Daryna arrived in Gdansk with 2 sisters and 4 nephews. Her mother stayed at home.
What plans did you have for the 24th of February?
It was supposed to be a regular work day. I work remotely from home. So, I knew that my alarm was going to go off, I would make my coffee and get started on working. My life was supposed to go naturally, as it always does.
How did this day go in reality?
Strange sounds woke me up. They seemed to be fireworks, so I thought the sounds would end in a minute. But I was wrong. I realized that it’s not only fireworks, but a thing we discussed with my relatives. My boyfriend finally said: “It has begun”. I grabbed my phone, started checking different chats and groups for any information. I texted my sister, then my mother called. She was wild with fear. I got close to a window and saw that in most of the apartments the lights were already on, a lot of people ran to their cars. At first, I felt so confused. I didn’t want to accept and understand what had just happened. I was in this state for the next few hours. On the 24th and 25th of February working felt like hell. Our clients called from every part of Ukraine to cancel their reservations in hotels. It was immensely hard. I have no idea how I got through. I was like a jangled nerve, that’s what that tension felt like. But my work distracted me from what was happening outside. Although I didn’t turn my TV off for a second, I watched the news 24/7. During the next 6 days, we stayed without light, as well as without heating, hot water and Internet. It feels like you’re in vacuum: you know nothing, but you can hear bombs somewhere out there.
When and why did you decide to leave Ukraine? How did your journey go?
One day, I was standing in the queue and some kind of enemy aircraft flew over us. I didn’t realize that I was in danger, before strangers toppled me on the ground. I barely got on my feet. The trajectory of the object was unclear, you never know if you’re going to be a target. Also, at the same time they bombed a residential district in Kharkiv, Saltivka. My relatives and their little children spent around 3 days in their basements. After that, my sister’s husband insisted on us leaving. At first, I refused, but then I found out that 2 of my sisters and 4 nephews were going, I knew they needed my help. I barely got to pack my things, and had no idea what to bring with myself. We left Kharkiv on 6th of March and went to Lviv, where we planned to stay. Hardly fit in a train, not everyone had their own seats. We changed all the time, children were sitting on our laps. It was truly a nightmare: on the floor there were kids, elder people, and animals. You see pain in their eyes, so much emotions, so much fear. Even describing it is not enough, it’s obvious and visible to everyone. I saw more pain and despair in that train than I ever had to witness. We arrived in Lviv at 1 am, the curfew had already started. We had to spend the night at a train station. The room for mothers and little babies was overcrowded. There was also a tent, where you could warm up, but only people with children were accepted. My youngest nephew is now 4 years old, so we could get warm one after another. My sister’s husband found us volunteers, and in the morning brought us to a hostel. We were extremely grateful. Then, I started looking for housing in Lviv, but nothing was available. My sister’s husband insisted on us going to Poland. He made a deal with his friend, so that he would pick us up on the border and help us find accommodation. We packed and got going. We spent around 8 hours crossing the border. There were enormous amounts of people, everyone was pushing each other. I stood and tried to cover my nephew, so that other people wouldn’t stomp on him. I felt awful, all I could do was cry. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my home country because someone wanted to invade Ukraine. I thought it was all just a nightmare and I am yet to wake up. I love Ukraine and my city. My biggest wish is to come back home and hug my mom. I don’t remember much after it. Then, we were taken to Gdansk.
What did you bring with yourself when you were packing?
I brought my house keys. They are like my trophy, a reminder that I will come back and open the door to my house. I hope I will get to do it.
How was your adaptation in Gdansk?
I couldn’t accept that I have to live in another country. I was utterly uncomfortable. I was always cold and couldn’t warm myself up, I just wanted to wrap myself up in a blanket. In the middle of us living abroad I was in the most tiring state of my mind: I had no ambitions and didn’t feel like I needed them in the first place. What helped was my boyfriend’s support, and also realizing that my sisters need help with their children. Then I restarted working remotely, started to feel a little bit like myself again and came back to reality.
How did communication with the Poles go?
One of the first Polish people we met was our friend’s chef. His mother hosted us in her house. She welcomed us warmly, with complete understanding of our situation. We enrolled children to school and a kindergarten. I am forever grateful to every Polish person and everyone I meet on my way. Thank you all for your help. To those whom I’ve seen in person, and to those whom I’ve never seen. All in all, someone did buy things we took from a local humanitarian help. I think that true friends are known in difficult situations. And I see that the Polish are our real friends.
What did you do before the 24th of February? Do you continue working in that sphere?
I work with clients in a booking department. Our company is in charge of administering a hotel and making reservations for other people. My work has been unstable since the start of the war. At the moment, I work remotely, but we are at loss of clients.
What plans did you have for this spring?
On the 6th of March, my friends and I were going to go on vacation in Germany. We had tickets and a reservation in a hotel. We also wanted to relax on the shore of the Azov Sea in May.
Any new plans at the moment?
You don’t realize how confused I am. I plan things, my plans get destroyed, it’s a horrible cycle.
What makes you happy at the moment? What fulfills you?
I am grateful for everything I have. My faith in everything bad ending fulfills me. Recently, I realized that I have been here for 3 months already and I’ve never gone out or seen anything interesting. So, I try walking and exploring. I try to recognize and accept my own feelings as they are.