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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Maryna Poliashchenko

    Maryna Poliashchenko: «Either we escape together or we die together…»

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Juliya Baranko | Translation:

    7 May 2022

    Maryna Poliashchenko, Kharkiv, is a mother of a 12-year-old Volodymyr, a child with a disability. Before the full-scale war she was helping such special children and also rescuing sick and homeless animals. For 10 days she did volunteer work in Kharkiv. Together with her son, mother, sister and 15 animals she managed to get evacuated from the shelling, find home for most of the animals in Europe and settle in Denmark.

    At first I didn’t even hope I could be evacuated from Kharkiv. Our family consists of me, my mother, sister, a bedridden disabled child (he can’t sit, stand or walk by himself, he can’t even use his hands). By the start of the war we had 15 animals, all rescued from the streets. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get into any evacuation bus or a train neither with my son, nor with animals.  

    My relatives said: “Leave Vovka (editor’s note: Maryna’s son) and go”, – but we were set against leaving them or our animals. I tried to send my mom away together with my son, but she disagreed too. Long story short, we decided that either we escape together or we die together, too. 

    “You’re standing in a line at a pharmacy, you hear explosions and you don’t know if a projectile is going to hit the line, so no one will bring medicine for your child, or it is going to hit a house with your child, so there won’t be a need for this medicine…”

    I don’t remember how long we had been looking for ways to escape from Kharkiv. Maybe around 10 days. There weren’t any, but I didn’t have time, desire or mental strength to sit around doing nothing. So while we were in Kharkiv, my sister and I were going to shops and pharmacies to buy groceries and medicine for moms in our block who had disabled kids. We knew that I could stand in a line for 3 hours because I had someone to stay with my son. But there are moms who have no help. And so you’re standing in a line at a pharmacy, you hear explosions and you don’t know if a projectile is going to hit the line, so no one will bring medicine for your child, or it is going to hit a house with your child, so there won’t be a need for this medicine…

    We didn’t hide in a basement because there was no way to get the kid down there. All the time we were sitting in a hallway, listening to a plane flying above us and dropping bombs 2-3 houses away. The explosions shook our house all over. 

    For me it was 10 days of constant horror for my son, for other children and animals. This feeling is mixed with gratitude that we’re alive. 

    Maryna with her family

    Maryna with her family and pets

    We were very lucky to have good people around. We were treating a cat and couldn’t stop the treatment because it would die. So our curator, Tetiana Iehorova did the impossible. She managed to find a medicine that we didn’t have in Kharkiv and get it delivered through Lviv an hour before we left. 

    It was a miracle that we escaped from the city. I realized that with such a child and that many animals our chances to be evacuated under shelling are almost none.

    Our arrival at the Polish borders was epic

    Absolutely accidentally we came across an announcement on the Internet about volunteers who deliver humanitarian aid from Dnipro to Kharkiv and take people with their pets on the way back. We contacted those guys and they took the whole crowd of us with them. 

    We were in touch with a friend, who, miraculously, through some acquaintances found accommodation for us in Dnipro. It was a family of cynologists who could shelter us for 3-4 days. After that we found a car which drove us to the Polish borders. 

    We walked 2 km with a child in a wheelchair, 4 dogs on leashes, cats in carriers and puppies in the biggest one. 

    Rescued dogs

    Maryna’s son Vova sleeps with the animals

    We looked epic and the Polish border guards were “slightly” surprised by our arrival. Besides ourselves and our pets we had a lot of stuff. A lot of consumables and pills are vital for my son and it was impossible to leave them behind. Every woman carried 30-35 kg of things. Our border guards tried to rush us. By contrast, as soon as the Poles saw us approaching, they instantly started waving and signaling us not to move. They rushed to us and helped carry our belongings and pets.       

    We received a very warm welcome. They immediately gave us hot tea, some food for the kid, food and water for the animals. 

    Most of the pets were adopted in Poland

    Right at the borders one puppy was adopted by a border guard’s wife, who volunteered there. 

    As we didn’t come in time for the public bus, people arranged a minibus for us, which took us to the refugee center on the territory of a police academy. We spent 2 days there. Two local volunteers took our puppies for themselves. 

    Next day we had problems with some of our compatriots. They wanted a warm spot near a radiator, but I refused, because it was where my son slept. A conflict arose. Some people started complaining about the animals. 

    They didn’t think of anything better than to fight because of our cats and dogs. The administrators, unfortunately, couldn’t interfere because the center didn’t regulate a stay with animals. That is why from around 7-8 o’clock my sister and I took turns to sit outside with our pets. 

    We managed to contact animal rights activists in Poland, who quickly organized a car and a place to stay with the animals. They also asked if I wished to find new homes for some of them and on what conditions. As a result they took care of everything, and another volunteer adopted the last two girl puppies.

    Maryna's mother and son

    Maryna’s mother and son

    They managed to find a family for our two cat-brothers who are very attached to each other. I said that they must be together, and they were adopted by a family with two kids. They adore the cats and named them Crimea and Irpin. Two more cats were also taken together by an animal rights activist. Another one was adopted by a vet. 

    One of the adoption conditions was that we give the pets away in the presence of my son and only after I personally met the new owners. Vovka can only partially understand the language, and he absolutely cannot grasp the abstract ideas. He has to see things with his own eyes. Because he loves animals so much, I didn’t want him to worry about them. Whenever I receive photos and videos, I show them to him. He knows our pets have new families and they are happy. 

    By the way, every animal in Poland got a rabies vaccination and a chip. All of it was free for us. 

    Right now we’re living in Denmark. We have three adult dogs, two of which we are planning to give away after quarantine. Two more cats stay with us because they receive medical care. 

    My son took the road very hard

    Our relocation was very difficult for Vovchyk. He tried to hold on, but given that since 10th of March we haven’t found a permanent home, it is already too hard to bear. During this time we have covered a considerable distance. Our route was as follows: Kharkiv – Dnipro – Border – Poland – several centers in Poland – Denmark. We are currently in the fourth refugee center here. 

    The other day we called an ambulance, because my son caught rotavirus and he had a fever. With our diagnosis, all the “joys” of neuralgia were exacerbated: convulsions, breathing problems, fainting, nausea. At the hospital the doctors relieved the acute symptoms, and we decided to return to the center. Vovchyk knows only too well what a hospital is, so he was very nervous. 

    We chose Denmark because of the conditions for traveling with animals

    To be honest, at first we wanted to go to Germany, but we didn’t know how many animals we would accommodate in Poland. In Denmark you can have 5 animals per person. In case we didn’t manage to get a cat or a dog adopted in Poland, we would be able to take them all. In Germany you can only have 1-2 pets per person. Also if an animal doesn’t have rabies antibodies, they are sent to a shelter for quarantine. Besides, I wanted to be there for their adoption. In Germany, if they can’t find a new home in a month or two, the animals are euthanized. And we didn’t come through their rescue and evacuation from Kharkiv to allow such a thing. 

    When we were choosing a country, we paid extra attention to medical care for the child and good conditions for our pets. 

    Later we will try to get a residence permit here. We’ll stay here until the war is over in Ukraine. I am going to look for a medical school for my kid, and also study Danish and find a job. 

    We have a great desire to go home to Ukraine. I have friends there and a part of the family. It’s our home. There is no final decision, because I’m the mother of a special child. Maybe I’ll say a cruel thing, but in Ukraine I hoped that my son would die before me. In Ukraine when parents die such children have the only place to go: to a psychoneurological boarding school, where they are closed up with 10-12 people in a room. They are fed 4 times a day and have their diapers changed. But that’s it. I don’t want such a future for him. 

    At the moment I don’t know what it will be like in Denmark. We haven’t had time to figure everything out. But first and foremost, I’m the mother. I must and I always will be directed by my child’s interests and not my personal desires. 

    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: Juliya Baranko | Translation:

    Ukrainians abroad

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