And he did not leave his house so as not to be noticed by the Russian patrols. I was watching movies on my laptop. On sunny days, he would walk in a small, fenced-in yard. Fearing to be seen, he peered cautiously from behind the curtains, and saw the Russians settled on the other side of the street.
It’s English teacher Timothy Morales, and he’s an American who’s had it all Eight months of the Russian occupation of the city Kherson, in southern Ukraine, hidden from the Russian military and secret police, afraid his nationality would make him a target. Morales only appeared in public when the Ukrainian army liberated the city last week.
In Kherson’s central square, “I had moments of despair,” says Morales, who now walks freely with ribbons of blue and yellow — Ukraine’s national colors — pinned to his woolen coat. “But I knew this day would come at some point.”
The roar of artillery fired toward the city from the Russian positions across the Dnieper still rattled the windows, and Kherson is a gloomy, dark city without electricity, water, or heat. Most of its inhabitants fled months ago, when the Russians withdrew Taking Everything of value they can find🇧🇷
At dawn every daymany civilians remained They form long lines to collect bread or fill plastic jugs with water. Only on Tuesday (15) did the first convoys loaded with humanitarian aid arrive. Trucks parked in the yard distributing packages of flour, soap, wet wipes, and treats like instant milkshakes.
But for former college professor Morales, 56, the worst was behind him — he no longer needed to play cat and mouse with the Russians. Morales grew up in Banbury, England, and has lived in Oklahoma for years, where he taught English literature. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, he opened an English language school in Kherson.
In the chaotic opening days of the war, when Moscow’s tanks fought the few Ukrainian forces In the area, Morales ended up trapped behind Russian lines.
He said he once tried to escape north along a highway, but turned back when he saw the tanks ahead. He managed to send his 10-year-old daughter to safety, traveled with his ex-wife, but was unable to leave himself. “I didn’t want to risk leaving with my passport.”
Morales has not done anything illegal under the laws of any country. But the Kremlin discriminated against the United States and its allies, Who are arming the Ukrainian forcesAs the real enemy in the war, their lineage is upended on the front. Morales feared that Russian forces would arrest him simply because he was American.
He became a survivor and unseen witness to the Russian offensive, brutal occupation, and failed Russian efforts to absorb parts of Ukraine and eliminate all opposition.
The Russians invaded Kherson in early March, and soon after soldiers patrolled the city’s streets while agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB, in Russian), the main successor agency to the KGB, searched for members of a secret, pro-Ukrainian guerrilla movement.
Morales’ life became confined to two apartments—his and his ex-wife’s—plus the patio, a fun, hard-to-see space, with cherry and walnut trees. For two months, he says, he dared not venture farther than the yard.
Relatives of his ex-wife, who is Ukrainian, would bring him food, and sometimes he would shop at a grocery store where he would meet the clerk – a teenager with positions Ukrainian pro🇧🇷 Shopping outings were the exceptions in her generally reclusive life.
There was a moment when he narrowly escaped from a confined space. In September, he went out into the yard and saw Russian soldiers aiming their rifles through the wire mesh of the gate. He ran back home and locked the door. Shortly afterwards a group of soldiers arrive to search. A neighbor on the other side of the door shouted that he had no choice but to open the door. Morales opened it and found himself face to face with an FSB agent.
He speaks Russian, but not well enough to pass Ukrainian. He told the agent that he was Irish, his name was Timothy Joseph, he taught English and he lost his passport. The secret police left. A neighbour, an elderly woman, aided him in the deception, telling the police that they had no reason to suspect.
“It changed my perspective,” he says. “Before I was careful. Then I got paranoid.” He says that the interrogation was the worst time he had and that he believes he only got away with it because the agents “were not the smartest people in the world”.
From his hiding place, he was able to return to teaching English online, using a neighbour’s Internet connection to connect with students in other parts of the country and abroad. “It kept me mentally healthy,” he says, even though he couldn’t get paid for the classes.
Morales was worried when he saw a Russian, possibly A.J The civilian official in the occupation governmenthe takes his family to live in an apartment abandoned by Ukrainians in a building across the street, increasing the risk of himself being discovered.
But over time, he noticed something that also became apparent to other residents: that The Russian army was collapsing🇧🇷 Discipline was fading, soldiers were looking rougher, and they were more commonly seen driving stolen local cars than military vehicles. “As time went by, they got dirtier and more confused.”
In the last month of the Russian occupation, Morales noticed that soldiers who had stolen expensive cars, such as BMWs or Mercedes, were moving these vehicles away from Kherson. Disappearance has given hope.
In the week prior to his release, the power went out, and Morales was left without access to the news. On Friday, he saw a car passing on the street carrying the Ukrainian flag. “I knew then that the Russians were gone.”
Take part in the celebration in the central city square, He salutes the soldiers who have entered Kherson, in jeeps and vans, without encountering opposition. But as happy as he is that the city is free, he intends to leave now. “I want to get away from what happened here.”
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