АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk
11 July 2022
The war turned Anna Piatakova’s life upside down. At the beginning of March, her husband went to the front to defend the country, and her son, from the first days of the war, was lining the thresholds of military commissariats in order to be able to fight together with his father and friends who have been defending the country since 2014. Anna is a native of Sumy, who has been living in the capital for over 20 years. The woman works as an administrator in a private center that helps children with disabilities and autism and conducts lectures and seminars for parents of the center’s pupils. Full-scale war came to their home on the morning of February 24, and life changed after that. It was hard for a mother’s heart to accept the fact that one morning her only son would say that he was going to war.
Of course, we understood that if troops are stationed at the border, and such a number, then it is not just like that. But everyone was sure that Kyiv would not be bombed because we are not in 1941.
A few days before the start of the war, our best friends, who were very worried about this, left Ukraine with three children and told us: “We don’t know if there will be anything or not, if there is not, then consider that we have gone on a trip“. Then we kind of laughed at it and thought that they were too “fussy”.
And on February 24, at 5 in the morning, we woke up to the first explosion. At first, I did not understand what kind of explosions these were. Alarms on cars went off in the yard. And when they heard the second explosion, they turned on the news and learned that a full-scale war had begun, that tanks were moving towards Kharkiv and Sumy, and explosions were also heard in Boryspil.
We did not know what to do, because we were not used to receiving war in our home. We understood that the war had been going on in the east for eight years, but it surprised us that it was raging right in Kyiv.
That same morning, my son Demian went to his older friends who were fighting in the east, and when he returned he said: “Mom, pack things because I’m leaving. There is a place for me in the Territorial Defense, they are waiting for me”.
I was confused and started to refuse him. We had a very serious conversation. He said that he could not do otherwise, because he was born a boy and had to defend the Motherland. Of course, I cried.
I understood that we raised our son correctly, but no one expected the war, that it would come to your house and that you would have to pack things not only for your husband but also for a 19-year-old boy.
I tried to explain that men have to defend their country, but for this, you need to know how to do something, and not just run with bare hands to tanks. I told him: “You will die,” and he replied: “Well, then you will be the hero’s mother”.
My son wanted to go and serve in the army for a long time, even after school. But we persuaded him to get an education first. That’s what he told me: “Mom, I was born for this war, I really wanted to join the army”.
We barely persuaded him to leave for at least a week to the west of the country. It was agreed that he should wait at least a few days or a week, and if necessary, then he would go to fight.
The husband said that he would not let go of one son and would go with him, for me it was another blow, because I have two beloved men in my life, and letting go of one, and then the other, was very difficult for me.
We left Kyiv in the evening of February 24 and beat all the traffic jams. The whole family drove 36 hours to the west of the country: a cat, a dog, me, my husband and son, and my mother, who was staying with us at that time. She decided not to return to Sumy because the city is practically on the border.
We threw some of the most valuable things into the bags, but what you can’t take in your suitcases is your whole life.
At the time of the evacuation, we already knew that it was impossible to drive along the Zhytomyr highway, I don’t remember exactly, but it seems that a bridge near Stoyanka had already been blown up. We drove around the suburbs and cities.
After reaching Vinnytsia, we met people from the Sumy region, who were leaving with very young children. We have a car with Sumy license plates and they came up to us to say hello as if they were neighbors. Those people were from Okhtyrka. They told us that they did not know whether they had done the right thing by leaving or not. And this was only the 25th. And already when we were watching what was happening with Okhtyrka on the news, I often remembered those people.
After arriving in the west of the country, Demian went to military units three times and was refused three times because he is a student, and my husband was accepted into the Armed Forces. He has been serving since the beginning of March.
The boys to whom the son rushed on the first day of the war, as it turned out later, were in the direction of Bucha and Irpen. They directly participated in the battles for Kyiv. On the one hand, I was happy that we managed to leave, but on the other hand, it tears you apart. It is very difficult because it seems that your child is already an adult and has to make his own decisions, but as a mother, you want to protect your son.
“No one wants to bury their children, because if your only child dies in a war, then what’s the point of living?”
I remember those days. It is such despair because you seem to have nothing to cling to. Everything that you built, that you invested in, everything that you lived on – collapsed. And you fall with it all, and you don’t know where to find support, because they all collapsed at the same moment, at five zero five.
It was difficult when the man went to war. I understand that he could not do otherwise. That’s how he said that he had to fight. It’s hard to go through the separation, it’s not that we haven’t seen each other for three months, we can’t even talk normally. Although it is a few minutes a day, I am grateful to God for that.
The son really wanted to help the country, to be useful, and together we looked for such opportunities for him. I can’t tell you everything, but Demian was useful to the state in other ways, not being on the front lines.
We also volunteered little by little, collected money together, and bought tourniquets, and first-aid kits, which he sent to his friends. They have already been transferred to the east, and usually, the guys over there are in great need of such things. They also collected money from friends and tried to help somehow.
I think that the war can end only in two cases: either we will win, or they will simply kill the last Ukrainian and we will be gone as a nation. Not because we surrendered, but because everyone was killed. Because even the last Ukrainian will bite all enemies for his land. The victory may be ours because, with such a level of consciousness, patriotism, and love for one’s country, there can be no other.
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: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk