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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Happy couple

    “We managed to leave just in time — the very next day I went into labor”— the story of a woman from Kyiv, who had to evacuate a day before she gave birth

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Andrii Serbovets

    25 September 2022

    Before the war, Anastasia Rakina was preparing to give birth to her child at home in Kyiv. As early as February 25th, however, trouble came to her neighborhood. She had a hard time going to the basement for every air raid alert. On March 7, her husband her finally left Kyiv. However, the very following day Anastasia went into labor. Ever since she had to hide in bomb shelters with her newborn girl. She told “Monologues of War” about city bombings, evacuation, giving birth, and what she otherwise came through.

    My name is Anastasia, I’m from Kyiv. When the war began, I was on maternity leave. Before that, I had spent many years working in the service sector in restaurant business and as a canteen manager. I took maternity leave in early January to prepare for the baby. 

    I was probably the only one in my circle who was confident in that the war would not happen. All my friends packed their suitcases. I didn’t, because I was sure that nothing would happen and everything was going to be alright. I just refused to believe something like this could happen. Over the last few days before February 24, I was thinking only about my baby. We laid out children’s things and ironed them. About February 22, we assembled the crib. Those were our final preparations for your baby. 

    At night, we slept on the floor in our corridor — this was where we waited out the air raid alarms, too

    I will remember forever the morning of February 24. I blissfully slept in my bed, when a friend called me at about 5:30 AM. When I saw the incoming call, I immediately knew something was afoot. After all, nobody would have disturbed the pregnant me otherwise. I had a bad feeling about that. 

    “Get up,” she said. Get up, open your eyes, don’t worry, and pull your wits together. The war has started! Please, pack the essentials, keep in touch, put on the news, and watch the situation. For the 5 minutes that followed, I was overcome with shock, because I was sure that nothing of the sort could happen. I was not ready to the news like that. 

    We woke up all our parents and relatives, put on the news, and started preparing something in a rush and keep track of the situation while at it. Our apartment was close to the central part of Kyiv, and the danger was concentrated mostly on the outskirts during the first day of the invasion. However, on February 25, our neighborhood became noisy and agitated, too. Therefore, we started looking of the a bomb shelter nearby and planning our further actions. People panicked, running around the streets and shops, grabbing whatever food they could. The shelves were empty, we couldn’t buy a thing neither salt, nor buckwheat, nor whatever other food. People looked baffled, everyone panicked. 

    When explosions were heard in our neighborhood, we went to the shelter. The shelter was crammed. The buildings in our neighborhood are old, and there was sand in their basements, so it was hard to breathe. Since I was due within weeks, returning to the shelter became increasingly harder and remaining there was nearly unbearable. Therefore, we decided to wait it out at home. 

    I asked my family just to support me, because it was hard to me to go to the basement and stay there. We thus spent all air raid alarms in our corridor, bringing there all mattresses and whatever other soft things we had. 

    At night, we slept on the floor in our corridor — this was where we waited out the air raid alarms, too. This is how we spent our time until our departure. While preparing to leave, we were scared, because I was heavily pregnant and could go into labor at any moment. 

    Spending a night in the corridor

    February 26 on the floor in the corridor

    The roads leading to Western Ukraine were congested at the time, and people could spend 3–4 days in traffic without moving an inch forward. Although we wanted to leave, we feared it would be dangerous, because the Russian missiles could here anywhere. 

    We packed up and decided to head straight to the maternity ward

    We hesitated for a long time, not knowing what to do. However, when I found out that most my friends had left Kyiv, we were offered help to evacuate to Lutsk. We had to decide that very day, so we packed our things and decided to head straight to the maternity ward. We left at 6 AM on March 7 and didn’t know when we would arrive. The navigator offered only two options for our itinerary. We could go as usual through large cities (Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi, because the Zhytomyr highway was still closed) to go to a local maternity ward should the need arise. Because of my nervousness and all other things, chances were high that I go into labor sooner rather then later. We also could take a short route. However, that route was outside major cities, and getting to the nearest maternity ward would be too long. However, the time difference was huge, according to the navigator, so I asked my husband to take the shorter route.I prepared myself, said that all was going to be alright, and asked my husband to trust me. And we did the right thing when we decided to take the sort route, we arrived as early as on March 7. We were so fortunate to reach our destination as planned. We didn’t know where we would live. We just packed up and set off for a maternity ward. Through the lens of this war, however, I discovered the nature of our people. Our people are the best! There no other people in the world like ours! Helping others was worth gold at the time. The friends of our friends helped us find housing, so we could move in as soon as we arrived. Over the first few days, we lacked bedsheets, pillows, and blankets, but it was nothing, because the only thing that mattered is having roof over our heads. 

    All women and their babies in the maternity ward had to remain in the basement

    On March 8, we woke up with a relief, because we managed get away from whatever happened in Kyiv. As it happened, we left just in time, because I had to go to the maternity ward on March 9. Most importantly, however, we managed to timely leave Kyiv, get to Lutsk, and move in. So, I went into labor on March 9, and our daughter was born on March 10. 

    After I gave birth to my daughter, we were put into postnatal care. As it happened, the night against March 11 was full of explosions in Lutsk, and many were clearly heard behind our ward’s windows. Lots of missiles hit the city that night, so we were woken up and group to the basement together with our babies. There were so many women here, some on bed rest. I mean, all the women in the maternity ward and all the babies that were born had to remain in the basement. This troubling situation in Lutsk persisted for two days. Luckily, things worked out. 

    In the maternity ward

    Anastasia’s daughter in the maternity ward

    We are still in Lutsk, but we have our reasons to stay. We wanted to go home more than one time, but Russian missiles have been striking three times near our Kyiv home already. The air strikes of April 28 and June 26 both landed near our house. The house near ours has been destroyed. It’s a miracle that our house survived that airstrikes — only windows were blown off the hinges. So, the situation there is very troublesome, and something like that happened every time we wanted to return. And who knows if any more missiles will strike there. Half of our neighborhood has already left, so that’s not exactly a safe place for us. We have a place to live in Lutsk now, and I’m grateful our people for all their help in getting it. I thank from the bottom of my heart the people who helped us find the apartment, all the necessary things, and more. 

    There is nothing more valuable than the lives and health of your closest people

    I am the planning type. When we prepared for the birth of our daughter, we picked a specific maternity ward, and settled everything with the doctor. We bought everything our baby would need: the crib, and the baby bath. Everything was ready for her arrival. We also started renovating our apartment. Half of our kitchen cabinets had been assembled already, and the rest were the next in line. When the war began, I realized that it all held not actual value: not the apartment, not the renovations, not the tings, not the crib… What matters is the lives and health of the people you hold dear. There is nothing more valuable that that. When I learned about the June 26 blasts near our house, I was relieved to know none of my family were there. I was told the missile hit somewhere near our house, and it’s probably destroyed. Then I called my mother and said: Our apartment is probably gone, but don’t be sad. What’s important is that we weren’t home when it happened, and the rest is nothing.I mean, things don’t have any value now.

    Read also: “We weren’t running away from poverty, but here we have to ask for basic things”: how Tetiana Ponomar evacuated from Cherkasy to England with two children

    Russians have to pay for everything they have wrought in Ukraine. I very much hope Ukraine will become a truly European country with European values after we win — a country without corruption, bribes, and officials acting exclusively in their own interests. I wish we could have a genuine democracy so that our soldiers know they are not risking their lives for nothing. I believe Ukraine will rebuild and flourish, because it’s the best! Most importantly, this war needs to end as soon as possible. Ukraine must return to its original borders —the way it’s used to be and even better!

    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: Andrii Serbovets

    Life under fire

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