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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Olena Holubenko

    “I realized that I have no right to break my child’s psyche” — woman from Cherkasy tells about evacuation to Spain

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Iryna Semenova | Translation: Vira Repchuk

    10 October 2022

    Olena Holubenko, escaping from the war, traveled through three countries and ended up in Spain. Olena told “Monologues of War” about the most difficult journey in her life with her 3-year-old son, socialization and new Spanish family.

    I felt that there would be a full-scale war at the end of last year. And I made a wish for the New Year — that there would be no war. Since the beginning of January, my anxiety has increased. I constantly talked to my husband about it, and asked him to go abroad for at least a few months, at least until spring. And I even had a nightmare shortly before the war started: planes, bombs, air strikes… It was very scary. Therefore, for me personally, the full-scale invasion was not a shock. But it definitely made me stop and reconsider my life.

    February 24th started for me with a call from my husband’s mother. Early in the morning my mother-in-law called us with the words: “Children, the war has started, try to leave the country!”. My husband and I immediately began to follow the news, but there was a kind of stupor. There were a lot of questions in my head: what to do? Where to go? What to do with the child? We need to pack the necessary things. 

    To be honest, at first I did not think about leaving at all. I immediately told my husband that we would be only together. But a few days later, when we left the city for the village of my parents, when missiles were flying over us for the first time, and we were sitting in a cold cellar and entertaining the child by counting beans, I realized that I have no right to break my son’s psyche. I am responsible for him and we do not know what will happen next. Then a thought began to form in my head: “Maybe we should leave?”

    You just leave, and you don’t know where

    It didn’t take us long to decide where to go. Just then my old friend, who has been living in Spain for a long time, wrote to me that she always waits for us at her place and that there is help there.

    Read also: “We are losing the information war, in Italy for sure,” – the story of a woman from Cherkasy, who has lived with her children in Europe for five months

    Still when I remember the road to Spain, I get goosebumps.  I can’t believe I survived it all, because it was the hardest trip of my life. With a 3-year-old child (who is also hyperactive and my husband and I often could not cope with him), you just go and do not know where. Where you will sleep, what to eat. In Poland we were sheltered by volunteers, extraordinary people, and wonderful conditions. We had the opportunity to rest for 1.5 days before the decisive journey. Then — a constant change of route, we chose them at random, just to get there faster. We went through Germany, changing up to 10 trains. My goal was to get to the airport in Berlin, from where the people we were going to had already bought us plane tickets. In Germany, people who cared also helped a little, but the volunteer movement was not as active there at that time as in Poland. We flew from Berlin for four hours by plane. And now we are in Madrid, where we were also met and helped to buy bus tickets to our destination. Our trip took six days in total.

    A Spanish family with tears in their eyes asked us to stay

    Now we live in the north of Spain. We were very lucky with the people who took us in. We live with a Spanish family, in a private house with a swimming pool. We were given the third floor with two rooms. When we arrived, there was everything we needed for me and my son, even underwear of the right size. I was just in shock! I still can’t believe that now we have another family besides our family back home. These people are extraordinary and even when I decided to look for a rented apartment and we started to go to viewings, my Spanish family tearfully asked us to stay as long as we wanted. They are very used to us and treat us like family. So we still live as one Ukrainian-Spanish family!

    As for my socialization, it is still going on. Since we live in a small town, there is no Ukrainian diaspora here. But I helped my friend to come here with her child, who now lives in a neighboring town. So I have a friend from my hometown here. And I have enough Spanish friends! The neighbors, friends of my Spanish family, have become our friends and we celebrate birthdays and holidays together. 

    The Holubenko family

    Olena Holubenko with her husband and son

    I was very impressed by these people, their sincerity, openness and desire to help. I could never imagine that complete strangers, and even with the language barrier, could become so close and dear. The most valuable thing we can all find in life is people.

    We do not plan to return yet 

    Since I work remotely, we have not had any problems with money. I fully provide myself and my child with clothes, food and everything that is necessary. At first, the family in which we live helped. They bought food, took us to the refugee center, where we could take some clothes. We never took food on social assistance, I believe that it is better to let those who really need it use the help. Now we organize our own leisure, go to visit our relatives.

    We do not plan to return yet. Although we miss our family very much, but I understand that now the child is better and safer here. So we live here today without making any plans.

    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 Semenova | Translation: Vira Repchuk

    Ukrainians abroad

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