombings before Russian troops were forced to retreat by a lightning Ukrainian counter attack.
Ukraine’s deputy defence minister predicted his troops would retake Crimea — which Russia annexed in 2014 — by Christmas.
But analysts expect the next stage of the conflict will be slowed by the challenge of crossing the Dnipro.
Retreating Russian soldiers destroyed a section of the bridge in their last act of destruction.
Ukraine had made it almost impossible to use the bridge for resupplies by hitting it with US-supplied HIMARS rockets.
The Russians attempted to build a pontoon bridge which was also struck by rockets.
But whatever the future holds for her country, Lilia is grateful that she and her family didn’t perish under Russia’s bombs.
Sy het gese: “I just thank God that we all survived and Yana is healthy.
“She is lucky she was born in freedom, in a free Kherson.”
Bykomende verslagdoening: OLEKSII KULYK