Limited resources, another ripple effect of the ongoing conflict, also threatened to upend the men’s carefully laid plans. While Moisienko went to dozens of Kyiv hardware stores looking for plastic boxes to carry the collection’s vascular plants, Khodosovtsev returned to Kherson equipped with little more than a headlamp strapped to his forehead and a a backpack full of the same household tools you might use. moving apartments.
On this second trip, the magnitude of the task became clear to Khodosovtsev. He had 700 boxes to evacuate. On his first foray, it had taken him 15 minutes—and way too much tape—to wrap, stack, and bind half a dozen sample boxes. At this rate, said the botanist, it would exceed the three days planned for this section of the herbarium. Never one to be discouraged, the scientist settled into familiar territory and set about doing what he does best: calculating.
“Just two turns of duct tape and a roll of rope,” he said, beaming as he reveled in how he had managed to cut his box-stacking time to just “three minutes and half”.
This kind of methodical precision proved to be a useful distraction from the realities of what was happening just beyond the glass. Just 24 hours before Moisienko returned for his third and final trip on January 2, he learned that the building where he planned to collect the last part of the herbarium had been hit by shelling. Instead of this news derailing his mission, it only seemed to harden him. “We’re so focused on (the herbarium) that you ignore everything, all this bombardment that (is) happening around you,” he said.
Even so, as he worked methodically, packing plant after plant, he began to wonder how the glass panes of the laboratory could become deadly projectiles if a shell exploded nearby; and how far it was to the ground floor. At eight stories, the university building stands out. “The probability of the Russians hitting the university building (was) very high,” he says.
He tried to treat the nearby rumble as white noise, but one day a shell landed right outside the window while he was packing a sample.
By January 4, Moisienko had finished loading the last boxes of the collection onto the back of a truck. It traveled west for almost two days, covering around 1,000 kilometers, before reaching the Precarpathian National University Vasyl Stefanyk in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, the institution which served in exile for staff and students of Kherson State University for more than one year.
It’s a kind of security. But, as Moisienko points out, only as safe as anything or anyone can ever be in a country where missiles fall from the sky almost daily. “Nowhere in the country is 100% safe,” he says.
On January 11, Kherson State University was again hit by shelling, this time just blocks from where Moisienko had been working less than a week earlier. “This building remains (in) danger, and it is still dangerous to be in Kherson because it is still bombed daily,” Moisienko said. “We did the right thing.”