Limited resources, another effect from the ongoing conflict, also threaten to change the men’s careful plans. While Moisienko drove to several home hardware stores in Kyiv in search of plastic boxes to transport the vascular plants in the collection, Khodosovtsev returned to Kherson with little more than a headlamp strapped to his forehead and a backpack full of similar household items that you can use. to move apartments.
On this second trip, the enormity of the task became clear to Khodosovtsev. He has 700 boxes to move. In his first foray, it took him 15 minutes—and way too much tape—to wrap, stack, and tie half a dozen boxes of samples. At this rate, the botanist said, he will blow the three days allocated for this section of the herbarium. Not one to be discouraged, the scientist settled into familiar territory and began doing what he does best: calculating.
“Just two packs of sticky tape and a roll of string,” he says, beaming as he enthuses about how he’s shaved his box-stacking time down to “three and a half minutes.”
This kind of methodological precision has proven to be a helpful distraction from the realities of what is happening beyond the paneed 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 scoop up the last part of the herbarium had been hit by shelling. Instead of this news derailing his mission, it seems to have hardened him. “We are focused [the herbarium] so you ignore everything, all these shellings that [are] going on around you,” he said.
However, as he worked methodically, packing each plant, he began to reflect on how the glass windows of the lab could become deadly projectiles if a shell exploded nearby; and how far it reaches the ground floor. At eight stories tall, the academic building remains. “The chance that the Russians hit the university building [was] very high,” he said.
He tried to treat the nearby rumbling as white noise, though one day, a shell landed outside the window while he was packing a sample.
By January 4, Moisienko had finished loading the last collection boxes into the back of a truck. It traveled west for almost two days, covering approximately 1,000 kilometers, before reaching the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine, the institution that serves as a university in exile. for staff and students of Kherson State University for more than one year.
This is a form of salvation. But, as Moisienko points out, that’s as safe as anything or anyone can be in a country where missiles fall from the sky on an almost daily basis. “Nowhere in the country is 100 percent safe,” he said.
On January 11, Kherson State University was once again hit by shelling, this time just blocks away from where Moisienko worked less than a week ago. “That building remains [in] danger, and it’s still dangerous to be in Kherson because it’s still being mined every day,” Moisienko said. “We did the right thing.”