АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentina Mykhaylova
27 September 2022
Alla Kholmovska lived in Kharkiv for the last 25 years. On February 24, the woman left the city because she lives in Saltivka, one of the most dangerous districts of Kharkiv. Alla moved to Lviv and immediately began her volunteer work. At first she helped to make sandwiches for passengers of the Lviv railway station, and later she started raising funds for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Now it is a cause to which Alla devotes herself completely. The woman told her story exclusively for the “War Monologues” project.
I am from Poltava region, but I have lived in Kharkiv for the last 25 years. We moved here in 1997 and have lived there since then. I am educated as a lawyer, I worked for a long time in the governmental structure – in the court. In 2015, I resigned from the civil service. The circumstances were different, but the most important was the war that began in 2014.
Since 2014, my husband has been at war, so it was psychologically difficult for me. Since 2015 I have worked as a lawyer, but creativity and yoga helped me to get out of this difficult psychological state. I was engaged in legal activities rather out of necessity and paid more attention to creativity and self-development.
My husband is a military man and for 8 years I lived in this state. We understood that there would be war and we were already talking about what we would do when it started. We knew that in this case we should collect documents, take the cat, contact the children and leave. The children’s apartment is located on Northern Saltovka, and mine is on Saltovka. These are the most dangerous districts of Kharkiv and we knew it all before the war. But, of course, none of us expected it to be on such a scale. Even the military did not expect it to be like this. Therefore, a few days before the war, I was living my life, but I already had documents in a folder and I knew that in case of emergency I had to contact my children so that my son and his family could pick me up. We already had such an agreement and we knew how we would act.
But I continued to live on, my creativity only increased. I had ideas about paintings that I would paint with a new method. A few days before the war, my husband came for three days. He bought me a lot of paint for my work that I was planning. On the 23rd of February, in order not to think about it, I tore off the wallpaper, primed the wall and on the 24th of February I was preparing to do something further with it. But then I sat down to watch the news. I watched them until three in the morning. When I listened to it all, I realized that tomorrow we would most probably be leaving.
On February 24, we woke up hearing these terrible sounds. My son could not come, but we met at another place and left the same day. It was good that we managed to leave because my son lives in an area where it would have been difficult to evacuate. Our first plan was to go to my mother, who lives in the Poltava region. But she lives in a city where there is a military airfield. We thought that if they hit it once, they would not hit it again. But while we were driving, it was hit four more times. Halfway to my mother, we changed our mind and went to a distant village to visit relatives, where we stayed for 10 days. Of course, all this time we were following the situation, watching the news. Then our friends invited us to Lviv. At that time, the situation was still unclear as to what could happen next. We were in a place where anything could happen. So, we accepted the invitation of our friends and went to Lviv. At first we lived with our friend’s mother for some time, and then we started looking for an apartment.
To be honest, since 2015 I have not used the word “volunteer” in my vocabulary at all. I do not like it, because at some point some people just devalued it. And therefore, I have never used this word and do not use it in relation to myself. I started helping the military in 2014. At first, it was the aid within the subdivision in which my husband was. At first, there were no meetings. Of course, all the money we had was spent on everything we needed, but I was not engaged in collecting money. The funds were sent only from our family, and the families in general. We also helped with food. Then at some point my husband said that they had enough food and no more help was needed.
The question of what to do after February 24 was not even a question for me. Even when we were visiting relatives in the village, we already understood that we had to do something and defend our country as soon as we could. We came to the village council, showed up, said that we were ready to help if necessary. When I was going to Lviv, I also understood for myself that immediately after my arrival I would look for an organization that deals with assistance. We arrived in Lviv on March 8, and on March 9 I was already at the headquarters, which was located next to my house. In this headquarters we were making sandwiches for people who were evacuated from the Lviv railway station. People spontaneously gathered and began to help. At first it was some simple help, but when they found out that the station was in chaos and it was not clear what was happening, they took control of the situation. Our association is called “5th platform”, because at first it was just people from the fifth platform who helped. We had 6 thousand sandwiches a day (about 15 boxes, 3 times a day), tea, and psychologists. At first, people stayed there all day – for 3-4 days, then we started to have shifts. That is, here I made only sandwiches. Apparently, my body, after the stress, worked in such a way that I needed to cut, make, teach something…
Then about 1.5-2 months passed, the active phase of evacuation of people was over and the administration told us: “Thank you! Goodbye! We will continue on our own”. Well, as it generally happens. Then we started thinking about what to do next. In order to have more directions and opportunities to help, we created foundations and a public organization.
Now we continue to work in different directions. Specifically, my direction is assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It was not even discussed at all. It was a purposeful goal that I chose for myself. We also have a public organization that deals with some other projects, such as helping children and finding jobs for IDPs, providing shelters. But specifically my direction is to help the Armed Forces. I am looking for funds, I am engaged in humanitarian aid to the frontline regions and regions after the occupation. I raise funds, do everything I can within my capabilities. Now the help is my main employment, to which I fully devote myself.
Not so long ago I was in Kharkiv, meeting with my husband. It was a very painful moment for me, because I really want to go home. Kharkiv is a very clean city, this is one of its features. What struck me in Lviv is that there are no garbage bins, you have to look for them. We arrived on August 23, before Independence Day. Since there was an increased threat in those days, of course, there was a serious control at the entrance to the city. I had the impression that you were returning from some trip or from the sea, it was dawn, not all people had gathered yet… If you do not pass by broken and ruined buildings, you will not say that Kharkiv is a frontline city. The grass is cut everywhere, the city is tidy, clean, there is not even a single piece of paper anywhere. Maybe it is good that my eyesight is not very good and I just did not see some of the broken buildings.
We drove through the center, there were practically no people there, but this was due to the fact that Kharkiv residents tried to go a little further on these dates. But when we came to our district – Saltivka, we saw that there were still many people there. Especially near supermarkets, at our market… That is, people continue to live. My friends with whom I worked in court continue to live and even work in these dangerous areas of Kharkiv. Our people, as well as our warriors, are made of steel! They cannot be broken. It inspired me so much that I was not afraid to be in Kharkiv at all. I can say that I was scarier in Lviv than in Kharkiv than when I was there.
People believe that they are protected by walls in their homes. Our apartment in Kharkiv is fine now, I do not know about the children, because we did not go to that area. Although, they say that it flew into the yards and entrances nearby. In general, we went to Kharkiv because of business and to meet with my husband, not to look at the condition of the apartments. Honestly, housing is the last thing I think about now. The main thing is that everyone is alive and healthy. As soon as my husband allows me, we will return home immediately. Because I already want to go. But I understand that in Lviv I have more opportunities to help, in terms of finding something for our military.
I cannot say that after February 24 something changed for me in terms of values, because their rethinking took place for me in 2014. Actually, because of that it was difficult for me then, even later, in 2015, 2016 and that’s why I quit my job then. In addition, it was difficult for me to be in my environment at that time. I cannot be around people who do not look in the same direction as me. Therefore, everything changed for me in 2014, and now these values and views have only taken root and have taken a concrete form.
I believe that after the victory Ukraine will be strong and united, because I see how our people have changed. Even those Kharkiv citizens, whom I saw before February 24, have now changed their outlook – thoughts, views and beliefs. It is a huge pity that it all happened at such a price. No matter what “he” (the dwarf fucker) does (sorry, I don’t even want to dirty my mouth with his name), all this only makes us stronger! After our victory, we will be strong, free and united, because this is our strength. We will be proud of our country as the whole world is already proud of it.
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: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentina Mykhaylova
“In someone else’s house, without a basement, I brought my children to their death – that was what echoed in my head as I was crying my eyes out” – the story of a woman who, together with her children, escaped from occupied Kherson