Anastasiia arrived in Gdansk by herself. Her mother, grandfather, brother, who is a soldier in Armed Forces of Ukraine and Anastasiia’s dogs stayed at home.
What did you do before the 24th of February?
I was a freelancer. I sewed custom clothes, made string art paintings, learned how to copywrite and wrote poetry.
And what about your work now?
I don’t sew clothes for the living anymore, even though that was what I wanted to do. The same thing with paintings. Although, I started writing more and now I am looking for possibilities to make something out of my poetry.
Describe how the 24th of February went for you.
I remember waking up at 3 am and crying a lot. I’ve barely cooled down and fell asleep again. Later, something woke me up. I didn’t understand what happened and looked out of my window. Then, a thought crawled to my head: “It’s almost dawn, I could sleep for another few hours”. A moment later my brother and his fiancée came to me and started shouting that the war had begun. I jumped out of bed and started packing. Meanwhile, my brother was screaming at the top of his lungs, telling me the exact things I was supposed to pack. We heard how they bombed our local military base; it was just in our neighborhood. All of us gathered in our hall. My brother, who is a soldier, has already changed into his military uniform. He barely started his car and was immediately called into work, because there was an enemy aircraft in the sky. We hugged him tightly and he left. His fiancée and I spent almost 5 hours in our hall. It was a horrifying experience. I called my mother. She was working at that moment and didn’t want to believe anything about the war. Eventually, she did believe it when she realized that our military base, the place of her work, was destroyed. Fortunately, she was working her shift in another city. We called our grandfather, he didn’t care at all. When we calmed down for a bit, we brewed ourselves some tea. I realized that I couldn’t eat anything. The day passed in fear.
Which moments were the most memorable to you?
“Rise of Sun from the West”. Fear for my mother, how she would come back home. Fear for my friends from Kyiv and Odessa. I instantly texted them all. What I remembered for sure was the call I got from the hotel: they were calling to confirm my reservation because later that day I was supposed to go on a holiday in Odessa. At first, this phone call scared me, then it shocked me. The manager was like in an alternative universe and didn’t know about the war, even though Odessa was bombed too.
What changed in your worldview after the war started?
The war has been going since 2014, it hit me. I remembered how terrifying it was during spring last year. At that time, I didn’t even know if I would be able to graduate and receive my diploma. There were already fighter pilots in the sky and tanks on the streets. I realized that life is short and you should just do what makes you happy. All in all, everything stayed the same. I have worked on myself quite a lot for the last 3,5 years and now I’m happy that my value system is solid enough to not let myself break even during these trying times.
When did you decide to leave Ukraine? What made you do it?
I had no intention of leaving, but I gave up after a conversation with my mother. We knew what could happen if the occupants came to us. And that’s exactly what we saw when infamous pictures from Irpin, Bucha and other cities that were once occupied went viral. I made this decision on the 9th day of war.
What did you leave in Ukraine?
Books. Just before the war, I bought a lot of paper books. Notebooks with novels and essays. A yoga mat, everything for watercolor drawing, something for crafting. Clothes, sewn by myself. And my favorite toy – a plush unicorn. These things are super important to me, they’re filled with special emotions and senses.
The first things that you packed were a diary and a book. Why did you decide to bring these things with yourself? Why are they so special?
I have kept this diary for almost 4 years and these are my specially selected notebooks. I love writing. It’s important for me to have my diary with me. And I packed a book because I couldn’t imagine my life without reading. That one was new, a gift from my mother, which I dreamt of reading. To be honest, I brought a talisman my grandmother made me 10 years ago too. I bring it everywhere. I also packed some warm pajamas, which was a gift from my brother and his fiancée, and little things that remind me of loved ones.
How did you cross the border?
It was tremendously hard. It took us 2,5 days to get through and I could not sleep a wink. Firstly, I went to Wroclaw. There was my friend’s sister waiting for me, we came from Dnipro together. In general, it was difficult to think about anything. All I saw around manifested in suffering and misery. I had to “turn off” my feelings. But when we were crossing the border, I wanted to fall on my knees and break down crying. I had no desire to leave Ukraine. I spent 2 weeks in Wroclaw and decided to not give up on my dream of living on the seashore in Odessa. That’s how I ended up in Gdansk.
How are you feeling at the moment?
Troubled. But I’m getting used to it. It’s especially hard for me because I’ve never planned on living abroad. I love Ukraine wholeheartedly and I’ve always wanted to live there.
What plans and goals did you have for this spring? Did you get to accomplish any of them?
I was going to move to Odessa and change the sphere of my work, write more, and continue therapy. If we’re talking about my plans in general, I wanted to travel Ukraine and get a degree in Psychology. I’m working on almost everything from this list, except, of course, traveling.
What plans and dreams do you have now?
The same. However, travelling Ukraine has been delayed for an unknown period of time. I also want to learn different languages now. Surely, I dream of seeing my friends and relatives again. I want my brother to come back home safely and in good health so we could celebrate our victory.
What would you recommend your past self, considering your new experience?
It’s hard to say. I think it would be: “Enjoy your life right here and right now. Make your dreams come true”.