The husband and father of the Ukrainian woman and two children killed by mortar fire as they tried to escape shelling outside Kyiv Sunday learned of his family’s murder on Twitter, according to a report.
Mom Tatiana Perebeinis, 43, kids Mykyta, 18; Alisa, 9; and Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26 — a church volunteer who was helping them escape — were killed by Russian forces as they ran across a damaged bridge in Irpin.
A photo of their bodies strewn across the pavement led Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to promise he would kill “every bastard” responsible for the indiscriminate civilian slaughter.
Serhiy Perebyinis, 43, was in eastern Ukraine tending to his ailing mother when his family was killed. He broke down in tears talking about the senseless killings during an interview with The New York Times.
“I told her, ‘Forgive me that I couldn’t defend you,’ ” he said, as he recounted their Saturday night conversation. “I tried to care for one person, and it meant I cannot protect you.”
“She said, ‘Don’t worry, I will get out.’ ”
Perebyinis said he felt it was important that footage of his wife and children’s ghastly death had enraged Ukraine leaders and pulled on the heartstrings of sympathizers across the globe.
“The whole world should know what is happening here,” he told the paper.
Tatiana — an IT worker who had been urged by her company to evacuate last month — didn’t leave sooner over concerns of how to bring her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
She had been taking cover in the family’s basement with her children after a shell hit their building, according to the report.
Mykyta slept all day and stayed up all night, watching over his mother and sister, Perebyinis said.
“My son was under a lot of stress,” Mr. Perebyinis said.
When attacks intensified, his wife decided to flee the area with her children and parents.
On Saturday they attempted to leave town in their minivan, but were dissuaded by a tank rolling by on the street, the widower told the paper.
On Sunday morning they drove as far as they could, but were forced to evacuate their minivan and tried to cross the damaged bridge on foot, Perebyinis told the Times.
Perebyinis had been trying to monitor his family’s location on a cellphone app. He knew something had gone wrong when the tracker showed the phone was at a Kyiv hospital, and no one was picking up his calls.
He saw a Twitter post of the scene after reading reports that a family had been killed by a mortar strike on the evacuation route, according to the article.
“I recognized the luggage and that is how I knew,” he reportedly said of the blood-stained suitcases and backpacks the family was carrying. The items were photographed next to their bodies.
Perebyinis’ mother and father-in-law were behind their daughter and grandchildren and were not harmed in the attack. They were staying with a family godmother, the paper reported.
To return to Kyiv, Perebyinis flew into Russia and crossed a land border into Poland, where Russian guards eventually let him pass after threatening to arrest him, according to the article.
“My whole family died in what you call a special operation and we call a war. You can do what you want with me. I have nothing left to lose,” Perebyinis reportedly said he told them.
It was the second time the couple, who met in high school, and their children were torn by war.
The family had moved to Kyiv in 2014 after being displaced by Russia’s uprising in the eastern city of Donetsk, Perebyinis reportedly said.
“We were married for 23 years and refurbished three apartments and never argued once,” Perebyinis said of his slain wife.
Berezhnyi, the church volunteer, had moved his wife to western Ukraine but returned to Irpin to help his church evacuate congregants.
He ran to help the Perebyinis family when shelling began, Irpin Bible Church pastor Mykola Romaniuk told the Times.
“He was the kind of friend who is ready to help with no words needed,” he said. “I do not know how God can forgive such crimes.”
Zelensky spoke about the attack in an address Sunday.
“We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war. On our land. We will find every bastard. Which shot at our cities, our people. Which bombed our land. Which launched rockets. Which gave the order and pressed ‘start,’ ” he continued.
“There will be no quiet place on this Earth for you. Except for the grave.”