АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska
1 September 2022
The news about the beginning of a full-scale war hit 30-year-old Taisa Gana in Kyiv. Sickened by the disease, the woman could not go anywhere, despite the fear for her daughter’s life. But when she did leave, a small German village became her second home, which impressed the Ukrainians with their hospitality and willingness to help. Read more about how a fragile woman turned into a strong mother in “Monologues of the war”.
It so happened that on 23rd of February, I was confirmed to have COVID. I felt very bad, hardly slept, and at dawn on 25th of February I heard explosions. I was very sick – both because of the disease and mentally. I read that people were leaving, that they were standing in heavy traffic jams, and I understood that I didn’t have the strength for it, I couldn’t even stay on my feet. Many acquaintances wrote to me: “Leave!”. But how could I endure the journey in such a state? In addition, we do not have our own car, we have a small child. And we decided to stay at home.
I could not eat or sleep normally for a week. I lost four kilograms, although I was skinny. I always heard explosions in the morning. “We have a small apartment and a small corridor, in it, following the rule of two walls, we all slept and ate together. There was not enough room. Especially for a child. She simply had nowhere to run, so in the evening she literally got on her heads.”
I read the news all the time. My husband asked to limit reading news to only in the morning and in the evening. But I was afraid of missing something. It’s scary what’s happening. I remember there was a very strong panic on Instagram. Everyone had reposts about help, about what happened.
“I was very afraid of explosions every time. Especially when the windows were shaking. And my husband always reassured me: “That’s air defence.” Do not worry”. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but he tried to support me.”
Once we went out for a walk together. We were lucky that there was no air raid siren. And we walked for an hour and a half not far from the house. And I saw anti-tank hedgehogs, Territorial Defence Forces on our previously peaceful streets. And that was very frightening. But the sun was shining and there was hope that everything would be fine soon. And as soon as we returned home, the air raid siren immediately began.
I had enough for three weeks in Kyiv. I could no longer stand sitting in the dark corridor and Ju wanted to walk in the fresh air and run. We sometimes went out, but not for long… And the atmosphere on the street was very tense.
“At some point, I realized that I couldn’t stand anxiety. I was shaking at night, I could not sleep or eat. We kept waiting for it to be over. Some 2-3 weeks, 2-3 weeks and that’s it…”
And on 16th of March was my husband’s birthday. It’s good that I bought the gift in advance. He was very surprised, because he knew that we do not go out anywhere, that everything is closed, nothing works, but there was a gift. And he said: “If you feel you have to go, just go.”
At that time, many of my acquaintances had already settled abroad. And I wrote on Instagram that I didn’t know where to go, if there were any suggestions, write to me. An acquaintance called. She left Ukraine a few weeks earlier (she has a daughter the same age as Ju), and arranged a place for us as well. She sent a photo – the quiet village of Echsen in the center of Germany, she said that it is calm there, there are not even shops and cafes.
And my husband and I decided: even if there were two weeks left until the end of the war, during this time I would recover a little in this quiet place, the child would recover and we would return. I was sure that I was going for a short time. For me, the main thing was safety, not rest. Since then, we have been here for 4 months.
The road was very difficult for me. One, with a small child. I didn’t travel very far with her in Kyiv either, but here I had been on the road for two days. When I came to Germany, I recovered not only from an anxiety attack, but also from a road trip. We were taken to the border with Slovakia by a familiar volunteer who was transporting humanitarian aid from Uzhhorod to the Kyiv region.
I was afraid to cross the border, because I heard many stories about children and women being stolen. I was very worried and I wrote the child’s data and our data on the tags of all my clothes, so that if something happened to me, I would have my husband’s contacts… When I was writing that, my hands were shaking…
But it so happened that one of my acquaintances, who previously left for Austria with her children and husband, returned to Ukraine to sell her car. She just finished her work and we were already crossing the border together. And her husband met her there, and I went to Austria with them. And from there – to the German village of Oechsen.
“Everywhere, in the Slovak city of Košice and in Vienna, there were special assistance centers for Ukrainians near the train station. There was food, a place to rest, toys for children and everything necessary.” Volunteers were at every station, at every transfer point. And there were many Ukrainians, but not as many as we were told at the beginning. So I don’t regret leaving later.
I was offered to move to a bigger town, but I don’t want to. Here, complete strangers became like one family. “The local Germans said that they were not as united as they are now. That is, our troubles united people here. Everyone who wanted to help began to gather together, solve various issues, and the common cause strongly united them.”
We have German lessons. They are given by a local elementary school teacher. She made us friends, because it was during the German lessons that we got to know each other. Then one of the neighbors arranged a barbecue. It is also very unifying. Because when I arrived, I didn’t want to communicate with anyone, I was closed. “And now we are all like relatives. It is no longer possible to say that we are strangers – Ukrainians and Germans who help us.”
For some time I felt “survivor’s syndrome”. I thought, why don’t people who are in trouble leave? And when they helped us, gave us clothes, I was pleased to the core, because these people do not owe us anything, they just want to help. I burst into tears. And when the locals found out that I like to create coziness, they brought me flashlights, candles, and a bit of decor. It was also nice, so many people wanted to help.
I even started my own blog about decor, home ideas, and cheap things. Before the war, I actively led it, now I am restoring it little by little. And I also use my blog as a field for help, distribution of important information, and news.
The first few weeks I had to clean my blog of Russian. Even those with whom we normally communicated before wrote me such disgusting things! And I just blocked them over and over again… I then joked that my Instagram was so clean of dirt that the dolphins were back there.
Back in Kyiv, I told my daughter that there are bad men outside and we are hiding from them. I couldn’t even think that she would remember it like that! “Four months later, when we were already living in Germany, I was watching a video of destroyed houses in Ukraine, and she saw and asked: “Did the bad men break it down? And they didn’t break into our house, because dad is guarding it.”
The daughter is only two years old. She had just started going to kindergarten for a few hours when the war started. She misses her children to this day. There was not a day that she did not ask her father. “I want to see my dad. I love dad.” And as we were leaving, she said: “I want to go home to my dad.” It was very difficult for me to listen to it.
“In the current conditions, all mothers have become stronger. I definitely became stronger. And in order to protect her child, a mother is capable of something that she herself does not know she is capable of.” We are strong, we are brave, we are loving. The rashists wanted to intimidate us, make us weak. And we became even stronger. There is no way they can break us.
My husband and I always did everything together, all the responsibilities around the house and with the child, we did not divide between your work and mine. And he often walked with his daughter, and here I am responsible for everything. I had to build my life from scratch. The first weeks and months were very difficult. On the one hand, it is calmer, but on the other hand, it is physically and mentally difficult. But now I feel stronger.
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: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Mariia Orletska