АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Kateryna Doroshenko
19 July 2022
Iryna Tarasenko managed to leave Kyiv on March 4th with her daughters and granddaughter. The family evacuated to Western Ukraine in a completely jammed train. Then they decided to go to Poland. According to Irina, their departure took place at the peak, when more than 100,000 people crossed the border. Now Iryna is in Wroclaw, where there are many Ukrainians, who were very warmly received by the Polish people.
Before the war, I lived in Kyiv and I used to work as a chief accountant in companies that provided service of renting property for use. Now there is no work, because the companies which I worked for, in particular, were engaged in renting premises in Irpin and they simply burned down. There are no job prospects in Wroclaw yet.
For some reason, I was very skeptical about the probable start of the war. Of course, I heard that there was a threat, but I believed that nowadays they don’t fight other people with tanks and don’t run around with machine guns. It was like a movie for me. I thought that there would be some cyber-attacks, or, let’s say, something more modern. And I didn’t even think about the fact that tanks and other weapons would be used. I was sure that this wouldn’t happen! That there would never be any “Battle of Stalingrad”. I decided that for myself at that stage for some reason.
So, in the morning of February 24, I was in a state of some embarrassment. They called me and said that the war had started. I couldn’t realize that this was really happening. Then we all woke up, started looking somewhere, looking for some information. Our house is located closer to the Odesa highway. For some reason, I did not hear any explosions. Of course, I felt confused. I could not understand: how could this happen and what to do in such a situation? Before the war, of course, I watched some articles about what should be with me, about the “anxious suitcase”, but I didn’t prepare for it in particular. There were some stocks, rather for peace of mind, and not because I would actually need them.
In the first days of the war in the Sviatoshyn district (where we live), I heard more than I saw. No one particularly went outside.
“There is a bomb shelter in the building, where we went down and spent the night there. We also spent the night near the elevators, we have a large area there where we can hide”.
All this time, the feeling of fear and confusion didn’t leave me. I thought about what to do next and how to protect myself.
I left Kyiv on March 4, together with my two daughters and a granddaughter. The first time we tried to leave was on March 2. We arrived at the railway station, but we didn’t manage to board a train. We planned to travel by an evacuation train “Kyiv-Warsaw”. But, for some reason, it was not allowed to board. We found out about it when we reached the platform. And it was difficult, because there were a lot of people. It was physically and psychologically difficult, because the crowd was moving in one big wave. It was not easy even to stand on my feet. But when we reached the platform, the soldiers came out and said: “The train will not depart, leave!” Then we had to get home from the station in 15 minutes, because the curfew was supposed to be at 8 o’clock at that time.
A day later, on March 4, we tried to leave again, but this train was not there again. We decided not to return, but to take any train that came to arrive. It was a train to Chernivtsi. We had no plan or route. We just got on the train, which arrived at the platform. There were a lot of people in the carriages, there were no free seats. Not on the floor, not on the shelves (even on the third one). While travelling, we monitored various volunteer links where we could stop. We came across one recreation center in Ivano-Frankivsk. We got there, but there were no conditions at all – there was a small room of nine square meters. Besides, it was quite expensive. Therefore, we spent the night and decided that we should go abroad.
We went to Lviv and from there we went to Poland. Near the railway station there was a bus departure to the Polish border. There was a very long line: hundreds of people, maybe even up to a thousand… One bus ticket cost 1,200 or 1,300 hryvnias. We stood at the border for ten hours. Then I learned that March 6-8 was the peak. It seems that 120,000 people were allowed to cross the border in one day. All the time we were standing in line, we were monitoring where we should go next. We understood that after crossing the border, volunteers would meet us again and guide us, but we were looking for it ourselves. At some stage, our acquaintance from Wroclaw found us an apartment. Thus, our journey lasted four days: we left Kyiv on the 4th, and were in Wroclaw on the 8th of March.
In Poland, the most difficult thing was to understand that you are not at home. As if you are in Europe, but it is not because of your choice. I dreamed of going abroad for vacation in the spring, but that was my conscious choice when I wanted to go somewhere myself. And so, I left, and no one asked me if I wanted to do so, that’s how life happened to be. It was difficult to accept the fact that you go not because you want to, but because you have to.
There are a lot of our people in Wroclaw, the Ukrainian language is heard almost everywhere. So far, it’s free to travel for us. The transport system is very well developed here. The city itself is very beautiful, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Kyiv. It’s green here, there are many parks, rivers… I can say that the attitude towards Ukrainians is good. The family that gave us an apartment treats us very well and helps us in everything. I needed to see a dentist, so I found one and I also managed to find a nurse who speaks Ukrainian. The grandchildren also found a children’s dental clinic, where they were admitted for free. There is also aid from the UN, which was given to us for three months. It is not a problem to get along in shops or elsewhere, because Ukrainian and Polish languages are very similar to each other. If you do not talk quickly, then it is quite possible to have some communication.
Of course, I want to go home, but I hear information from the media that not everything is clear yet and the situation is very unstable. That’s why we haven’t decided what to do next. Most likely, we will still be in Poland in the summer. Perhaps during this time I understood for myself that life cannot be postponed for later.
There are many factors that you are not asked and what you want may never happen. If there is a dream and a desire, then one must stick to the way of living “now and today”.
I believe that Ukraine will be prosperous after the war. It is difficult now, and the economic situation will be even worse in the future. But, I want to believe that it’s not all in vain and we will definitely survive this! We will definitely not disappear from the map and the globe: as we were Ukrainians, so we will remain to be ones!
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: Kateryna Doroshenko