АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Yuliia Demchuk
17 September 2022
In 2014, 32-year-old Natalia Ziper moved from occupied Donetsk to Izium, Kharkiv Oblast. In 2022 she was again running away from her home because of the war. Natalia stayed under shelling with two little children and carrying one more under her heart until the 10th of March. The woman says that the first movements of her child during the fourth month of pregnancy made her feel calm while shelling was heard nearby. At the beginning of August, Natalia gave birth to a baby girl in Ivano-Frankivsk. “Monologues of the War” found out what the pregnant woman lived through during that time.
Before the war we lived in Petrovskyi District of the city of Donetsk. We heard shelling in Marinka, Krasnohorivka. On the 7th of July, I had to leave with my parents and a 2-year-old daughter. First we moved to Mariupol, from there to Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and then we ended up in Izium.
We lived normally, like all people. We didn’t live our best life, but we were calm. On the 24th of February I got a message from my daughter’s teacher that that day children would stay at home. At first I didn’t understand what was going on. I thought maybe they were playing safe just in case.
After a while, my mom called and told me about shelling in Kharkiv, Kyiv and other cities. That’s when I woke my husband up. We turned on the TV and were monitoring the events the whole day. It was calm in Izium on the 24th. We immediately packed the essentials, documents and bought products.
The next day we went to my husband’s parents. They had a bomb shelter in their house and ours was without it.
For me, time as if stopped at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. I don’t even remember when the first bombing happened. Everything became one day.
We heard a plane flying and then a loud explosion. It was in the city center. There are no strategic objects. We started guessing what they were aiming at. Maybe they wanted to bomb the local council. But they hit a residential building. Later, they destroyed a school nearby. After that, they hit the central park.
At first, we were making a bed in the corridor and were sleeping there with our children. It was scary to stay near the windows. Relaxing in the apartment was impossible. In a few days a missile damaged the building 500 meters from the parents’ house and we started going down to the bomb shelter. We stayed there only at night, during the day we came back home to cook and change clothes. Later, I stopped going out with my two children. I get knots in my stomach every time I remember what we’ve experienced.
Air raids were frequent. I remember a moment when the plane flew, dropped the first bomb, then the second one and the third one. We were also shelled with Grad (multiple rocket launchers). Even though we were in a safe bomb shelter we still could feel explosive wave inside.
There were a few rooms and a lot of people in the shelter. Everybody was communicating, helping each other. There were families with children, my daughter was playing with others and was distracted from the explosions.
Water supply was cut down almost immediately. The houses were heated until about the 10th of March, we still had electricity. On the 7th of March mobile connection disappeared.
We were expecting evacuation on the 9th of March but there was shelling and the buses couldn’t get here. The morning of the 10th of March was quiet. We went up to our apartment and about 12 pm the parents said that the evacuation would be for sure. My husband’s parents decided to stay in the city. They are ok.
Going down we heard a plane flying and starting bombing nearby. Fortunately, we haven’t exited the building yet. I hid with my children behind the wall under the stairs. We waited till the plane flew away and went to the bomb shelter. We had doubts whether to leave or not because nobody knew what could happen on the road. While we doubted the electricity disappeared. It became dark in the bomb shelter. There were no other sources of light. For me it was difficult even before because I had a younger son who was a year and 4 months old at that time. Good thing is that the evacuation buses were nearby. We packed quickly and went to them. Fortunately, we managed to come to them and after a few hours we set off.
On the road, the last bus of the convoy was fired upon. The people weren’t hurt, only the windows were blown. The first stop of our convoy was in Barvinkove. The people could go out there. The others went to Lozova. There we got on the electric train and came to Dnipro. A train to Lviv was waiting for us in the city. And then we got to Ivano-Frankivsk where we stayed with my family. My close friend lives here.
“In the bomb shelter I was already feeling my baby’s first movements. It was one of the signs that everything was good with it. I was getting calm at those moments. It’s good that we could leave because I wouldn’t get any medical help or medicine in Izium. Going through such shelling is a big stress. I left Donetsk immediately when it started getting shelled, in 2014. I can’t even imagine what the locals were feeling. They experienced then what we are experiencing now.”
In Ivano-Frankivsk I didn’t feel any negativity towards me. We were getting humanitarian aid from the social protection department of the city council, the Caritas charitable foundation. Also, volunteers helped with diapers for the child.
Reading negative comments in social media about forced migrants is sad. Maybe there are just insolent people. Personally for me, it’s difficult to ask for help. My family and I were always relying on ourselves. Now as well. We are not insolent, we do not offend anyone. We will not be seen or noticed, we will not stand out, even though we are forced migrants.
Not everybody is the same. If someone has a bad experience with migrants they shouldn’t equate everyone and create a general bad impression.
We’ve been staying in Ivano-Frankivsk since the 11th of March. Our time stopped. I understand that it’s not right, we should move on because it’s easier. But my soul wants peace and the end of the 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: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Yuliia Demchuk