АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation:
19 July 2022
Before the war, Olga Markutsa lived with her children in Skadovsk. On February 24, she received a message that russian tanks were entering from the Crimean side. The woman instantly decided to leave with the children, escaping together from the occupation. The story of four days in a car, rocket attacks on the road and the birthday of a daughter on the Ukrainian-Polish border was told by the “Monologues of the War” project.
I’m a technical writer / BA in IT and a mother to three beautiful kids, living in Skadovsk, Kherson region. At least, we were living there, until the fully blown russian invasion made us flee to another country. It wasn’t more than a half of the year since we all settled with the painful divorce, and life started to seem finally okay. In the morning of February 24th, we had to leave our sweet home and all our pets behind to have a chance to survive russian aggression.
This text that I’d like to share with you has been written in the middle of March, those days when I started going back to a kind of normal life and the memories were still vibrant and detailed.
On Thursday February 24th, my colleagues woke me up at 6 a.m. with the message that russian tanks went through the border with the Kherson region from Crimea. I grabbed our documents, laptops and a few coats and brought the kids to the car right in their pajamas, literally wrapped in their blankets.
We left at 6.30 a.m. scared as hell with the thought that we might be late to drive over the bridge across Dnipro river, near Kherson, that connects our left-bank-part of Kherson region with the closest highway to Kyiv and Western Ukraine. At 7 a.m., the road between Skadovsk and Kherson was unusually full of cars, many of them at gas stations. We had our car half-tanked, 5 UAH in my pocket and a credit card and I was speeding as fast as possible. In an hour, we were already between Kherson and Mykolaiv, where we finally found the gas station that took cards (almost all bank terminals were down). In that hour that we were driving away, russians shelled and shot all the military units in Skadovsk and Genichesk.
As soon as we reached Mykolaiv, russian forces had already shelled military units in Mykolaiv, and we had to wait 3 hours in the traffic jam because everyone who could leave, were leaving Mykolaiv, and still everyone gave way to military cars and trucks with goods and gas. After Mykolaiv, we turned to drive to Kropyvnytskyi. While driving, we saw huge fires somewhere around Mykolaiv. In the news, there was still nothing about the russian army invading the Kherson region.
We left Kropyvnytskyi 24 February nearly at 3 p.m., and at that time the first security checkpoints started to appear around the cities. I drove to Uman with the hope to stay in Ivano-Frankivsk. At gas stations, diesel fuel was already limited in quantity, no more than 10 liters to one car. The highway was more or less free. When we reached Uman, russians started shelling military units in Uman. We were driving through the major roundabout near Kyiv and turning to Vinnytsia when I saw several huge missile strikes with loud explosions near or right in Uman. Luckily, my younger kid was already sleeping but the oldest son noticed the scene, maybe because of my OMG shoutout. The highway was already jammed and our Ukrainian forces were in place, helping and directing all of us. Because of safety reasons and possible shelling we were all directed to turn South. So thousands of cars were driving in one direction. At midnight, we reached the town of Bershad in Vinnytsia region. I went to ask local people how to drive to Vinnytsia because I lost my way completely.
I’m deeply grateful to my colleague who persuaded me to stay overnight and found the place for us twice, and helped us a lot in Ivano-Frankivsk, which we finally reached. At midnight, on the roads of Vinnytsia region, the people whom I didn’t know at all, helped us to reach our stay, and it was precious and magical.
At that time I was driving from 6.30 a.m. to midnight with no rest. Lily from Gaysin was very kind to host us for the night and it was at her place that we watched the news for the first time. That bridge across Dnipro river near Kherson was shelled. We learned it was the curfew. And we realized how lucky we were. The next morning at 7 a.m., we left Gaysin for Ivano-Frankivsk through Khmelnitskiy and Ternopil. I found a gas station that was selling diesel – it was possible only in the morning. I learned that if you push the car from side to side, the tank will get more fuel. I needed more fuel though. I had no canister. So I poured diesel into plastic bottles. All the people who waited in line were really supportive, finding the bottles for me. Those people were from Kyiv and Donetsk, tired as hell but all driving to Western Ukraine.
The traffic jam to enter Khmelnitskiy took 3 hours, and the traffic jam to leave Khmelnitskiy took 5 more hours. We entered Ternopil when the curfew had already started. The entire city was completely dark. No shops that could sell us a bottle of water. No light in windows. Only darkness and the lights of cars who are driving to the West. We reached Ivano-Frankivsk at night at 1 a.m. and there were several times I caught microsleep episodes and opened my eyes half a meter from a roadside barrier – driving two days in the row was noticeable. But our hosts in Ivano-Frankivsk were waiting for us to help us get some rest. Thank you so much, Yura, Ira, Sasha and Lesia. You are incredible people!
So it was night, 1 a.m, Ivano-Frankivsk and my daughter’s birthday. She was turning 6. My heart was tearing apart when my daughter asked for a warm bed to sleep in for her birthday.
That same day, February 26. In the morning, Ivano-Frankivsk seemed totally fine. Everything worked! I was able to buy some food and water. I was able to get cash from an ATM. Gas stations were working! The supermarket was working as usual and real people were having their morning coffee. A scared tired woman, getting a lot of cash and food got a lot of surprised looks. We left Ivano-Frankivsk at 10 a.m.. The sirens were already on. Why did we leave? Ivano-Frankivsk is a gorgeous city but it didn’t feel safe.
“Early in the morning, military planes were flying over the city, and these planes were not Ukrainian. Those planes were russian. The sirens went on. So this meant that we might settle in the city and might need to leave again”.
I was really sorry about leaving Ivano-Frankivsk as it was the city that I dreamt of living in. But still, it was not our city.
On my daughter’s birthday, we left Ivano-Frankivsk for Ukraine-Poland border crossing point Smilnytsya Kroscienko. We all hoped that we would reach Poland at night at the latest. We could not have been more wrong. We entered Poland at 7 a.m. on March 1st, having spent three nights in the line to the border. It was frosty and snowy. And the heating in our car went off. It was the time that we were happy we had blankets and coats with us. And it was the time to learn that there are a lot of good people out there, as those people who lived in the villages near the border cooked hot meals for us, made us hot tea and coffee, provided us with sweaters and hoodies they could find. I am so grateful for that help! Local people in Western Ukraine, you are unbelievable! Thank you so much! There was only one small shop but there were a lot of people ready to help, and these people helped us to survive through this. On the first night at the border, we hoped we would pass fast the next day. The second night at the border we took all the clothes that the people offered us. The third night I was close to panicking and begged everyone for help. And we were helped.
Early in the morning, at the Poland border, we were welcomed by red-nosed and practically frozen colleague Waldek. It was the happy ending of one story and the beginning of another one. After living four days in the car and driving two days for more than 700 + kilometers per day, we found ourselves in a cozy warm hotel room, took a hot shower and used the towels that were warmed up for us! In the morning, we had a breakfast of several kinds of cooked eggs, meat, delicacies, fruits and vegetables, milk and chocolate and everything we could think about with the view of the center of Wroclaw.
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: