АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Mariia Orletska
1 August 2022
Nataliia Antohina is from Lysychansk and a psychologist by specialty. In 2014 Lysychansk was in the war zone, but that phase didn’t last for a long time. After the full-scale invasion, having under the belt experience of 2014, Nataliia right away decided to evacuate. During the first days of March, she and her children left Ukraine. Now she is in Germany attending a language course in order to work as a psychologist there. She has given an interview to a project “Monologues of the War”.
I am a psychologist by specialty. I worked a long while in a kindergarten. Half a year before the war, I had quit my job and enrolled in a gestalt therapy course, but of course I couldn’t finish it.
In 2014 hostilities took place in Lysychansk. They were continuing for a few days, 3 or 4, not more. My son was one year old at that time. My family and I stayed in the city even though it was frightening. The windows of our apartment were broken as there were explosions near us. Unfortunately, I had a feeling that one day it might happen again. We thought of moving to Kharkiv, but couldn’t believe that everything would start so abruptly. The events of 2014 and 2022 are not similar at all to me as what is happening now has a much fuller scale. On February 24th, we realized that something horrible and far-reaching began. In 2014 it was all slow and lingering.
Until February 24th, many of my acquaintances were saying that something was coming. My husband, I as well as my parents were simply having difficulties with money so we couldn’t move out or immigrate. Besides, we didn’t believe that things would happen in this way. The news about possible war had influenced us. We were stressed out because of the danger and had no options what to do.
On the morning of February 24th, I woke up and my husband was at home. Although he used to wake up earlier than me and go to work. But that time he was at home and I realized that it had begun. Explosions were heard, there were also some problems with the mobile connection. We went to a shop as we had not stored any food beforehand. Queues were so long, it was impossible to withdraw cash so we didn’t.
I fled from Lysychansk with my two children in the first days of March. After the full-scale invasion, having under the belt experience of 2014 year, I right away decided to evacuate. I clearly understood that the situation would be far ruinous and I didn’t want to wait for something. I thought that my kids might have been enormously hurt due to the war. My husband and I talked it through, we knew that he couldn’t leave so my children and I just waited for the train to come.
We were staying at my parents’ apartment which was in another district of the city at that time. It was hard as we had no car, but somehow we had to get to the train station, from where the evacuation took place. Moreover, during that period we were hiding for some time in a basement. Then I learned about an evacuation train that we took. I called many of my friends, most of them decided to stay. However, one had said that was going to leave with her two children. She lived in the same district as my parents did so we discussed our plan. Her acquaintance helped us by driving us right to the station. He used up all his petrol for the car.
The train travelled across Ukraine to Lviv. In Lviv, we immediately took a elektrichka to the border. We decided not to stay in Lviv, because we didn’t have money so we couldn’t rent a house in Western Ukraine. When we were travelling, my friend and I read information about where we could go and where it would be better. It was sudden and without any plan. We just read that Germany has better conditions than in other countries. In addition, many countries require a foreign passport. Neither I, nor my acquaintance, nor our children had it. Germany was one of those countries that immediately said that Ukrainians would be accepted even without such a passport.
On our way we contacted volunteers who were involved in the process of transferring from Poland to Germany. We talked over what we could get if we did go to Germany. We were met by a volunteer in Krakow, spent the night there and went by bus to Germany
When they came to Germany, I parted with my friend. We lived with the family of one of the volunteers with whom we travelled. My friend lived in another family, where people themselves volunteered to help. At first, we did not have any funds, it was impossible to withdraw or exchange Ukrainian money. I am very grateful to the local people because for the first month and a half we received all the necessary help. We lived with that family until the end of March. On the last day of the month, we found another family with which we could live longer. At first, they simply provided us with housing, and when we got the documents, we were able to rent a room in their large house.
The most difficult thing abroad is that I am here without my husband. My relatives, including the husband, left Lysychansk and moved to Odessa. They left much later than I did. I believe they waited far too long as there was almost no transport. My parents were hopping till the last moment that they could stay in the city. In Odessa we have relatives and my parents now are living with them. My husband also took his mother and grandmother to Odessa, they rented an apartment there.
In Germany Ukrainians are given great help. Now I have permission to work, I can’t speak German so I enrolled in a language course. I hope it will give me enough knowledge to communicate at the level which is needed at work. It is obvious that my profession of a psychologist needs an advanced level of German. That is why I consider the possibility that I can work here and help Ukrainians. But for now my certificate is not valid so I can’t work as a psychologist. That is the reason why I am learning the language. Besides, I didn’t get permission to live here. There are some problems with documents as in Germany there is a big bureaucracy and everything is very slow. You can wait several months for an answer to a certain request.
My son finished third grade with the help of online studying. It was all complicated as when we came to Germany there were connection problems. The Internet was cutting in and out. Therefore, the school year for my son ended quite smoothly. He will probably study here in Germany from the fall. First, he went to the integration class. I enrolled him in school almost immediately after our arrival. Children of different ages and nationalities who do not speak German go to the integration class. They had a language course where they learned words and certain simple school terms. But this is clearly not enough for my son. But, I think that he should be put from the integration class to some other one: maybe again to the third, and maybe even to the second.
I still have friends in Lysychansk, and I don’t even know if all my relatives left there. I still don’t know if they are alive or not? Acquaintances who get in touch mostly say only one phrase: “Alive!” However, there is no water, electricity, or gas in the city. All this was not there when we left the city. Electricity appeared only sometimes, not in all areas. For example, there was no electricity in the area where my parents lived. Now, as far as I know, there is none. Many buildings were also destroyed. The windows were broken in our apartment. There were also several explosions near my parents’ house. The parents want to return, but how it is possible to live there and what is happening there now is not very clear. I also know that the missile hit the school where my son studied, and the kindergarten was hit by debris.
Everything that happened to us during this time is a huge experience, though a difficult one. There is a lot of value in people, in the way they present themselves. We were impressed by how people everywhere helped us, both in Ukraine, and in Poland, and here in Germany. Now I’m learning the language, getting used to a new mentality. Even if we go back home, it will still stay with me.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Mariia Orletska