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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Air alarm

    Uliana Vasylieva: “Until recently, we didn’t believe that we would run away from our own home”

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Maryna Bakalo

    19 May 2022

    Before the war, Uliana Vasylieva lived near Kyiv, in the city of Brovary. The girl studies in two higher educational institutions and works in an IT company. Uliana wants to become a professional and study as a psychologist. She has always wanted to help people and travel the world. But all this was destroyed on February 24.

    Over the past few years, there has been a constant tension regarding security in Ukraine. A month before the start of the war, my fiancé and I began to prepare the necessary things for moving. Our main task was to solve all the issues with the cat because it is also our family member. A week before February 24, we had already bought train tickets, and on the same day, we changed our computers with laptops to be more mobile. But, still, we didn’t move. Until recently, we did not want to believe that it would be dangerous in Ukraine and that we would run away from our own homes. And the day before the start of the war, together with a colleague, we discussed the latest news and tried to reassure ourselves that this was the 21st century, and we are in the center of Europe. Our conversation ended with us consulting about what things we would need to take with us if we had to run away. Also, we discussed where it would be more profitable to exchange cash for foreign currency because we love our home, but the thirst for life is stronger.

    The worst thing to hear was the words “It started”

    I can remember the first day of this nightmare very well. I had trouble sleeping, constantly expecting something. I managed to sleep for a few hours before I heard the explosions. At first, I thought it was some “punks” throwing firecrackers at the house again, but when the balcony glass started to shake, I realized that it was something else. There was an airport not far from us, and the military unit was located on the other side. It was noisy.

    From the first minutes, I felt numb. It is difficult to understand what to do next and whether this “next” will happen because the other place of the explosion could be our house. Then the panic came. I called everyone I communicated with at that time. I wanted to hear that everything was in order and find out at least some information. The worst thing was to hear the words “It started.”

    After that, another phase of perception of the situation began. We didn’t know what to do next. It was hard to pull ourselves together, but we started getting ready, checking basements where we could hide, and running to buy goods (water, bars, and cat food). I heard a siren for the first time in my life that day. Unfortunately, I can hear it now, even when it’s turned off. We spent the night in the corridor dressed. We slept in turn.

    I could feel the responsibility and guilt

    The next day, the situation began to escalate. Long queues in stores and pharmacies did not work. There were bad traffic jams on the roads. There were tanks on the highway. Then I realized that I should beg everyone to leave, at least away from the fighting. The decision to leave was made on February 25. It was challenging to make this decision. I consulted many people, and they all had different opinions. We managed to leave thanks to the IT firm I work for. They assumed that this could happen and took care of the safety of their employees and their animals in advance. My brother, fiancé, and cat were moving with me. There were seven cats, five dogs, and a turtle on our bus. No one could leave their pets behind. Then, in addition to fear, I felt a sense of respect for people for the first time.

    First, we went to Kyiv. The road was difficult. There were only military personnel and equipment on the Kyiv highway. Driving was terrifying, and we could hear explosions off in the distance. There were relatives with me whom I was forced to leave. I could feel the responsibility and guilt if something terrible happened. I was particularly concerned for those who flatly refused to leave their homes. All the way, I read articles about survival and sent them to the general chat. I was scared.

    We were taken to my office. There was practically no one around except for people in uniform. It was very disturbing because then, among the flow of information, there was news that the Russians had allegedly broken through our defenses near Kyiv. In addition, it happened on the side where we were waiting for our next bus.

    Uliana Vasylieva

    Uliana Vasylieva from Brovary

    I met with my colleagues, who were also on their toes. We didn’t know what to do next. We didn’t understand if our decision was the right one. We didn’t know our future fate because only a day had passed since the war began, and news about civilian casualties had already appeared.

    I set myself a goal to survive and help others

    I didn’t know where we were going. It didn’t matter. I set myself the most important goal to survive and help others. I want to say that animals feel everything. My cat, who is not very fond of adventure and travel, spent 22 hours quietly in my arms.

    When we reached our destination, I was still scared. I was terrified of those who stayed in Kyiv. I wanted to help them somehow, so I immediately started searching for options where they could go to a safe place and where to stay. 

    Then a new stage began. It was necessary to establish infrastructure and help in the information war. We lived in a sanatorium in the Transcarpathian region. Subsequently, we went to my family, who eventually decided to go to Ivano-Frankivsk. They were my grandparents and my aunt. The main good news for me was their departure. By that time, the trains were already crowded, and there was ruscist artillery near our city. After we met my relatives, I realized that I had done the most important thing, that is, I survived and helped my family. My aunt, by the way, has been weaving nets for defenders for the second month and filling the information channel with our news, and the fiancé “crashes” the websites of enemies. Now, every one of us is in action.

    Air alarm in the shelter

    During the first air alarm in the shelter

    Then I began to recover. Gradually, I started knitting, going for walks around the city, and playing sports. These helped me not to go crazy. Later, training and work resumed, partially returning to my pre-war life.

    When I arrived, I found out that my father had left to defend the country. I felt my fear emigrate: fear for my life, relatives, the country, and so on in a circle. Now my stepfather (but he raised me from the age of 6, so I consider him a father) is in the service. I text him every day. He is not in hot spots, so I’m calm. He is not a serviceman himself, but he graduated from the military department at the University. My stepfather is a man of honor. He always does the right thing and has always supported our country. Since childhood, he has always supported our local football players. In particular, he helped during UEFA Euro 2012.  After university, he worked as a diplomat and always acted in the interests of our country. I have never met a more pro-Ukrainian person who spoke Russian in everyday life. For me, my father is an authority and a hero. When my relatives found out that he was serving, they said nothing happens to the Saints. And he truly is. In the current reality, I learn that there are more and more such heroes in our country who protect their families and their homeland.

    I’m uncertain if the past can be returned, so we should build the future

    Now I have more or less adapted to a new life and new realities, but in some places, there are specific memories, especially when an air alarm sounds. Everyone has the “єТривога” app, which wakes us up in the middle of the night, and we sometimes fall asleep with it. Life, which was before the war, and the one now are very different. I’m uncertain if the past can be returned, so we should build the future. I haven’t decided on my future yet. The only thing I definitely believe in is our victory.

    After the victory, our country will be beautiful and flourishing, and the whole world will know about it. Everyone will know that there is a country with strong and brave Ukrainians. The only thing I’m worried about is the people who were murdered in the war. It’s emotionally difficult when you can’t get through to a friend you hung out with two years ago in Mariupol. I know I probably won’t see him again. I try to be optimistic and believe in a better future for our country.

    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: Maryna Bakalo

    Life under fire

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