АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Victoria Morokhovets
18 September 2022
Svitlana Nakonechna lived in Zaporizhzhia before the russian aggression. A month before the invasion, the woman opened her own massage room in the city, but the war destroyed everything Svetlana had been working on lately. The woman spent a week in Zaporizhzhia and, due to the tense situation in the city, accepted her cousin’s invitation to flee to the United States with her son. She’d planned to reach the United States in 10 days, but the trip lasted 3 months. Svitlana told the project “Monologues of War” about her journey across Europe and the world.
My name is Svitlana, I am from Zaporizhzhia. I am 31 years old, single, have a son Ivan aged 12. In Ukraine, I had a job, but when the war broke out, I lost everything I had been working at. At first, I worked in the supermarkets “Silpo“ and “ATB“. Then I took a masseuse course. After its completion, I worked at a massage room. Later, I tried and opened my own massage room. I’d been working for a month there when the war began.
A few weeks before February 24, there were talks about possible full-scale war with russia. There were various rumors, people were saying that could happen. I spoke about it with my friends, asked them who would do what. But, at first, I wasn’t planning to go anywhere. However, when a serious war broke out, we got scared and left.
For me personally, the war began with news on television. There were terrible reports of explosions and shelling from various parts of Ukraine. We were sitting and watching it all without knowing what to do next. We’d stayed in Zaporizhzhia for 7 days. During this time, we heard those nasty sirens and even explosions. So, we decided that there was nothing to wait for and we had to leave. I had a rough idea where I would go, because I have relatives in the United States. I have a cousin living there. I discussed this matter with my relatives and decided that I would leave Ukraine. But, of course, the United States are far away, it was not easy to get here.
We’d planned to go to the United States, but first we went to Poland. We stayed there for 10 days. We were provided with accommodation where we could live all that time. Although, at first we thought that we would get to the US in 10 days, but it turned out not to be that simple.
After Poland, we went to Germany, where we have an acquaintance with whom we lived. There were constant delays and we couldn’t manage to get to my cousin in the United States. So, we got registered in Germany and lived there at a stadium. It had been converted into a refugee camp. There were a lot of beds there. Then we moved to another, smaller camp and lived there for a while. Then we started to receive state aid for refugees in Germany. We were provided with accommodation and lived in one woman’s house. Of course, it was all free, at the expense of the state. But, anyway, we really wanted to go home, because, no matter what, everything remained there. In general, we spent three months in Germany.
Frankly speaking, after staying in Germany, we were already planning to go home to Ukraine. But our relatives constantly discouraged us from doing so. They said that it was dangerous in Ukraine, there was an ongoing war. They advised me to sit it out somewhere. And that’s when we found a way to get to the United States. We had a very difficult journey ahead of us, we did not know how to plan it. But, my cousin helped us a lot to get there. On May 29, my son and I arrived here.
We’ve been living in the United States for three months already. My cousin has accommodated us, now we’re living with her, so we have a place to stay. The house has all the amenities. In the United States, the state also helps Ukrainian refugees, for example, they provide money for food. State insurance will be provided by the end of the year. We’ve found a school for my son, where he will go to study as of September. This is an English-speaking school, but my son knows English, so I hope that there will be no problems with his studies. As of current, we’re planning to stay in the US, maybe for a year, maybe two, until the war in Ukraine is over. But I don’t know yet what the future holds.
I’m planning to look for a job. I am now awaiting work permit, and it takes time to receive it. But first I will have to attend English courses. They are mandatory. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how long they’ll last. Some people say that it’s possible to get a sufficient command of English in three months and in six months. I’m so ready to go somewhere to work. I really need a job right now. But, unfortunately, while I’m waiting for my work permit it’s prohibited by law to work anywhere. I have to wait for my courses and my child has to wait for his school. After that, I think our life here will get better. Of course, the language barrier still poses some problems. Therefore, I communicate with some people using my phone and Google translator. But, my son and I will definitely stay in America and we’re not planning to move anywhere else. While we are here, we will keep following the situation in Ukraine.
When we were flying here, we thought everything would be OK. Basically, it is so, but when you’ve worked all your life, you already have everything at home, you have some connections. And when you come to a foreign country, you have none of these: friends, work, connections. You don’t even know where to go when you need a doctor. So, it’s hard to start from scratch abroad. It’s much easier, when you live from birth at home, in your country, and you know everything. I have many relatives remaining in Ukraine, in fact throughout the country — in Khmelnytskyi, Zaporizhzhia, Melitopol… Everyone is in a different situation, but of course they all are scared now. But, people slowly resume working.
Although by the time the war is over, I will probably be better accustomed to the life in the United States, I’m still planning to return home to Zaporizhzhia. I have a house there, and praying for God it stays in one piece. In general, I was happy with everything in Ukraine before the war. And now that I have travelled a little bit over other countries, I understand that the best place is where your home and family are. Before the war, I had many acquaintances who moved somewhere abroad from Ukraine, found a job there, and started earning money. But, I still miss my home, my friends and everything I had in Zaporizhzhia.
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: Victoria Morokhovets