АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk
9 September 2022
Until 2014, Vita Abashydze lived in Horlivka. Then, together with her family, she was forced to leave the city for the first time. The family believed that Horlivka would soon return under the control of Ukraine, so they settled nearby, in Kramatorsk. Here, Vita began to be very socially active. On February 24, 2022, she woke up to powerful explosions at the local airfield. Together with other women from her public organization, she hoped to hide from the war in Sviatohirsk, but a few days later the city was bombed, not far from the camp where Vita was. Together with her son and mother she returned to Kramatorsk, but had to leave the city due to constant air raids. First they left for Poland, and now they are in Georgia, where Vita’s husband has been since February 20. The woman told her story exclusively for the “Monologues of the War” website.
My name is Vita Abashydze. I am from the city of Horlivka. Until 2014, I worked as a private entrepreneur, I had my own business — a wholesale and retail store. But in 2014 everything changed — I was forced to abandon everything and leave the city with my child, husband and mother. We were in Mariupol, Kyiv, and Kharkiv. Then we moved to Kramatorsk, because it was the closest to Horlivka. And we hoped that we would definitely come back, because everything remained there – our apartments, businesses… But, unfortunately, this did not happen, because the DNR gang formations stayed there. So, we did not return and rented housing in Kramatorsk. There I was engaged in social activities, and also helped my husband to manage his accounting, because I have an accounting education. I met many people there. In the public organization, I was in the council of the IDPs, which was formed under the city council. It included public activists who, together with local authorities, tried to do something for internally displaced persons. The work was difficult, because not everyone understood why they needed us. After all, we did not have an official status and we were not even able to participate in local elections until the last ones. I also headed the public association “The Power of Parental Opportunities” — an association of mothers who have children with disabilities and special educational needs. For almost 2 years, I coordinated the pilot project “Inclusive services for all”. Also, until February 24, I was engaged in online logistics services. My life changed radically, but until February 24, I was happy, because it was very comfortable in Kramatorsk and the city has changed a lot since 2014. Much has been done.
The events of 2014 were unexpected for me, because I still had high hopes for the intelligence of our people. I also spoke Russian (I switched to Ukrainian after February 24), I knew Ukrainian, but it was difficult to speak it. I studied Ukrainian at school, but the lessons were in Russian. My higher education was in Russian as well. Therefore, it can be difficult to express myself in Ukrainian. But, I have always loved Ukraine very much. My husband was a citizen of Georgia, but in 2008 he accepted the citizenship of Ukraine. Since my husband and I have known each other since 2005, I often visited Georgia and even lived there. In 2008, literally a day before the war, we left the country with a small child. We were visiting a grandmother, who lived 10 kilometers from Poti. Bombardment began there, as soon as we arrived at Horlivka. It was a horror for us. Then everything ended quickly, but not in Georgia’s favor. Therefore, in 2014, I set Georgia as an example for everyone. As a child, I was also in Abkhazia in 1991, just before the war. And I told everyone at that time that it mustn’t be like that, no “LNR ” or “DNR”, because what was happening there then was terrible. But, unfortunately, many people in our country were determined to separate from Ukraine and that russia would take them.
Until July 24, I was in Horlivka and was still doing business. There were raids, Roshen shop windows were destroyed. We have been through a lot. Then the hostilities were more intense in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, but, unfortunately, they came to us as well. A bridge was destroyed in Mykytivka and Horlivka was cut off from Artemivsk, so there was only one way left – to Mariupol. Therefore, we decided to evacuate, because everyone expected that it would be very difficult. There were a lot of the russian army and Chechens in Horlivka. There were more and more of them, so it became more and more difficult. So, on July 24, we were forced to leave. And then we had to start everything from scratch. It was not easy, because both our child and we were used to another reality. In addition, the government did not help at that time. Payments began only in October, but they were small and did not cover any expenses. We survived on our own, because we had some savings. Then we started working and getting back on our feet.
I did not believe in a full-scale war until the very end. On February 23, together with the girls from the NGO “The Power of Parental Opportunities”, which I lead, we were on the square at a rally in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
All 8 years we waited for Horlivka to return, we really wanted it. Although, to be honest, I don’t quite understand how this is possible, because the people who stayed there have a completely different vision. They really hate Ukraine and everything related to it. Until 2019, I used to go there once a year to visit my grandmother’s grave. All the friends I had until 2014 in Horlivka accused me of being pro-Ukrainian and wrote me many disgusting words on social networks. They all hate Ukraine, because local television is built on it. Even now they believe that we started the war, that we bomb ourselves and that kind of things. Therefore, I somehow let go of Horlivka, because I understand that it will be very difficult for me and my child to live there and communicate with these people. Although there are people in Horlivka who are waiting for Ukraine, but there are very few of them. As a matter of fact, people in Horlivka simply survived, because salaries were very low there. The standard of living is also low. It seems that the city has moved back 20 years. Even local television seems to transport you to the times of the Soviet Union.
My apartment in Kramatorsk is near the airport, and on February 24, 2022, I woke up to very loud explosions. I didn’t fully understand that the war had started, I wanted to hope that it was all a dream. But I turned on the TV and saw that the whole Ukraine was being bombed and that the missiles had hit many airfields. We understood that we had to leave, because everyone said that the fiercest battles would take place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And the idea immediately came to me that I should go to Sviatohirsk, because in 2014 it was a hub for displaced people. It was quiet and there was no shelling there. As the head of a public association, I started calling the departments and asking what our actions should be. Because there are many children on the autistic spectrum in our organization. It is very difficult for them to listen to all these loud noises, they perceive the world in a different way. War is much harder for them than for other people. Unfortunately, no one planned anything on February 24, everyone was in shock. They began to pull themselves together, but it was not entirely clear what to do next. Therefore, we decided to move. I have a friend in the USA who has a Christian association camp in Sviatohirsk. I called her and took the children with their mothers. We were given the first floor of this camp. They helped us with money so that we could buy some necessary products. The first days were quiet, although we heard explosions from Kharkiv and Izyum. Of course, there was a hype with gasoline. On February 24, I managed to refuel a full tank in our cars, so I had enough, because we did not plan to go anywhere further. But then planes started flying over Sviatohirsk. We spent several days on the floor. The second floor of the camp was rented out by the Sviatohirsk City Council, and there were guys from the territorial defense unit who helped us.
But when the planes were flying, we all were lying together on the first floor, covering the children with ourselves. On the third day, unfortunately, there was an attack on the “Perlyny Donechchyny” (“Pearls of Donetsk region”, amusement park in Sviatohirsk), which was located nearby. It was terrifying, because a very large missile hit it. It was very scary for us and the children. Thank God that our building was the farthest from that place. In the morning, when I came out, I saw that a lot of our camp had been destroyed. Some buildings were left without windows and roofs. I imagine what happened to the amusement park, because there was a lot of wreckage in our camp.
They also hit the Sviatohirska Lavra. Little by little, the girls decided to leave for the city, because it was scary to stay. Then, when the bridge on Bogorodychny was blown up, they realized that they had to leave immediately, because there was only one road left. We left, everyone in different directions. Some to Poland, some to Germany, some to the west of Ukraine.
I had no plans where to go. My husband was in Georgia because his mother died on February 20 and he was at the funeral. When we returned to Kramatorsk, it was somehow so nice in the apartment, so homely and cozy, and we didn’t want to go anywhere. But my child has health issues and he became very anxious because of the constant sirens. And I was worried about him. Therefore, we stayed in Kramatorsk for about a week, but because it was loud and scary, one day we just jumped on the evacuation train and went to Lviv. Another mother with her children went with us, and thanks to the Red Cross, we moved across the border to Poland. We didn’t know where to go, I was in shock. Although I have a lot of connections, at that time my brain was completely turned off. I was outraged, because I hadn’t believed that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. Volunteers met us at the border and took us under their care. My mother’s legs failed. They carried her in their arms. Until we recovered a little, we were helped by people of Poland, to whom I am very grateful. We were in the town of Tarnov, where we were welcomed by a family who gave us their apartment. This is a young couple, the husband is a pastor of a Protestant church. They welcomed us very warmly. Even my dog had food, a sleeping pad and everything necessary.
We lived there for a month and a half, and then decided to go to my husband in Georgia, where we are now. A humanitarian organization from the USA helped me get from Poland to Georgia, because the tickets were very expensive. They bought tickets for me, my child, my mother and even my dog. There are many animal programs abroad. When I left, there were explosions everywhere in Kramatorsk and I couldn’t even find my dog’s passport. She was already chipped and vaccinated in Poland.
I liked Poland for its openness and the fact that people are very helpful. You can get lots of help from different organizations there. I had a dream that after the end of the war, many people will come to visit us, because I want to show them that we also have a beautiful country and we are also open to communication. In Georgia, it is a little more difficult, because there are different views in the society. The government is trying to stay out of this situation. Some people are very supportive of Ukraine and our people, they are ready to donate the last things they own, and others say that we should just give russia what they want. It infuriates me and I try not to talk with such people. Now we are in Georgia, we have a house in the village, but it is in the mountains. We are looking for housing in a city, because our son needs to continue studying. Housing here is very expensive. But we decided to stay here for the time being so that our child would be in peace and quiet. Due to the state of his health, we cannot return under the sirens. I would love to come back to Ukraine, but for now I have to stay in Georgia.
One of the advantages of Georgia is that a school has already opened in Tbilisi, where teaching is exclusively in Ukrainian, according to the Ukrainian curriculum and textbooks. That’s why I stayed, because my child is studying well. He is more of a mathematical mind and in Poland it was difficult for him to master languages. There we tried to go to a Polish school, and we were welcomed there very well, but it was very difficult for my son to adapt to a different teaching and a different language. It became difficult to study both in that school and online in the Ukrainian one. Therefore, we left the Polish school and studied only online. Now we really hope that such a school will also open in Batumi. We are planning to be enrolled, we have already submitted the paperwork and are really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, these schools do not exist in other countries. I see my child’s future in Ukraine, so I don’t want to stay in either Poland or Germany. Although we really liked Poland, my son even made friends there. Even when we left, he began to study some Polish phrases in order to understand them if they ever come to Ukraine. But you have to study in your native language, so I really hope that Georgia will at least set an example for others in this regard. In Tbilisi, classes from 1 to 11 are already open, and teachers have been hired. We are waiting for this in Batumi. But we will find out everything on September 15, when the school year starts here. If not, then we will study online. My son studied in Kramatorsk at the Vasyl Stus Lyceum. It’s a very good school, with good teachers and a great learning platform. But, still, I want an offline education for him, because live communication is very important for children.
I urge everyone who has not yet evacuated to leave Kramatorsk, because the situation there is very difficult. After the shelling on April 8, I believe that children and women have nothing to do there at all. The most important thing we can do now is preserve the mental health of our children. They are our future and they cannot live in the current conditions. We are really, really looking forward to the victory, after which we will immediately return to Ukraine. We believe in victory and are waiting for 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: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk