A DAD convinced his kids to dodge Russian shelling and dead bodies by telling them they were superheroes and their power was running.
Olexandr Tytova, 35 – whose wife and young daughter's harrowing escape from their village made The Sun's frontpage – had to act quickly to get his two kids to safety after his home came under fire.
"We crouched over as we ran. We rested in courtyards, in half-built townhouses," he told The Sun.
"Buildings were on fire. I told the kids we were superheroes on an adventure. Our superpower was running.
"After 5km, we reached Butcha. But power, gas and the water supply went there too."
Olexandr's wife Kateryna and his five-year-old daughter Tajisia were pictured clutching hands as they ran for their lives from Russian shells earlier this month.
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The haunting image of the pair flashed around the world.
Amid the rubble and roar of war, Kateryna recalled telling Tajisia: “Please run — we can cry later.”
The 35-year-old added: “We were sprinting, dragging the kids. We urged, ‘faster, faster!’
“Houses were ablaze around us. In my blurred vision, among the ear-shattering noise and terror, I was aware of a shell landing nearby.
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“A soldier screamed at me, ‘Don’t look over, don’t look!’
“Ten yards from us there lay a mum and dad and their daughter, dead in the road. The shell had hit them directly as they ran for their lives alongside us.”
Jewellery-maker Kateryna went on: “I have never been so scared. I really didn’t think we’d make it.
“I didn’t realise our photo was going to be on the front page of The Sun. But thank you, Great Britain, for caring about us.”
Kateryna was still wearing the same clothes in which she escaped Hostomel, in northern Ukraine, with husband Olexandr and son Makar, ten.
They are now staying in the home of friends in Vinnytsia, in the western central part of the war-torn country.
Kateryna told how they had been forced to leave Donestsk, to the east, in 2014 after the disputed Donbass region was seized by pro-Russian separatists.
They settled in Hostomel, on the outskirts of capital Kyiv.
But her family’s life was shaken to the core once again on February 24 — day one of despot Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
His war machine quickly targeted Hostomel’s strategically important airport, launching a deadly assault.
We were sprinting, dragging the kids. We urged, ‘faster, faster!’ Houses were ablaze around us. In my blurred vision, among the ear-shattering noise and terror, I was aware of a shell landing nearby.
Kateryna said: “The first thing to go was our internet, then the power. The Ukrainians built a barricade outside our house.
“In the blink of an eye we were on the front line of war.”
By February 28, bodies lined the neighbouring streets.
Still in disbelief, Kateryna said: “Burned-out military vehicles were everywhere.
“It reminded me of zombie apocalypse horror movies. But the bodies on the ground didn’t belong to a film or computer game.
“The bombardment intensified until one morning a shell flew into our courtyard.
“The blast shattered all the windows. The building rocked backwards and forwards like we were on a boat. My legs turned to jelly. The kids were in a blind panic.”
The family grabbed what they could, agonisingly having to say a tearful goodbye to their cat and two dogs.
Kateryna said: “As we crawled out of the house on our hands and knees it felt like everything around us was exploding. The ground was shaking.
“We were surrounded by trenches filled with military gear, weapons — and more bodies.”
School biology teacher Olexandr told The Sun: “On March 5, one family tried to drive out of town. They were sent back by the soldiers, who then shot at the rear of their car. Their 16-year-old daughter died instantly. She was a pupil in my class.”
The next day the family set off again across wasteland, through back alleys, along rail tracks, towards Irpin. Kateryna said: “We walked for 10km. The children begged for a rest.
Life or death queue
HUNDREDS of Ukrainians are seen queuing for humanitarian aid in the bombed out city of Mariupol.
They were risking death in a desperate bid to get food and water against a background of bombed blocks of flats.
Russian soldiers stood nearby as besieged residents sought help in a city normally home to 400,000.
Drone footage shows Mariupol almost completely razed, yet 100,000 are living among the rubble. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Italy’s parliament that there was “nothing left” of the city.
It is feared 6,000 civilians have been removed to Russian “filtration camps” to be held as hostages.
The Ukraine Foreign Ministry said: “Residents who survived bombing and artillery shelling are now being forcibly deported to Russia. The invaders confiscate passports.”
“We kept rushing them on saying, ‘We can’t stop!’.
“Then a minibus pulled over. It was already packed but they took us. We got as far as the destroyed bridge over the Teteriv River.”
They were faced with a makeshift river crossing on narrow planks. Bullets were flying and shells rained down.
Soldiers screamed for families to run — and Kateryna and her girl were captured in the image which made the front page of The Sun on March 7.
Kateryna went on: “Tajisia was crying. After another 100 metres we saw another bus. There was no lull in the shelling.”
The family were taken to the outskirts of Kyiv, where they headed east to Vinnytsia. They are staying with old friends from Donetsk.
In the arms of her mum, Tajisia, still in her dinosaur-print coat, gave a thumbs up.
Exhausted Kateryna said: “The kids are in shock, too scared to go outside. They are frightened to see smoke billowing from a chimney.
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“If they see us cry, they will cry. We stay strong.
“I hope the determination of my family shows the world that Ukraine will win the war. It is just a matter of when.”
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