АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk
2 September 2022
The heroine of this material asked to remain anonymous. She was born in Donetsk region, and later moved to Donetsk, where she lived until 2014. Then, she and her family had to flee from russian weapons for the first time. Later, the family returned to Donbas, but this time to Slovyansk, where they lived for the last 8 years. On February 24, the woman was going to take part in a rally in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. But, instead, she had to leave the city in a hurry, because russia started a full-scale war. Understanding perfectly what the russian “liberators” were bringing with them, she and her family were forced to leave Slovyansk. She told her story to the “Monologues of the War”.
I was born in Donetsk region. Later I moved to Donetsk and started working there, got married, and had children. In 2014, my family and I left the city. First, we went to Central Ukraine, where we lived for six months, and then my husband was transferred to Slovyansk for work, and we stayed there.
In Donetsk in 2014, I saw how tents with the inscription “People’s Militia” were set up around the city, some newspapers were distributed and money was collected. Then, on May 11, they held a so-called “referendum” and distributed leaflets with an appeal to come to it. Some people that day were festively dressed, as was common for elections. I asked them why they were coming to this referendum, as it was not legitimate. It was written that there would be a legitimate referendum on the 24th, and the old ladies told me: “It’s okay, we’ll go to both.” I was sad that people did not understand the complexity of this situation. I remember how in 2014 Ukrainian flags hung on our state institutions and how they started to disappear. Day by day they became fewer and fewer. It was also sad and painful. I remember that the presidential elections were approaching, which, unfortunately, did not take place. Instead, photos of members of the Party of Regions appeared on billboards in the city.
People who left Avdiyivka and Sloviansk began to appear in Donetsk and talked about all these events. That the military vehicles were moving through the cities, and they were constantly saying that there would be a mopping-up. At the end of June and the beginning of July, people with assault rifles started running through the streets of Donetsk. They set up an artillery installation not far from us. I remember that I went out to pick raspberries and heard a shot, it was very scary. We also heard something flying over the airport, some sounds were coming out from there. And when the militants left Slovyansk on July 5 and came through Horlivka to Donetsk, we started thinking about where to go.
Several people offered to help us leave. One to Kyiv, the other to another city in Central Ukraine. We decided to leave, having chosen the second option. In the middle of July, at night, we left for the railway station. “DNR” military personnel were already there, armed. We boarded the train and arrived in a beautiful city in Central Ukraine, which gave us a warm welcome. We lived there for about six months. At that time, my husband remained in Donetsk, because he had to work out the situation with his job. When he was transferred to Slovyansk, he went there, rented an apartment, enrolled our daughter in school and took us there.
To be honest, I didn’t expect that I would have to go through the war again. In 2014, I didn’t really watch the news. Although my husband, when the events on the Maidan began, felt that something terrible would happen to the country in the spring. He told me about it. In Donetsk, he went to pro-Ukrainian rallies, but I didn’t even know about it. Because one child is about one and a half years old, the other is a little older, I was with them all the time, so he didn’t say anything to me. On February 24, 2022, I was going to go to Slovyansk for a rally in support of Ukraine’s independence, which was organized by local activists. We came to Slovyansk in 2015, and since then I had time to meet representatives of some local patriotic organizations, activists and volunteers. They organized events dedicated to various commemorative dates in the city.
Until the very last moment, I had no feeling that a full-scale war would break out. On February 23, my husband told me that Putin recognized the “DNR” and “LNR” and said that after that something would definitely happen. And already at night we woke up from an explosion in Kramatorsk. We had no illusions about russia, so on the very first day we were going to leave the city. I could easily imagine how tomorrow russian tanks would be driving around Slovyansk. I could not allow myself to see it. My husband had a feeling that danger was very close. We took a taxi to Kostiantynivka, because the train was departing from there, and we didn’t know if it would stop in Slovyansk. So, on February 24, we caught the first evacuation train. We managed to find seats for the children, and my husband and I were sitting whenever we could. If people came in with tickets, we stood up. There were also orphaned children on the train, who were being taken somewhere near Kyiv. We were not going blindly, we had a route. Friends invited us to the city in the west of Ukraine, where we are staying now. But when we arrived at the Kyiv railway station and spent the night there to the accompaniment of air alarms, the children could not sleep and were very exhausted in the morning. The younger child started to cry, the older one was stressed and ready to cry too. We started thinking whether to go further to the west of Ukraine or stay for a while in Kyiv to get some sleep.
Still, we decided to stay in Kyiv for a while. But by the time we got there, we saw that people were spending nights in the subway. We arrived at our station and did not know what to do. However, we stayed for a week in the capital. We were there until we were able to buy tickets to the west of Ukraine. In Kyiv, we lived on the outskirts, there were roadblocks and anti-tank hedgehogs, and territorial defense. The shelling was constant, we heard explosions and sounds of missile hits. Almost no shops were open.
When we arrived in the city where we are now, friends let us live in their apartment. We lived there for 5 months and paid only for utilities. I thought I would come, get used to it for a day or two and start volunteering. I understood that there is such a need for our country. But it so happened that I had no strength. Because of the forced relocation, because of the fact that I saw how hard it was for my children and because of the events in our country related to russian aggression, the lack of security. Firstly, the apartment was not very furnished and equipped. Because people hardly lived there. We had to buy some kitchen appliances, dishes… It all took time, because the area we lived in was a residential area and there weren’t many shops there. I went to the city center and got lost there, because it was a new city for us. When time passed and it warmed up a little, it was already necessary to look for seasonal shoes and clothes. After all, we were able to take with us only those things that fit in the bags in our hands. Children needed something to play with, something familiar to do. I wanted them to have classes they used to have and make it comfortable for them, as much as I could. At first, many shops were closed, because this part of Ukraine was also in shock in the first months and people closed their shops, some went abroad. It was not easy to find things. There weren’t that many products in supermarkets either. But now it has gotten better. So a lot of resources were spent on household and leisure for children. I enrolled them in the libraries I found nearby. And also to school. They finished three months of the school year here, online though. Unfortunately, during the lessons of my older child, her classmates were with their cameras turned off, and she hasn’t even seen their faces. And now we have moved to another neighborhood and we probably need to change schools.
I’m taking a course of a project where we first mastered the theoretical basis, then came to Kyiv and studied nonviolent communication, methodology and practical tools for relieving tension in difficult situations. We passed the exams in December and were supposed to start an internship in January. But I got sick with Covid and started my internship in the middle of February. I only had time to meet with people, and then the invasion began. Then we moved and for the first months the project was completely suspended. However, at the end of April, we were told that the project was renewed. And my task was to find social conflicts in the city where I am living. The point is to give people an opportunity to hear each other and understand each other. I read a lot of news because I think I should know everything that is happening in the city. It must have taken a lot of strength from me and I didn’t know where to get the energy to come up to unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar city, and look for conflicts. But someone gave me an idea and even gave me the addresses of the displaced persons living in the hostels. I talked with two people, and helped them understand each other better. When we had an exam, I got an additional task. And as a person who was forced to move to a new city for the second time, the coaches gave me time to rest. And during the fall I’ll have to find two social cases, work on it, make a report and submit it by December 1st.
We recently moved to a new apartment, because the people we lived with are planning to sell the old one. During the apartment hunt, we faced the fact that the prices for renting rose by 2-3 times. Probably, it’s like everywhere in Ukraine, where it is now more or less calm. There were options that we could not afford. And the ones we could were taken immediately. There were cases when we agreed to go see a private house, but by the time we got there, it had already been rented out. Then we found an option, but the landlord didn’t want to take immigrants. I asked the realtor why. I thought, maybe because there were some immigrants with pro-russian positions, or something. I said that both I and my husband have pro-Ukrainian views. After that, they gave us the apartment. At the new place, the children have already been enrolled in the library, they will soon go to school. Although, they say that the school is overcrowded and they may not take us. But I will find out about everything when I go there myself.
When we first arrived in this city, I had thoughts about going further, maybe abroad. We have acquaintances living in Poland who moved there from Donetsk region. They invited us, but I was stopped by the fact that I would have to go there without my husband. The children have a very strong bond with him, so it would be very difficult for them to be separated from their dad. Especially for an older child.
Not much has changed in my values now, because I didn’t want to live in Slovyansk. For me, the symbols of Ukraine were Kyiv and Lviv. I always wanted to go somewhere there. But it so happened that we lived in Slovyansk for 8 years. Things really changed for me in 2014. I saw how Ukrainian flags disappeared in the Donetsk region, how I could not vote in the elections according to state legislation. Probably, it was at that time that my identity as a Ukrainian was awakened. I understood that it is unacceptable that someone comes in and imposes some referendums on us, destroys our flags, our people; to illegally cancel the Ukrainian presidential elections on the occupied territory. In 2014, in Donetsk, some people were shouting on the streets that “Nazis” and “Benders” are murderers and other nonsense. Now, living in the west of Ukraine, I see that people here are kinder, more cultured, more educated, and most importantly, more humane than in the cities where I lived in Donbas. Therefore, everything that russian propaganda says about western Ukraine and its people is a lie. In Slovyansk, I took an active civic position, when I had free time away from my children and family. I realized that I don’t just live somewhere, I live in Ukraine. Although, I am part Moldovan and was originally a Moldovan according to my passport. But, after 2014, I realized that I am Ukrainian and this is my land. I love Ukraine, its language, culture, traditions and wish it and our people prosperity and well-being. I think that everything will be fine with us. But, unfortunately, we will have to suffer a lot of losses before we defeat russia. And then we will restore our cities and economy. Some things are already being restored, which I am very happy about.
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: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk