Came to Gdansk as a guardian of three orphan nephews. Parents and grandmother are at home.
What were your plans for February 24th?
To celebrate my nephew’s birthday. I bought candies for the whole class, was preparing for this day.
What were you doing before the beginning of war?
I have been a guardian of 3 nephews for 5 years. They are from Volnovakha. Their mother, my cousin died and I promised to take care of them. I love doing housework. Also I volunteered.
What are you doing now?
I work in a warehouse in a drugstore, collecting orders. It was hard at first, but now I’m involved. Also I volunteer here if possibility appears.
How was February 24th and the first day of war?
I don’t remember how the day went because I started forgetting things a lot due to stress. We woke up from an alarm clock as usual. But then I saw news: everywhere there were only 4 words “The war had begun”. On the first day we didn’t hear explosions so we didn’t want to leave. I started volunteering, helping to organize netting, search clothes and patrolled streets.
When did you decide to leave Ukraine?
When I had a second shift patrolling, Energodar was occupied. I was overstressed because it is only 5-7 km from us. That night I made the decision to leave. Everybody told me to leave: friends, military acquaintances. Asked me not to be heroic. So in the morning I said to the children that we were leaving.We calmly packed in 2 days, in another couple of days we left. Reached Kryvyi Rih by normal train, then moved to the evacuation train. I barely managed to put children in wagons and stayed in cold tambour by myself. The oldest nephew was standing for the whole night, the younger ones were sitting on backpacks. I knew that it could be cold on the train so I filled a few suitcases with blankets. That night suitcases saved us. That’s how we reached Lviv. I heard a lot of different things about the west of Ukraine, they don’t like Russian speaking people. But initially I was pleased with how they helped us. A Lviv resident came to us and offered tea because he saw we didn’t have hot water. It was very nice. We ate and took a taxi to the border. I didn’t allow myself to think about emotions because I needed to take care of children. After crossing the border it could be said we were picked up and carried away.
What did you take with you?
I knew I was leaving for an uncertain amount of time. That's why I had only 1 small suitcase with documents and valuable things. I didn’t think of anything else at all. Took only changing clothes, everything we needed for the first time. My mum also gave me a bag of nuts.
How did you reach Gdansk? How was accommodation?
After crossing the border we went to the nearest refugee point. It was very crowded but we managed to settle down.We spent a couple nights there, then went to Warsaw, eventually my friend advised me to go to Gdansk. We were registered and sent to a one-day refugee point. There we ate, got clothes, and were given everything needed for hygiene. Then we were distributed. I then understood that we are going to stay in Poland for a long time now because I have lived in Russia for some time and I know Putin’s politics. Volunteers found a family which took us in. Adam (our host) picked us up in a big family car and drove us to Jaszkova Dolina. They have a 2 floor flat and we were given a second floor. I was shocked because they gave us a parents' bedroom, and they were sleeping with children. They also have 3 children. I want to say we are a part of a perfect family. We were completely enveloped in care just like some relatives. They didn’t limit us in anything. From our side we took on cooking and cleaning. Our children became friends. Iwonka (Adam’s wife) wondered if my children could cook and was glad at the same time because my children started teaching her children to cook. Iwonka said her youngest son tells everyone in school that he finally has the brother he wanted. They helped me with work. We were even invited to their daughter’s commune, one of the main holidays in the family. I’m Russian-speaking, my nephews are Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking. Adam knows Russian, Iwonka learned it in school. Now they understand Russian better and know a bit of Ukrainian. And my nephews know Polish better.
Which plans did you have for this spring?
On the 4th of April I was supposed to go on a cruise. We planned to board on a luxury liner in Genoa (Italy). I spent 2 years saving money for this cruise, and finally booked it. I have never gone on a cruise and this was my dream. Now I postponed the cruise to autumn. I Planned to cruise with a friend, but will do it with kids.
What makes you happy now? What fulfills you?
What fulfills me is that I have seen a new city, a new country. Having a Polish family makes me happy.My future trip on a cruise makes me happy. But there is no time to relax.
What has changed in your worldview since the beginning of the full-scale invasion?
I'm shocked that I was able to “close the doors” to the past. I understand it won't be the same as it was anymore. I hope I will easily open new doors for new opportunities.
What would you say to yourself in the past?
I missed a lot of things. That’s why I made a conclusion that all questions need to be sorted out immediately.
Low bow to the poles. I saw many nations. But the way they behaved is something incredible. And I want to say sorry for some of our compatriots.