АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Kateryna Doroshenko
3 August 2022
Vitaly Zvizhynskyi, a 17-year-old schoolboy from Yuzhne, planned to enter the Odesa University and study to become a medical assistant. But the morning of February 24 changed his life forever. The young man’s family was forced to leave for Poland, where he graduated from the local lyceum and mastered the Polish language. The city of Katowice became his second home. During the next three months, Vitaly volunteered at the refugee center, helping fellow citizens in need. The young man told the “Monologues of the War” project what he dreams about now.
I was preparing to become a paramedic, attended additional courses. I read about the threat of full-scale war, but till the last minute I thought it was a bad joke spread on social media.
On February 24, I woke up to calls and messages from my friends. Everyone wrote that the war had begun. It was scary at that moment. I did not understand what to do, where to run. Newspapers with news wrote about the bombing of Ukrainian cities.
That day, I still decided to go to school, because it was psychologically easier to be in a team at that moment. We sat at school. Many people came there. We were urged not to panic over the loudspeaker. Then they gathered in the assembly hall to watch a movie.
Then there was a loud explosion. We were very scared. We were also sure that it had flown to the school
But it turned out that something exploded near Chabanka (a military town in Odesa region — ed. note). But we were very scared, because we did not understand what to do and what to do next.
My mother and I decided not to leave Yuzhne. We thought that all this was only for a couple of weeks. The first night was very difficult: an air raid siren sounded, there were a lot of explosions.
This bridge was blown up near the village of Kobleve, so that russian military equipment could not advance further from Mykolaiv. It was so loud that it seemed to explode right next to us.
The first time we ran for shelter when it was scary during the air raid sirens. We hid in the basement of the school, because we live in a panel block of flats. If it had hit there, it would have collapsed like a house of cards. I ran to school during the day, felt my way at night without street lights, and then got bored of it.
It was morally difficult to live under explosions and sirens. But we still had no plans to go anywhere.
On March 10, I celebrated my birthday. I turned 17. And that same evening, it became known that there would be an evacuation bus from our city at 6 in the morning on the 11th. We got together overnight and left Yuzhne in the morning.
We were taken to the border with Romania. We crossed it for an hour and a half. It was very cold then, and the queues were enormous. Just in March, Ukrainians massively went abroad. These were women, children, teenagers, elderly people.
We had to cross several countries to get to Poland, where my stepfather was waiting for me, my mother, and my younger brother. And volunteers met refugees at all borders. There was a point where you could warm up, have something to eat, there were help desks where you could ask about transport and accommodation. There were points where you could take warm clothes.
The volunteers greeted us kindly, explained everything, answered questions, and thereby greatly made the situation easier in which the forced migrants usually find themselves. It all was scary, the unknown was frightening.
There were a lot of people at the border who were crying and asking for medical help, because it was very difficult for them emotionally. Mom held on. We understood that it was a forced event. In addition, we knew that in an unfamiliar country there is a person who will definitely meet us, that we will definitely have a roof over our heads. Because if we didn’t have friends abroad, we probably wouldn’t have left. It’s scary to go into the unknown.
We got on the night train to Hungary, got there in the evening, and spent the night.
One Hungarian family let us stay well and helped us very, very much: they paid for our tickets in the amount of about UAH 4,000, prepared food for us on the way, and gave us a large suitcase, because ours was small, but there were a lot of things. We are very grateful to them for this.
On March 13, we left Hungary for Poland, and were already there in the evening. We had some rest in a hotel for workers, where we lived for two weeks. No one kicked us out, we were fed, the conditions were quite comfortable, but we decided that we could rent housing and make room for those who needed free accommodation more than we did.
When we arrived in the city of Katowice, we began to arrange my younger brother for school. There were classes for Ukrainians there, so I decided to go to study too and learn the Polish language at the lyceum. I had 15 hours of Polish per week. I studied at two institutions at the same time – graduated from school of Yuzhne remotely and attended the lyceum in Katowice.
I graduated from the lyceum with 5 points according to the 5-point system. I also have a 5 in Polish. I can already speak freely, I talk with the locals.
I want to become a paramedic. But I will study in Poland, enter a local educational institution. We have already submitted the documents, although the problem with them is that they are in Ukrainian. But we are solving the problem. I will write a multi-subject test. And then we will see what happens next.
When I came to Poland and saw the work of volunteers, I liked it so much! And I immediately set myself the task, as soon as I learn the language at least a little, I would go to volunteer. As a result, it turned out that I could be useful without knowing the language.
My duties included giving people food, things, and household chemicals. And since I already spoke Polish, I was a translator, helped solve issues with documents, with temporary housing. I was mainly engaged in counseling and providing humanitarian aid.
I volunteered for 3 months. And I’m very satisfied. Unfortunately, today the point where I went has already been closed.
“I was very impressed by the volunteers who came from Canada and America. They brought a lot of products, things, suitcases. We even cried and hugged each other, because people found time, made some effort and brought it to us thousands of kilometers away! It was very nice”.
There are a lot of forced migrants in Katowice, it’s not easy to find the local Poles. But people often came who behaved pretentiously, as if someone owed them something.
“And in the meantime, all this was done for free, everything depended on the Poles, who brought us food, basic necessities, which we had already distributed”.
I understand their feelings, because I myself found myself in a similar situation, but I do not allow myself to do this. This spoils the reputation of Ukrainians. At a minimum, there should be a culture of communication and respect to each other
It also once happened that a woman from Ukraine brought us a cake to say thank you.
My plans are to get an education in Poland. “I really want to see my friends. I miss everyone, my favorite places, but it is not clear when the war will end. This is scary”.
It was morally difficult for me to live under the explosions and air raid sirens. In this regard, it is calmer and more comfortable here.
My peers from Mariupol, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr studied with me at the lyceum. Everyone has their own plans. Some left from here for Ukraine, because they already wanted to go home. And for some of them, there is simply nowhere to return.
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 Hyliuk | Translation: Kateryna Doroshenko