АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation:
8 October 2022
Anastasiia Vatamaniuk was evacuated from Mykolaiv to Berlin on the first day of the war. From there, she and other volunteers hand over tactical first-aid kits to the Ukrainian military and backpacks for paramedics. Nastia told “Monologues of the War” how soldiers are treated, and how much a set costs for each.
I live on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, near the exit in the direction of Kherson. Not far from us, 10 kilometers away, a military training ground is located. It was bombed on the first day. I woke up and didn’t understand anything. In general, I have a very sound sleep, I may not hear the alarm clock under my ear, but then for some reason I woke up. The child was peacefully sleeping next to me. I thought that it could be something on TV, because I often fall asleep watching it. I looked and it really worked. I went to bed again.
5 years ago, I felt an earthquake for the first time, then the wave seemed to pass under the house. Before I fell asleep I felt something similar, only with a sound. Now I already understood what it was. I didn’t doubt that the war started. I started calling everyone at once, at the same time hurriedly gathering things.
On February 13, I called my grandmother, and she was terribly panicked. She said: “On the 16th, the war will begin, russia will attack.” And I answered that it was all nonsense, and even if it would start, we still couldn’t change anything. Why be nervous? Then I went to the playground with my son, we were standing, talking with other mothers, one of them said: “Girls, get ready.”
We took her words with fear, because she worked for the authorities, and most likely, understood the situation better than us. But still none of us prepared. The only thing is that on February 15, I had my cat vaccinated and microchipped. She is like a second child to me, I would not be able to leave it.
I remember from high school when veterans came and talked about the war. Their stories terrified me. I wouldn’t want my little son to go through the same thing that those people went through, so I decided to leave immediately.
We left with my mother, grandmother, my son and brother. The road to the border was very stressful. It also happened that I had quite a bit of money with me — I only had 1,500 hryvnias left. The car was old, it was not clear whether we would be able to get to the destination at all. Somewhere on the approach to Odesa, a tank appeared in front of us. Brother hit the brakes. The first thing that flashed in my head was: “That’s it, we’re f*cked up.” I looked closely, but it was ours, they must have been changing their location. We calmed down and drove on. There was a huge queue at the border, ours was around 7 in the morning.
We were going to Moldova, we have a cousin there with her husband. They have a small private house. It was such a strange period then. Constantly, just every minute, we read the news. When we realized that the war would last for a long time, and not for two or three weeks, we began to decide who would go where next. I didn’t have such a question, because my husband has been working in Germany for three years, so my son and I went there. I also took my brother with me, and my mother and grandmother went to Spain because my grandmother has an older son there. By the way, the car took us to Moldova, and it didn’t start again. It accomplished its mission, smart car, but we had to go to Berlin by bus. It took two days on the road, and we arrived very tired. I also had a cat on my lap all the way.
We have been in Germany since March 4. The first three months I was in a very depressive mood. I don’t know how my child didn’t eat from the same bowl as the cat. That’s the only thing I had enough strength for — to get up and cook food. In general, I had a difficult year: I lost my father and grandfather. I had to support my mother and grandmother. My husband didn’t come home for 10 months due to Covid restrictions. I simply didn’t have an opportunity to be weak. And then the war.
“So the first time I was there I was constantly on the phone with tears. And when I found out that the russians shot a girl from my class, I felt even worse. It hurts for everyone, but when you know her personally…”
I spoke with her on February 24, called her to ask how she was doing and what she was planning to do. She said that she would go to her relatives in Snihurivka. Maybe she wanted to take them out of there, I don’t know. But they got stuck there with the whole family. When the village began to be heavily bombed, they tried to evacuate. They drove in two cars, in one — she, her husband and five-year-old son, and in the second — mother and brother. They met a russian car that started shooting at them, she covered the child with herself. All of them were killed except her son and husband. The boy was sent to the hospital in Mykolaiv, and the husband was returned to Snihurivka. Then he tried to leave to see his son, but was released only on the second attempt, because the first time they found something in his phone that proved his pro-Ukrainian position. Two operations were scheduled for the child, the husband took him to the Czech Republic, where he was already operated on. We’ve got a chat with our classmates, everyone discussed this tragedy, worried. In that chat there were also “friends” of the killed who left for the russian federation even before the war. So there was no reaction from them. They simply kept silent.
My husband comes from Transnistria. Among his relatives, only his brother adequately assesses the situation, but he has been living in Odesa for a long time. I told my husband that the only people with whom I will sit at the same table are his parents. Simply because they are parents. The others — goodbye.
During those few months of depression, my health has deteriorated. I started looking for volunteer centers — so I could help both my country and myself. I saw Jerry Heil and Alyona Alyona’s post on Instagram about Plast (this is a Ukrainian scouting organization, — ed.). It turned out that volunteers there were engaged in tactical medicine and helped with the organization of charity concerts of our artists in Berlin.
One of the girls, by the way, has been volunteering since the days of the Maidan. Imagine, she was 12 years old, and she collected money in the neighborhood to support students. Then she helped ATO soldiers. She has been living in Germany for two years, but she still doesn’t forget about Ukraine. I decided to join. At first, they treated me somewhat cold — many people come here and then disappear. But when they saw that I come regularly, they already accepted me to the team. We collect tactical first aid kits and backpacks for paramedics. Official requests come to us and we collect as needed.
One of our first aid kits costs 130 euros. Everything is according to the standard there: dressing materials, a tourniquet, an Israeli bandage, a handkerchief, painkillers, anti-inflammatory, anti-burn and hemostatic agents, special scissors, various things, in a word, everything necessary. At first, I packed first-aid kits and thought they were cosmic, but then I was assigned to pack backpacks. Well, there’s a whole operating room there, no less. It costs about 1,500 euros. In addition to medicine, we also send humanitarian aid. We sent cargo to the Kharkiv direction, Zaporizhzhia, to my native Mykolaiv. By the way, we manage to help only thanks to donations.
Our team consists of approximately 10 people who come every day, and who only come in their free from their main work time. There are three Germans among us, one of them – Dominic, he works a lot. There is garbage to sort – he sorts it, something to take out – he takes it out, something to move – he does it. He understands us well, because he himself is from Yugoslavia, as a child he had to leave his homeland because of the war. I also almost live there. I take Roma with me, he has toys there. Dominic also made him a sword and a shield with the Ukrainian flag, so he has something to play with.
That’s what I told my son: “Roma, the war started, russia attacked us. They think they can come and take something away. That’s what their president taught them.” We put children’s drawings with wishes in the backpacks and first-aid kits of our defenders. They are very happy about it. Roma also draws when he has inspiration. Once he wrote: “putin is sh*t.” Of course, I told him that it’s not nice to write like that, but I can’t scold him for it, because it’s the truth. The child understands everything.
I teach Roma to make serious decisions on his own and to be responsible. So I consulted with him about what we will do after the war: will we stay in Germany or go to Ukraine. He replied that he would like to go home. And I want to go home too. Maybe we won’t go right away, but we will definitely go. I know that there are opportunities in Germany, I know everything, but I still want to go home.
There are different Germans. A lot of people support us, and there is no need to explain anything to them, they understand everything themselves. But there are people who live aloof, the last thing they heard about the war was the first threat to the ZNPP. So I have to constantly tell and prove something to them. I even started my Instagram page, actively making posts, because I feel that the information front is very important.
The FSB in Berlin is said to be working “excellently”. They got into the apartment of one volunteer, who organizes pro-Ukrainian rallies here, and turned her whole dwelling upside down while she was out of home. Diaspora is brainwashed. By the way, I live in an area with many russians. I have symbols on all my bags, brooches on my clothes. When they see me in the supermarket, they look at me like vampires at garlic.
I also go to rallies when I am free from volunteering. The fund is, of course, a priority for me. But when I can, I go. In general, there are a lot of rallies in Berlin. On August 24, there was a procession on Independence Day. I even got heels for the holiday, then I could barely walk! We marched with flags, sang, made speeches. The Germans waved at us from the windows as a sign of support. There were guys who saw us and quickly found some pieces of cloth, maybe it was bed linen, one part was blue, the other yellow – and they held it like that from the window.
My friend and I talked and joked about my karma. I love going to live concerts, but when I buy the tickets myself, something always happens. I bought tickets for Hurts, but the pandemic started, and the concert was first postponed, and later canceled. Then I bought tickets for the Pivovarov concert. At that time, I fell ill with the coronavirus, so I didn’t go. I bought tickets for Monatik, my father died. Of course, it was not time for the concert. The last time I bought tickets for Iryna Bilyk’s concert, it was a friend’s birthday on February 6. She has everything, so I decided to give her emotions. “Nastia, again?!”, she jokingly reacted to the gift. The concert should have been either at 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening on February 24. Then we talked on the phone and joked that I didn’t have to take those tickets, that the war started because of me.
Before the war, I worked as an English tutor for children. My work started at lunchtime, just as the children finished school. My little one is in kindergarten, what should I do? I don’t like to sit idly by, so I went to work at Nova Poshta for another half day. Then I went to teacher training courses, studied online. My husband and I wanted to eventually move to Odesa. It was as if everything was working out as we wanted, but they came to “liberate” us. However, the russians won’t be able to break us. I’m sure that everything we planned will still work out, just a little later.
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: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: