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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Yulia Zhuryk with her husband and son

    “Mother used to say: ‘Take it as a vacation’: the wife of a soldier told how she was leaving Kyiv under the explosions

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Iryna Semenova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk

    10 September 2022

    Yulia Zhuryk is the wife of a military man. And despite the fact that she did not believe in the possibility of a full-scale war, she still prepared for a full-scale invasion at the request of her husband. However, it turned out that it was simply impossible to prepare for this: explosions, traffic jams, driving in the oncoming lane, nights in shelters with 9 children (because the whole large family was crowded into one house), several days on the road to safe Germany… About her adventures, a woman told exclusively for “Monologues of the War”.

    We did not believe that there would be a war. But Sasha, my husband, told me to pack my things and have at least half a tank of gas in the car. The suitcase was packed, but there were no things in it, but a torch, matches, a candle, documents, cookies, a baby blanket, a compass, and water.

    He stayed with us for at least a week. Later, I went to training near Kyiv for a few days, and we agreed just in case: suddenly something happens; I go home and pick up my son, because Sasha is running to the military commissariat: scheduled military training was scheduled for March 4.

    I woke up at 5:15 from the blast wave from the Boryspil airport. I look and I can’t believe my eyes, the whole sky is pink. I didn’t call my husband, because I understood that he wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully soon, he called back 10 minutes later.

    I started to gather. My backpack with things was always half disassembled. But I quickly got myself together after the explosion. Trainers came to teach us, because I warned that in case of anything I would go to Kyiv to pick up my son. The three of us called a taxi for a very long time, maybe an hour, and contacted various services – no one came. Finally, a young boy, 18 years old, arrived, and the teacher told me: “I wanted to wish you to take care of yourself, but now I say take care of him too.”

    I packed the most valuable things and children’s toys 

    We drove for an hour or an hour and a half: there were already huge queues at the gas stations, the road to Kyiv was clear, and there were huge traffic jams from Kyiv. The boy who drove me said that he had not worked for a month, and that he went to work because he ran out of money. Therefore, I gave him another 100 hryvnias, because the payment was by card, and it was not clear whether the money would be transferred to him from the card. I invited the young taxi driver for coffee and scrambled eggs, because it was not known whether he would be able to eat later.

    My husband and I walked around the apartment for an hour. It was as if we were planning something, gathering, agreeing, but it turned out that we had not done anything in an hour. We were in a kind of confused, suspended state.

    Then Sasha ran to the Military Commissariat, which is located on a nearby street, while I packed valuable things and my son’s children’s toys and carried them to the car. The man came back and gathered himself in 20 minutes: armored car, helmet, headphones, walkie-talkie, he had everything ready.

    Photo session

    Family photo session in the morning of February 24

    We hugged, took a photo of the three of us, with my son. We decided to stay in a hotel in a village near Kyiv for the time being – we were paid for 3 more days of training. And then, through Khmelnytskyi, we will go to Rivne, to visit my parents. Sasha said “just don’t drive at night, it’s better to spend the night in a hotel, and in the morning the situation will be clearer, and in no case don’t drive on the Zhytomyr highway.”

    My son has better intuition than I have logic

    The little one was walking all day, having fun, he was so good in the hotel, but in the evening he started asking to go home, straight up crying and asking to get in the car and go and my hands started to get cold: Svyatoslav has better intuition than I have logic, it has already been proven. A helicopter was also shot down near us. The thought in my head: Sasha asked me not to go alone with the child at night, just in case, with someone. But the husband of one of the participants came to take her to Lviv, and I thought: Rivne in the same direction, I will go with them. I ask: aren’t we on the Zhytomyr highway? – no, no, I hear back.

    Well, I think the driver was driving here, saw the situation on the roads, and as it turned out, he relied on GPS. We arrived in Kyiv at 9:20 p.m., wandered around, drove the wrong way and turned the wrong way, but my friend and her husband kept assuring us on the phone that “everything is fine, that’s how the GPS guides.” In the end, I realized that we were going exactly to the Zhytomyr highway… and on the clock it was almost ten in the evening, it was almost curfew, and there was already a message that Kyiv would be bombed at 12 midnight.

    Traffic jams and no panic

    We drove onto the Zhytomyr highway in the direction of Kyiv and I saw such a picture – three lanes and a roadside, all clogged with cars standing still and not moving. We had to turn around to leave Kyiv, but we passed the turn successfully, I hoped to the last that the driver in the front car knew what he was doing, and when they called me and said that they had passed the turn and we needed to enter Kyiv, to turn around, I exploded with emotions. She stopped. And then the idea came to me to drive in the oncoming lane, because there were practically no cars going to Kyiv, and three lanes were empty. It was 9:50 p.m. when I turned the car around. I heard explosions and looked at my son, he was sleeping: maybe it was Gostomel, or the left bank of Kyiv, because it was far, but scary. It added adrenaline and confidence. I went to the “meeting”.

    Other drivers saw this and started joining in. At first we drove slowly, but then 80, and then even 100 km per hour. I called my friends, who still went to Kyiv to turn around, and advised them to move to the opposite.

    Then there were more and more cars, so we started driving in two lanes out of three. And then all three lanes started moving. And I realized that I had to leave. There was a break in the barrier, it is not a passage, but my car got into it. I moved very quickly, because the oncoming lane continued.

    Cars in the direction of Zhytomyr moved slowly, and I was able to observe. In this traffic jam at the meeting, people just talked, looked calm, smiled, no one tore their shirts, waved their hands, and didn’t cry, everyone stood like they were at a picnic. There was no panic. People dismantled the barrier so that it was possible to drive to the other side. And when the traffic jam ended, and this road became empty, I again moved to the opposite side. I reached Rivne in 6 hours. Under normal conditions, 4 would be enough. And my friends drove to Lviv for up to 22 hours.

    Family in peacetime

    Zhuryk family, peacetime

    Cops stopped me. Not the police, but the cops, you know, that kind of scumbag, and they say: “What, you have a lot of experience, why can’t you just drive around?» I say: “Yes, 11 years.” He even said: “Who gave you permission to go to meetings?! U-turn!!!” I also tried to somehow explain to him what war is all about. There are cars standing there, and these lanes are empty, and he: “So what”…

    I turned around, but then later drove again in the opposite direction. Maybe it’s not right, but if I had to be in this situation again, I would do exactly the same.

    Candy to the first one to run to the shelter

    We came home, to a village in the Rivne region. There were frequent sirens, we were sitting in the middle of nowhere, and a bunch of relatives drove by. We had 9 children, from 1.5 years to 13. We covered one wall with warm foam, put toys, a heater, pulled a carrier with a light, and saved ourselves. When the siren sounded, we arranged a competition for the children: the first one to run into the shelter received a candy. And then – the one who will sit longer during sirens.

    My parents’ house is in the center of the village, so we could hear both the horn and the church bells well. Later, we installed an app on the phones that warned of the alarm 3 minutes earlier than the horn in the village. At that time, the application did not signal with a sound, only a message came, and we were on duty all night. Following these messages, it’s good that there were many of us. Everyone was asleep dressed in order to quickly gather and go down to the cellar…

    In a week, on March 4, we left. My friend put up a post about the fact that immigrants are accepted in Germany. Mom says: “Then go to Europe for two weeks on an excursion, stay, walk, and you will come. Take it as a vacation.” We gathered our thoughts and purposefully went to Germany. They were on the road for three days. They drove for 8 hours a day and stopped often. Because the children are small, the road was hard to bear. We spent the night in Poland with friends, and for the second night we found accommodation via the Internet, also in Poland.

    In Germany, we were given a two-room apartment for two families: me and my son and my sister with a small child. The state pays assistance and pays for this apartment; we additionally pay a little more than 100 euros for utilities. So two weeks of “holiday” has been going on for 5 months…

    If it weren’t for my son, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere from Ukraine

    We were registered at the job center (the local employment service). We passed our diplomas, they are translated here and later we have to confirm our knowledge if we want to work in our specialty. While we all went to German language courses, this is our main job now, and in a year they will be sending job offers. Since April, my sister and I have been taking courses, and every six months we have to take a knowledge level exam. Meanwhile, local Germans are constantly interested: “Why don’t you go to work, go at least for a little while.”

    The Job Center periodically asks to show bank statements where funds are spent. If something remains on the card, it means that the payment amount will be reduced. By the way, online banking is a big problem here: you have to go to the bank a hundred times, enter a million pin codes, and receive a bunch of letters…

    We have two options for the future: the first is to stay here until spring, and then to look at the situation. Because we don’t want to torture children, run around basements in winter and sleep in clothes. If it weren’t for Svyatoslav, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere from Ukraine at all. But, when we arrived here, and the bells rang in the town hall, the children started running with shouts “Let’s run to the cellar, because the bells are ringing!”.

    The family is hiding in the cellar

    Yulia and her relatives in the hut, which became an improvised storage

    Therefore, it is very important to preserve the psyche of children now. Yes, Sasha is still at war, and he thinks that as long as we don’t have to come back, it’s easier for him and he can do his work, and not think about whether we managed to hide or not. The second option is to leave. Then we have to notify in 3 months that we are moving out of the apartment, or leave already, but pay for the apartment for another 3 months.

    I have a piece of something “my” here

    I have a child and learning German takes up a lot of time, which is good because I can distract myself from the events in Ukraine and reboot. Sometimes we call our friends, share, and talk, rejoice and feel sad. It becomes easier when you share your emotions. It’s interesting; I caught myself thinking that I feel a little calmer here because I arrived in my car – as if I have a piece of something “my” here. I understand that if something goes wrong, I will get in the car and go.

    And now there is nowhere to return. In the neighboring houses (we live near the Antonov plant) the windows are broken. Fortunately, we have goals. However, the bomb shelter under our house was occupied by a foreign businessman who does not allow people there. This is unacceptable, it is necessary to bring such people to justice. That’s exactly what we’ll start with when I arrive.

    The war highlighted the essence of people: who is who

    The war highlighted the faces of many, now we can see who is who. The war changed priorities and accelerated people’s awareness that the state is important, language is important, your opinion, your position is important.

    It “finishes” me when a husband or son who died in the war with the russians is carried to the church of the Moscow Patriarchate to mourn. When the Ukrainian church was formed, sometime in 1994, 1995, most of the villagers called the Ukrainian priests “movers”, bad, because they came and expelled the Moscow priest from the church. I was 7 years old then. I consider myself a patriot of Ukraine, but until now I went to the church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Why? I don’t know, and I’m ashamed of it now.

    Read also: “I’ve lived through this war with every fellow Ukrainian” — a woman from Ukraine, who works in Paris, told us how she has experienced the war

    Now, of course, I will not go there and I will do everything so that she does not exist in our village and in Ukraine. I will do everything I can to instill patriotism in people, to instill love for the Ukrainian language, to learn to love myself, my land and my life, to study the culture of our people, to study the history of our nation, and I will not allow anyone to tell me how I should live!

    It seems to me that there will be a big jump in Ukraine after the end of the war. People will start to think differently, they will eradicate bribery, they will change their priorities and they will finally start to think with their heads, not their ass.

    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: Iryna Semenova | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk

    Ukrainians abroad

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