АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Anna Shliakhova
21 August 2022
Before the full-scale russian invasion Maryna Raduchych lived in Kramatorsk together with her husband and 2 children. She worked as a head of the department of Ukrposhta. On 26th of February her husband was mobilized to the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and Maryna with children left in Kramatorsk. The woman dared to escape after once she was going home during Air-Raid sirens and heard a strong explosion in the sky. A few days later Maryna with children evacuated by train to Lviv, then they went to Germany by bus and have stayed there till now. The woman has told the “Monologues of the War” project about the events of 2014 in Kramatorsk, the first day of the war of 2022, the difficult evacuation, and their life abroad.
I was born in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, where I was raised and have lived. Before the war I worked as a head of the department of Ukrposhta. I’m married and have 2 children. My eldest son is 19, and my daughter is almost 13. My husband serves in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Last time I saw him on the 26th of February, when he left. We were a typical family. We have a lot of animals and had to leave them with my parents. We left together with my daughter, because men over 18 aren’t allowed to leave the country. Of course, we had plans before the war, so we began to renovate our apartment. But all our plans collapsed in a moment.
In 2014 we also experienced the war in Kramatorsk. Back then we couldn’t believe in it either. We heard about explosions somewhere nearby. But our house is in the lowland district, though there was firing above us. We also decided to evacuate as we were under the occupation since April. We almost didn’t go outside due to the fear for our children who were small. So, we went out to the playground near the house only. I found people who helped with the evacuation. They made a list and we could have fled. We could send children to a summer camp and go to a sanatorium. It was easier back then, because we could go to any part of Ukraine. People in Ukraine lived peacefully and didn’t even realise what was going on here. My older child went to a summer camp in the Mykolaiv region. My friend and I called that camp and asked for work there to be closer to our children. We got there on our own. First, we bought bus tickets to Kharkiv, from there we went to the Mykolaiv region. We drove through fields and checkpoints. It was scary to see familiar faces at the DNR checkpoints. These people could dig a garden in exchange for a bottle of vodka the day before, and they were given the weapons and behaved like they were the masters of the land. We saw those faces and couldn’t understand anything. ” What have you achieved in life so far? What have you ever seen?” It was totally different at the AFU checkpoint. They asked us how we felt, and if we needed water or something else? We were so grateful to them for they had not left us alone. That’s when I started to identify myself as a Ukrainian. Though we all have been frightened by “Zapadentsi” (people from the west of Ukraine-Transl.). People who have never left the Donetsk region firmly believed that Banderites drink baby blood and so on.
When we came to the summer camp, there was a festival. It was the last day and the management decided to do some fireworks. There were so many people who experienced firing, who hid in basements, but still they decided to do it. In reaction to it I crouched down and hid automatically. People there looked at me strangely as it was just a firework. But for me it wasn’t just a firework. We heard explosions and the Grad-system firing at home.
On 24th of February my daughter was the first to wake up. We have a 2-room apartment and one of the rooms was renovated. So, we all slept in one room. She woke up and asked me: “Momy, is that the way?” Half asleep my husband and I told her that it wasn’t and that was nothing to worry about. Then I heard more explosions and realised that it was. All our money was on the card. On the 23th of February I thought that I wouldn’t have withdrawn money from the card that evening, I would better do it the next morning. On February 24, in the morning my husband was running around the city trying to withdraw the money, and it took 3 hours of queuing. On 26th February he already left, because he is from the Dnipro region and he had to appear at the local draft board. The first week we were so scared, though I even took my daughter to work with me. My older son also worked, and I didn’t want to leave her home alone. After I left her with a neighbour who lost his job due to the war. We left thanks to my daughter, because she insisted on it. She said: “Mama, we need to go. I am scared”. Besides, a military unit was located nearby. I postponed our departure several times because I couldn’t just give up my work. Also, it was scary to go anywhere, because there was no safe place in Ukraine, and no one was waiting for us in the West of Ukraine.
Once I locked the department and was running from work, when I heard the air-raid siren. I thought I had time, because our home was just a few minutes away. But it seemed to me that I was in one place. When our house was only 100 meters away, I heard such powerful explosions that I crouched down. Later I discovered that it was the air defence system in action. That moment I promised myself not to run across the streets during the air-raid sirens. Also, I decided to flee by train on Saturday after work. But, on Friday evening the train was cancelled due to the lack of passengers. I realised that there was no time to wait and we had to leave immediately. I called my chef and told her that I wouldn’t come to work the next day, because I was about to leave the city.
A friend of mine, together with her daughters left with us. We decided to go abroad after we would leave my eldest son in Lviv. When we came to the railway station, there were already a lot of people. It was on 12th of March; the morning was freezing cold — 17 degree Celsius. We were told that only hand luggage was allowed. All big bags were to be thrown out of trains as there was no place for people. I took one suitcase at my own risk, and fortunately we were allowed to take it with us.
Still, the road was very hard. A train conductor counted in our second-class train car about 250 people. We thought the train would be empty, but there were people evacuated from Severodonetsk. Almost all the seats were already occupied. 4 people sat on each lower bench, 2 people slept on each upper bench, even children were placed on the third luggage shelf so that they could lie down. There was no electricity in our coach. There was no electricity in the carriage. It was very stuffy. We opened the door into the tambour, but the conductor told us that he would catch a cold from the drain and closed the door. We invited him to our compartment where he could “warm up”, because there was no air to breathe. We went through Kharkiv and Kyiv. It was so scary in Kharkiv due to the constant shelling, and we spent about 2 hours while the locomotive was changed. More people came into the train at two more stations before Kharkiv, after which we didn’t take anyone due to the lack of space. When we came to Kyiv in the morning, it became calmer. It was nice that when we came to the railway station in Rivne, our soldiers and volunteers immediately appeared with water and food. Though, they were preparing to meet our train. They totally dispelled the myth about “Zapadentsi”.
Our way to Lviv took more than 24 hours. We came there at about 18, it was already getting dark. We didn’t know what to do and where to go. My friends already told me that we had to go to the district administration where they could find accommodation for us. We arrived there at about 11 p.m. They put us in a minibus and took us to a sports complex with mats and mattresses in the middle of the hall. It was the place where people could spend a night. We stayed there 4 days, because I had to find a place in Lviv for my eldest child.
He had already been working in an Ukrposhta office. Ukrposhta CEO Igor Smelyansk announced that every displaced worker could work in any other city. My son called the Lviv HR department, and they gave him a job.
We asked at the sports complex how we could go further. We were told to wait for a bus. People, who set up the shelter, would also find a bus to the border with Poland. Later we were told that there would be a bus and it would cost 500 hryvnas. All that time my friend and I had doubts, because we didn’t know where to go. We had been at the railway station and had seen those huge queues for free trains that could last for 2-3 days. So, we thought that ₴ 500 per person wasn’t so big deal. And we went by bus to Przemyśl. We decided to leave with the first bus so we didn’t have to stay overnight at the bus station. We saw 3 buses to Germany from the Red Cross, though we went there.
We have been in Germany since the 18th of March. Thanks to the Germans we are not hungry and have housing. We begin every morning with the news and end every day with a prayer. Many people close to me are left in Kramatorsk and all over Ukraine. Sadly, there is no safe place in Ukraine now. Vinnytsia, Kremenchuck and other cities were a demonstration of this. The tragedy of each city or a village hurts me, as I know well what it is. My parents bought a cottage in Yatzke village this summer. They began to renovate it, put all their savings into it. Now this village no longer exists, it is simply wiped off the face of the earth. It was just a small settlement in the middle of the forest with no infrastructure except a shop. In 2014 many people were hiding there. This year people also went there not even realizing that they would have to flee from there as well.
Kramatorsk’s authorities still urge residents to flee. I, too, think that it would be better to flee especially for those who have children. My parents resisted fleeing the city for a long time and I couldn’t convince them over the phone. Then I called my eldest brother who lives in Kyiv. I told him that something had to be done about it. So, he warned our parents: “I’m coming for you, pack your things”. By the time he came, they were ready and also packed all our animals. He took them to the Dnipro region, but I still worry. Now it’s quiet there, but who knows? Many people stay in Kramatorsk hoping to escape the war at the last moment. And as anywhere there are some collaborators who hope for their best. But mostly people stay because they think: “Nobody needs us anywhere else”. They say they don’t have money.
But the road cost only ₴ 1000 for me and my child. All the rest was free. So, if you finally decide to flee, you will definitely flee. In addition, local authorities and volunteers announce free evacuation to Germany, Poland, and other countries.
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: Anna Shliakhova