АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation:
18 May 2022
Yuliia Tsekhosh, 34, a fitness coach from Kryvyi Rih, shares her own experience of leaving Ukraine in the first days of the war. Alongside with many other Ukrainians she decided to leave her home and her family in order to protect her son. The place they could feel safe in turned out to be Poland.
At 6:30 in the morning of the 24th of February my sister called me and said that the war had begun. Immediately I turned on the TV to see the news. I couldn’t believe it was true. Although my family and I had been discussing the possibility of a full-scale war, we still went on with our lives and didn’t actually get ready for it. Nobody packed an emergency bag. On the first day of the war, like many other people, we didn’t know what to do. First thing we did was buy food and get some cash. That was my first day of the war.
On the 27th of February I started thinking about taking my kid to safety. My parents said that it will be easier to go through the war together. I agreed, at first. But later I saw footage from Mariupil, in which medics were trying to save a wounded girl, but failed. For me it was a point of no return. After watching this video I was crying for a while and couldn’t calm down. I was thinking about that child and her parents. That was when I decided that first and foremost I must protect my own son.
Our move to Poland was horrible. A friend of mine had a train ticket to Uzhhorod. As soon as I learned about it, I decided to join her. Although we bought first-class tickets, there was no way we could get a separate seat. What I saw at the railway station shocked me: people were rushing to get on a train in complete panic and despair.
On the platform everyone was arguing, nobody let anyone through. My husband raised our son above people’s heads and passed him to the train conductor. In our compartment there were 5 adults, 6 kids and 3 dogs huddled on 2 seats. It was a horrible 19-hour-long trip. Children slept on parents’ laps, everybody shared all the food they had. It was nearly impossible to go to the bathroom, because there were people sleeping in the hallways and you literally had to step over them.
On arrival to Lviv we got off the train and went to a refugee center, asking volunteers how to get to the border with Poland. There were no free cars at the time. At the bus stop we were told that a bus ticket to the border was 1.500 UAH. And you had to pay for a child too. For 2 thousand, a bus could take you to the nearest Polish town. But there were also volunteers who could take refugees to the border. We used this option and a man from Stryi drove us there. He and his family, using their own cars, helped people for free.
There were a lot of people in the line to cross the border, maybe thousands of them. A volunteer passed us by, saying that we had to wait for at least 8 hours. That was how it went. After 10 pm the kids were exhausted. We asked to let us through but were refused. Only people with babies could pass without waiting. Conditions were dreadful. We were standing in puddles. The crowd was huge. Somebody stayed in the line honestly, someone managed to cut through. It was lucky the night wasn’t too cold. We weren’t frozen but extremely tired.
I felt like a kitten that was thrown out on the street. My friend took her daughter to a refugee camp to warm up, and my son was playing with some garbage. It was a dark night, people were arguing all around me, and I was standing there and crying, because at home there was everything I needed: my family and their support. Here I was on my own, facing my fate, and at the same time responsible for my child. I had no right to be weak, because I was taking my son to another country.
At 11:30 pm we reached the border guards and they let a group of around 250 people go through together. They told us to go straight ahead. We were walking for a kilometer in full darkness. Finally we reached a customs service office. They let us in and 250 of us were just standing in a hall. Nobody was allowed to go on. We were waiting for 40 minutes and nobody came. The kids were dozing right on the luggage. Then I saw a child zone with a playpen. We put some blankets there for the children and they fell asleep. The adults lay down on the floor.
At around 7 am we passed the check on the Ukrainian side and reached the Polish passport control. While we were standing in a line, some guy drove by us heading for the Ukrainian side. He gave yogurts to the kids, so they had some breakfast. It was very nice. Later Polish firemen offered to let us stay in a fire truck, while we were waiting for a bus to Warsaw. They brought various food and juice for the children. We spent little more than an hour there, getting warm.
All in all, we appreciate so much the support we received from the people of Poland. It seems to me, without their assistance, Ukrainians wouldn’t survive a day here. We are so grateful to them for all they do for Ukrainians.
I believe in our victory and wish I could go home soon!
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: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: