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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Marina Spivak

    «My son woke up to loud explosions and ran to tell me that there was a large firework somewhere outside». The story of a family from Kharkiv, which spent a week in the basement

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Olena Romanenko | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk

    20 August 2022

    Maryna Spivak is a well-known teacher and owner of an aesthetic cosmetology training center known far beyond Ukraine that produces the best specialists in the field of beauty. Maryna has four children and a beloved husband. They were happy until war knocked on their door. How Marina’s family evacuated from Ukraine to Ireland, she told the «Monologues of the War” project.

    In the evening of February 23, I dyed a girl’s hair in the salon, because two days later, my whole family and I had to fly to the ocean to celebrate my birthday.

    In general, until February 24, my husband and I were doing our favorite things and raising children. We could afford a lot, we traveled, we gave our children a better education in private schools and for complete happiness we decided to get a dog.

    Despite the fact that rumors about the war were everywhere, I did not believe the last one and did not pack an alarming suitcase.

    I had packed another suitcase, with swimsuits and sundresses, because we bought tickets to Spain on February 26th in six months! I dreamed of celebrating my birthday among the dearest people on the island of Tenerife. I dreamed of seeing the ocean for the first time and showing it to my children.

    I have a large family, so in order to plan a trip, you need to think everything through in advance. I needed to make a route considering the different ages of the children and buy tickets at a good price. It was also important to find comfortable accommodation for everyone.

    Therefore, I did not think about the war, I believed in a bright future and the prosperity of Ukraine.

    We don’t have a basement in our house, I didn’t think we might need one

    We built the house only five years ago, it does not have a basement, it just has huge panoramic windows for more light and space.

    Next to our house in Kharkiv is a factory for the production of military helicopters, which was a target from the very beginning. That’s why we woke up to explosions of “hail” and “smerch” at the same time. I don’t know from which side the shots were fired, but my house just shook. The windows flew out, it was very scary.

    My twelve-year-old son was the first to wake up. He ran up to me and asked if it was a firecracker mom? I answered, saying no, son, it’s a war. Now I’m repeating this phrase and I feel goosebumps.

    Celebration of the new year 2022

    Marina and her family celebrate the New Year 2022 at home

    My husband woke up and ordered us to gather urgently. It was very difficult to gather under the explosions, especially considering that my youngest daughter was not yet two years old. There were explosions everywhere, the little one was sitting in my arms and was constantly shivering. This factory was bombed.

    We threw things in the car and just started driving somewhere. I was in shock and just cried. I didn’t understand where we were going and what was waiting for us. I generally doubted that we would be able to move through the city.

    Invitation to the cellar

    In a few minutes, our friends called us and told us to urgently come to their basement. This shelter was located in an area far from ours. We just wanted to wait out the bombardment and called the family of my godfathers with us. They have three children and they were hiding in a subway crossing.

    With such a large group of 7 children and 7 adults, we lived in the basement for a week. We expected the politicians to come to an agreement and everything would be over quickly. Explosions rang out every night, the children hardly slept and we were in a panic.

    Everyone was afraid to make the decision to leave, because the news repeatedly said that cars were being shot at on the way out of the city.

    Every day around 6 o’clock in the morning we met for a council to discuss when and where we were going. But we could not come up with anything.

    We made the decision when we started to hear automatic queues outside the windows. Of course, we did not know who shot it, ours or the occupiers, but we could not delay it any longer. My godmother, whose youngest daughter was 2 months old, said: «We can’t wait any longer, we have to save the children!»

    There were burned cars on the streets of Kharkiv, the ruins of buildings were everywhere, the smell of burning was in the air, and there were smoldering fires. It was unbearable to see what was done to our city. Although only 7 days had passed since the beginning of the war!

    Glory to the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine)

    We were driving in three cars with 11 children. We were going nowhere, just straight. On the first day, we got to Vinnytsia and got into a huge traffic jam that lasted for many hours. I was very afraid of the curfew. The main reason was that I would have to spend the night somewhere in the field or in the forest.

    But that’s what happened. We stood in the traffic jam and we were surrounded by a forest plantation. I was in despair. I got out of the car with my youngest daughter in my arms and headed to the Territorial Defense checkpoint. I asked the military to shelter us somewhere for the night, because we were afraid to spend the night with our children in the car under fire. It was very cold. I only then realized that I had forgotten to put shoes on my two-year-old Kvitka while running away from home in a hurry.

    And here I am, with a child wrapped in a blanket, talking to guys from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. How grateful I am to them! They started calling their colleagues, then others. In the end , we were taken in two cars to some pensioners for the night.

    We all slept together in one room on the floor. It was the first time since the war that we had slept through the night. And even before the night, the guys from the Territorial Defense took us to some closed cafe. We were able to eat there and buy food with us.

    I have no doubt that Ukraine will win this war, because we are protected by such people!

    Assistance in saving children

    Along the way, my friend and I created a chat on WhatsApp, where we helped to take families with children out of Kharkiv.

    I knew some of the volunteers in Kharkiv. They reported where the children were in basements or bomb shelters. We reported points on how to leave. We also found points where there is gasoline, where there is diesel fuel, where you can spend the night and where to eat.

    We reported on gas stations where there was some food left and where you could get hot water to dilute baby formula. If it was already possible to cram a bun into our children, then the babies needed full nutrition. A lot of people ran in just what they were wearing at home, they had nothing.

    We were constantly on the phone. Even when I was already in Moldova, we were still taking people out. In total, we managed to take out more than 500 cars! I was happy, we saved children , which are the future of our country!

    Long road to the ocean

    Moldova turned out to be the closest border with Ukraine, where there were minimal traffic jams. It was very difficult for the children to endure such a long journey, so we decided to leave there. Then we went to Romania, where we lived for 4 days. We slept on the floor in the volunteer camp and thought about where to go next.

    During our long journey, some of our friends separated and left for Germany. So we stayed in two cars with the godfathers. There were four children with us. In their car there were three kids and an elderly grandmother.

    And here we are standing on the street with this company, 7 children and 5 adults. We do not understand how to live on. And volunteers approach us, treat us to hot tea, give children cookies and ask why we are here and where our path is. We bursted into tears…

    We said that we have nowhere to live and that we are looking for shelter in any country where English is spoken, because we do not know any other foreign languages.

    Read also: «Products were exchanged in city chat rooms»: how the journalist from Odesa lived in occupied Kherson

    We suddenly remembered that relatives who left for Ireland a week ago called the husband. They said that Ireland accepts refugees from Ukraine well. They help with documents there, they settle people not in camps, but in a hotel under the EU program. This is all very important when you have four minor children.

    We asked the volunteers if it was possible for us to go there as well. They said yes, just buy a plane ticket and fly. We were very lucky to find tickets from Romania to Ireland for €19. And so we flew successfully.

    New life in a foreign land

    We have been living in a hotel in Ireland for 3.5 months now. Two modest rooms have now replaced our huge three-story house in Kharkiv. But we are safe. We receive help as a large family. There are many Ukrainians in the hotel. The volunteers provided all of us with basic necessities , such as clothes, shoes and medicines.

    It is very difficult to start a new life in a country where you never even dreamed of being. You realize that you are not a tourist and you can’t even enjoy the stunning views around you. But the Irish people are really very nice. My three children have already gone to school. The middle son plays drums. He is even the best in the group so due to this he received a diploma.

    My student, to whom I taught the aesthetic cosmetology course at my place in Kharkiv, is now in Ireland. Once a week I work in her salon, can you imagine?

    I am currently going to confirm my degree and start working here. You know, when you have a training center, all the money is invested in the premises, warehouse of goods, equipment and staff. It is not easy for us now, but I know that thanks to my knowledge and competence, I will be able to organize a comfortable life for myself and my family again. Not immediately, but I will be able to.

    Something that cannot be forgotten 

    When I was upset or cried because of something in my childhood, my grandfather, who reached Berlin during the war, always told me: “Don’t cry my lovely granddaughter, it’s all little things. The main thing is so there won’t be a war!”. I did not understand these words then.

    Now not only I, but also all my children know that there is nothing more terrible than war.

    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: Olena Romanenko | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk

    Ukrainians abroad

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