Limited resources, another knock-on effect of the ongoing conflict, also threatened to upend the men’s carefully laid plans. While Moisienko scoured dozens of Kyiv’s home stores in search of plastic boxes to transport the collection’s vascular plants, Khodosovtsev returned to Kherson, equipped with little more than a headlamp on his forehead and a backpack filled with the same household tools you could use . moving apartments.
During 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 pack, stack, and tie together half a dozen boxes of samples. At this rate, the botanist said, he would get past the three days allotted for this part of the herbarium. Never discouraged, the scientist settled into familiar territory and began doing what he does best: math.
“Just two wraps of tape and a roll of twine,” he said, beaming as he relished how he’d managed to cut his stacking time down to just “three and a half minutes.”
This kind of methodical precision proved to be a useful distraction from the reality of what was happening just behind the glass. Only 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 derailing his mission, this news only seemed to harden him. “We are focused on [the herbarium] so much so that you just ignore everything, all those shelling that [are] what’s going on around you,” he said.
Yet, working methodically, packing plant after plant, he began to think how the glass windows of the laboratory could become lethal projectiles if a shell went off nearby; and how far it was to the ground floor. With a height of eight floors, the academic building stands out. “The chance that the Russians would hit the university building [was] really high,” he says.
He tried to treat the nearby rumble as white noise, though one day a grenade landed just outside the window as he was packing a sample.
On January 4, Moisienko finished loading the last boxes of the collection into the back of a truck. It traveled west for almost two days, covering about 1,000 kilometers, before reaching the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine, the institution that has served for more than 10 years as a university-in-exile for the staff and students of Kherson State University. a 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 percent safe,” he says.
On January 11, Kherson State University was again hit by shelling, this time just a block away from where Moisienko had worked less than a week earlier. “That building remains [in] danger, and it’s still dangerous to be in Kherson, as it’s still being shelled on a daily basis,” says Moisienko. “We did the right thing.”