Russia-Ukraine

Watch: Ukrainian man shares how he learned his wife, two children were killed in Russian shelling

“I saw a photo on Twitter. And I recognized my children. I recognized their things and their clothes.”

Serhiy Perebyinis holds portraits of his wife, Tetiana, and children Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9, who were killed by Russian mortar fire as they tried to evacuate from Kyiv. Lynsey Addario / The New York Times

Serhiy Perebyinis, a Ukrainian man whose wife and two children were killed in a Russian shelling in Irpin as they tried to flee Kyiv, Ukraine, is sharing how he learned his family was dead. 

Perebyinis spoke to CNN this week, describing the moment he saw the graphic photo seen around the world of the bodies of his slain family and a church volunteer who was helping them, Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26.

Perebyinis previously told The New York Times he was away in Eastern Ukraine tending to his ailing mother when Russia invaded Ukraine, while his wife, Tetiana, and the couple’s two children, Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9, were at home in their apartment outside Kyiv, along with their two dogs.

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He told CNN that he and his wife had been using Google geolocation to see where everyone in the family was. One day, he saw an “unusual geolocation” for his wife’s phone, between Kyiv and Irpin, then 20 minutes later it was at a hospital in Kyiv.

“I suspected that something was wrong,” he said through an interpreter. “And I asked friends to come to [the] hospital and find out whether there [was] any bad news.”

He saw reports on Twitter that there had been a mortal shelling and a family had been killed. 

“Then I saw a photo on Twitter,” he told CNN. “And I recognized my children. I recognized their things and their clothes. And I called my friends to say to the children are dead. Their bodies are lying on pavement. And I asked them, ‘Please could you help me to find my wife.’”

Tetiana Perebyinis, 43, and her two children, Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9, along with a church volunteer who was helping them, Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26, were killed. – Lynsey Addario / The New York Times

Perebyinis said he and his wife had been married for 23 years, describing her as a “very cheerful person.”

“We spent lots of time together as a family,” he said. “We loved bicycles, in winter we went skiing, and she loved very much planting flowers at our … countryside cottage. Basically we loved our weekends to be very, very active.”

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CNN anchor Erin Burnett broke down in tears as she asked Perebyinis about his children; emotion filled the voice of the interpreter providing his answer.

“They were normal, cheerful children. My son was older, he was 18 and he was [in] second year of university,” he said. “He studied and wanted to become an IT professional, studied programming. And my daughter, and my daughter was 9 years old. And she liked dancing, painting. She studied in English. They were normal, cheerful children.”

Watch the full interview below:

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