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After Russian missile destroys mall, wife of missing man waits and hopes

Global News logo Global News 2022-07-03 Stewart Bell
Sabina Hrytsai, right, with her husband Evgeny, missing since Monday's mall attack by Russia in Kremenchuk, Ukraine. © Facebook Sabina Hrytsai, right, with her husband Evgeny, missing since Monday's mall attack by Russia in Kremenchuk, Ukraine.

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine — Unable to reach her husband by phone after a Russian missile struck the Amstor shopping centre last week, Sabina Hrytsai tried social media.

“I am looking for my dear beloved husband,” she wrote on Facebook, describing what 27-year-old Evgeny was wearing when he left for his shift at the mall.

“Dear, I believe you are alive,” she added.

But after so many days of waiting, her hope was fading. The hospitals said they didn’t have him. The police could not find him either. Nor could the employees at the home electronics retailer where he worked as a sales consultant.

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“I just want him to be alive,” Hrytsai said in an interview in Kremenchuk, the city southwest of Kyiv where they both grew up and celebrated their first anniversary on June 11.

Twenty-one are now confirmed dead following Monday's cruise missile strike, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said on Saturday. Another 66 were injured.

Work is still underway to identify more than two dozen human remains recovered at the scene of what has become one of the deadliest attacks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has admitted to targeting the mall but called it a military target and denied there were civilian casualties. Both claims have been dismissed as falsehoods. A vehicle factory 500 metres away was also hit.

An air raid alert began about 10 minutes before the missiles exploded just before 4 p.m.

But Hrytsai told Global News that a few days before the attack, her husband said the shopping centre had adopted a new policy about responding to the sirens.

Rather than closing when they sounded, the mall was to remain open and employees were to make their own decisions about whether to shelter, she said.

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“It shouldn’t be like this,” Hrytsai said. “We have a war in the country so the rules should be followed. If you have a siren, these kinds of things like malls should be closed.”

Evgeny was always diligent about taking shelter and whenever the sirens went off, the newlyweds would call each other to make sure they were safe, she said.

“And why he didn’t leave the shopping mall on the 27th, I don’t know. Maybe because he had a client,” she said. “He was all of the time worried that he would earn less money.”

Another mall employee who survived the attack said from his hospital bed that he had seen a social media post advising that the mall was to remain open during air raid sirens.

Kremenchuk Mayor Vitalii Maletskyi said an investigation had found that a June 23 a message from the mall administration advised that "from that day on, they would not close during an air raid," Poltava News reported.

Walking her two dogs at a schoolyard park, Hrytsai said they missed Evgeny and were waiting for him to come home.

“They’re our kids,” she said. “Because we didn’t have time to have kids of our own.”

“He was a very kind person, very open,” she said. “He all of the time provided for me everything. He told me all of the time 'I don’t want you to work in a job you don’t like.'”

“That’s why he worked there precisely at this place, because before the war it was one of the places in the city that had a good salary.”

Following the Feb. 24 Russian invasion, he worried about losing his job, she said. Monday was supposed to be Evgeny’s day off but he was called in, she added.

The couple argued before he left for work because she didn’t want him to go. She wanted him to quit and find a new job that treated him better, but he wanted to find new employment first.

“I didn’t even say goodbye to him, I was so upset,” she said.

She was at home when she heard the explosions. She phoned Evgeny but he didn’t answer. She figured he was in a basement sheltering.

When he didn’t call back, she thought he was still upset about their argument, and then she saw a photo of the fire at the Amstor mall.

She ran there but couldn’t find him, so she went to the Kremenchuk hospital. “But they said to me we don’t have your husband anywhere,” she said.

“So until today, I am waiting.”


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