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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    The city of Oosterwolde in the Netherlands

    Daryna Podolyan: “It was a kind of non-stop regime, when you don’t know where you are going to spend the night with your children and where you will go tomorrow”

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation:

    26 June 2022

    More than a month of constant moving, unknown roads by planes and trains. That’s how the evacuation of Daryna Podolyan from Cherkasy with her two children was: five-year-old Vira and two-year-old Stepan. Before the war, Daryna organized many public projects in Cherkasy, became a support for many creative people. From now on there is a completely new experience for her: not to plan anything and accept the support from others. In such circumstances, the woman again found her way to independence and the opportunity to help others.

    In the first days of the full-scale war, my two children and I wanted to go to our friend’s house in Lviv. For several evenings we tried to get on a train without a ticket at the Taras Shevchenko station in Smila, but we didn’t manage to do it. It was very crowded there, and after three attempts I decided to leave this idea for some time and wait in Cherkasy. The children went with their grandparents to acquaintances’ in the village.

    So we lived for a few days like this. I was actively involved in volunteering. Then the railway hype gradually subsided, and I was able to buy train tickets. I was sure that we would go by train to our acquaintances’ in western Ukraine.

    But then the plans changed. In the evening, an acquaintance wrote to me that she would travel to western Ukraine by car and we would be able to join them. The decision was made very quickly and spontaneously. I mean, in the evening I went to bed and didn’t know that we would go somewhere, and in the morning I made a decision about it.

    I asked to bring children from the village to me. My anxious briefcase was packed, and the children went with the clothes they took to the village. I didn’t even have time to come home with the children.

    We were looking for a place to stay on a map

    So, on March 2, we left Cherkasy with a pregnant friend and her boyfriend. She got behind the wheel, because she drove better than her boyfriend. I was sitting in the back with the children, there was a pile of bags next to me and things, in the trunk there was a huge husky dog ​breathing in the back of our heads. The way turned out to be very long, with checkpoints, air alarms. It was a lot of stress, especially when we drove through the village, where there was an air raid alarm. But I was mobilized, I wanted to get to my final destination faster, and that kept me going.

    Daryna Podolyan with her children on the way to western Ukraine

    Daryna Podolyan with her children on the way to western Ukraine

    We drove for a few days, stayed for the night at some places. In the Vinnytsia region, we stayed in a kindergarten, where there was a temporary shelter for displaced people, then – at friends’ house.

    The overnights were organized in the following way: in the daytime I looked for the place on the map where we could get in the evening, wrote on Facebook to people and asked if anyone could take us.

    One day of our adventure we happened to be in Chernivtsi. But even then it was dangerous in western Ukraine, I was worried about children, because the shelling continued in Lviv. I realized that I was restless there and decided that I needed to cross the border.

    Temporary shelter in Romania and Italy, then another country

    We were close to the border with Romania, so I learned from acquaintances how to cross the border, checked the queues at the borders. They organized everything very clearly and conveniently, Telegram-channels were created in each town and village, where you could check every day how many people were in line, so that it was clear what to expect.

    So we crossed the border with Romania on foot one frosty day. Really, it was a very difficult experience for us.

    When you cross the border, you leave your country for some indefinite time, and from your social status, from your usual life and self-awareness, you get a refugee status.

    We spent one night in Romania. Then I had no plan, I just was making up some options on the go.

    Yes, I have relatives in Italy, so first I went to them, but there was a huge problem with plane tickets. One day we managed to buy them. There was a horrible crowd at the airport: mostly women with small children, all the children crying, a crazy crowd.

    Queue at the airport in Romania

    Queue at the airport in Romania

    We took off. In Italy, we had to take a train ticket to get to friends’. When we arrived the same day, we could not get train tickets, so we had to spend the night somewhere again.

    It was a kind of permanent non-stop regime. When you don’t know where you will spend the night with the children for more than a week. You don’t know where you will go tomorrow and about when. I remember it now, and I wonder how I survived this.

    I spent a week with my relatives in Italy to get oriented on what we should do next. The children caught a cold and I was able to treat them, but I had to look for a longer-term option for housing. We are very grateful to them for the warm welcome.

    Daryna’s daughter Vira with a toy presented by volunteers at the border

    Daryna’s daughter Vira with a toy presented by volunteers at the border

    I learned about housing options for Ukrainians in Poland, France, Switzerland, Germany, and I had to make a decision, but I didn’t know exactly what country, what social help, whether there was a place to live or to work.

    In this chaos, I realized that it was important for me to keep to two criteria: the language of communication should be English, because I speak it, and that the people I go to, should have been at least someone I know.

    It is good that the children happened to be not in the urban jungle, but natural

    A girl from the Netherlands happened to write to me. She is from Cherkasy, but she got married there and lives in the Netherlands with her husband and a child. They all speak English and she could let us stay for a while. I still looked at the plane tickets, they were fantastically cheap, so we flew to the Netherlands.

    Actually since then, it was March 15, we are in the Netherlands. We lived for about two weeks in the city of Almelo, at this girl’s house. There the children felt ill again, there was a stress of moving, all this had an affect on them, we had a hard time through this period.

    I needed to continue searching for a place to live, because I did not feel my personal space, the children were emotionally exhausted, Stepan continued to have temper tantrums.

    Then many housing assistance groups were created, I texted many of them and miraculously found a woman who could help us. She had a farm and a summer house in Oosterwolde, where we could stay.

    So, on April 4 we moved there. When I went to the Netherlands, I read a lot of posts that even the locals had nowhere to live, like, people shouldn’t come there, because everything was crowded. I can’t really give a certain answer about whether it’s worth coming here. “Yes and no”. Because if you search and communicate, there is always a chance to find people with whom you will get on well.

    The city of Oosterwolde in the Netherlands, where Daryna lives with her children

    The city of Oosterwolde in the Netherlands, where Daryna lives with her children

    The farm is located in the middle of fields in the north of the Netherlands. It takes 15 minutes by bike to the village, where there is infrastructure. Vira goes to school in another village, and it is also a 15-minute bicycle ride. Stepan has the opportunity to go to kindergarten twice a week at noon. Kindergartens in the Netherlands are very expensive, there are no free ones, but Ukrainians were allowed to attend kindergarten because of the situation we have and I am very grateful for that. There is a wonderful education system, children have adapted quickly and are happy to attend school and kindergarten, this is a great support for me. I see that the children are well here and I am glad that they are not in the urban jungle, but in the natural one. And I’m lucky to have great people to stay with, where we’re living now. We get on really well.

    An open-ended story

    As I had rested from the constant roads and moving, my husband texted me that he wanted to divorce. It hit me a lot, because I just started feeling secure when the kids were settled and I could start thinking about myself. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who is going through the same as I am, divorce is really a hard thing in the midst of the war. I hold on only because of the people’s support, communication and psychotherapy that I attend now.

    However, my story is open-ended. I planned to return to Cherkasy before, but now I have nowhere to return. I have no home or work so far too. In addition, I checked the cost of renting apartments in Cherkasy, it has increased a lot.

    “I’m a person who is used to planning everything, to organize, and now not everything depends on me and that’s why I’m just trying to be here, to get the support people give me”.

    There are very nice, tolerant people here, they support, but in a very soft and discreet way, you can tell them no, if you do not need any help now, you can safely ask for something. It is a very mature and tolerant society and I am pleased to be here. So now I just live every day without plans for the future, and it’s a completely new experience for me.

    Now I have started attending meetings for Ukrainian women living in the surrounding villages, helping them with translation, keeping in mind what a good thing is when you can speak English. Because English is a path to independence and the opportunity to help others.

    As much as I can, I introduce local people to Ukrainian culture, because I really want them to know about us not only from military news. And while the world has interest and is open to Ukraine, I want to show the depth and diversity of our country and people.

    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: Inna Molchanova | Translation:

    Ukrainians abroad

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