Deadly missile attack in Chernihiv, Ukraine near FCA office

A broken window lies on a staircase on top of a toppled pot plant.
The pressure wave caused by the explosion broke windows
at FCA Ukraine’s office.

On Saturday August 19, a Russian missile strike struck the city centre of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. Seven people were killed and 156 injured, among them children. FCA works in the city and wider oblast rehabilitating schools and supporting the education sector. 

THE DAY was a religious holiday and many people were outside on the way to and from churches. Families with children were sheltering in the shade within the city’s park during the hot summer day.

Irina Kudina is an FCA Project Manager based in Chernihiv, which is her native town. As it was a Saturday, she had a day off and was not at the FCA office, which is near to where the missile struck.

“I saw from the window that there was an explosion in the city centre, and smoke started rising from there. I was in a shop about seven kilometres from the center, but the sound of the explosion was clearly heard. The houses and the theatre the missile damaged can be rebuilt, but we can’t get our people back”.

During the clean-up, missile fragments were found in Irina’s office.

Nataliia Koroliuk, FCA Ukraine’s Communications Coordinator, spent several anxious moments finding out whether her colleagues were unharmed.

“On Friday evening I returned from Chernihiv after a business trip, on Saturday morning I read the news about the missile attack which hit the historical and crowded city centre. It hit exactly the area my colleague and I were walking through, the same buildings I had passed by. Those were hard moments to wait until it was confirmed that all our people from Chernihiv office are alive.”

The missile hit Chernihiv City centre very soon after the air raid alert. It is one of the most dangerous amongst the many weapons used to attack Ukrainian cities and towns since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine and the war began.

Particularly in the regions that border Russia, some missiles hit so fast there is no time for air defense to destroy them.

Continues Nataliia, “it was Saturday, so the office was empty, but the day before many people had been there inside, going upstairs and downstairs. Some windows were broken and one of them just inside the stairwell where people often pass through. The explosion blast is not predictable. FCA’s office in Chernihiv is only several hundred meters from where the missile hit”.

This is the reality people live and work with in Ukraine – for children and adults. FCA staff must be permanently cautious and vigilant during their work. That means continuous risk assessments and working under constant stress. Frequent and unpredictable air raid alerts ruin plans and staff must always be thinking of the quickest route to a bomb shelter and balancing their work with safety measures. The threat of drone attacks also means it’s not uncommon to work several days from a shelter.

FCA’s work continues, implementing projects to help the education sector in Ukraine. Chernihiv Oblast is one of four regions where FCA are assisting in the rehabilitation of damaged schools and equipping of bomb shelters. FCA also provides resources for mental health support programs and quality leisure time activities for schoolchildren.

Chernihiv City was badly damaged in the first months of the war, many people were killed or injured. The fighting came very close to the city with missile and artillery attacks, making it extremely difficult to stay in the city. Since then, much has been done to rebuild the city to bring back people and everyday life. August 19th is now another tragic date.

Text: Nataliia Koroliuk
Photo: Irina Kudina