Arrived in Gdansk with her son. Parents, relatives and dog are in Ukraine.
What were your plans for the 24th of February?
On February 23rd I was working in Kurakhovo, Donetsk region. While returning home I heard shootings, but they were far away, and I didn't pay much attention to them. My husband and I planned to go on a vacation. That's why while returning home I was talking with a travel agent about it. We went to bed thinking about our future trip.
How did February 24th and the beginning of war go for you?
At 4:51 I heard explosions. Immediately jumped up and ran to my son. We have a view of the airfield from our windows. We saw a few more explosions. It was very scary. I called my husband, I didn’t understand what was happening. A large fire was visible through the window. A bit later I saw a flying rocket, all its structure. Didn’t know its destination. Luckily it flew somewhere else. Then I started packing my suitcase, first aid kit and we went down to the basement. It was cold to sit there with the child, that’s why I started to make the conditions more comfortable: pulled out the carpets, heater, something to sit on, clothes, some food, even a crowbar and a shovel. Since 2014 we know it’s impossible to live without these things: if the building collapses, it will be necessary to dig ourselves out. Siren was constantly howling, air defense worked twice. We were sleeping in clothes, when the siren alarms started howling and we immediately ran to the basement. Everything seemed to stop. We understood nothing. We couldn’t believe that a full scale invasion had begun.
When did you make the decision to leave Ukraine?
My husband was volunteering at the railway station, helping to distribute people to board evacuation trains. My godmother and I were also volunteering, we were helping with clothes. Then Kramatorsk started to be shelled. From past years’ experience, we understood it’s time to leave. I have relatives in Poland, so we knew where to go.
How was the evacuation?
We started moving on March 6th. Trains were overcrowded. Everybody was in the same situation and just waited for their queue. But the train didn’t arrive, it was shelled. We took the queue in which our mothers stayed, and we ourselves went home to spend the night there. The next day we eventually managed to start going. There were about 10 people in every coupe. In the corridor people with kids were seated and laid. On the way we were caught by a siren alarm and we stopped in the field. We were told shelling is going on and we can’t continue the way. The most scary thing was to continue our journey. Because it’s scary to stay in the field with a child in the middle of night, and it was unclear what to do, where to run. On March 8th we arrived in Lviv, where we were sheltered in a refugee center. Initially we thought we would stay in Western Ukraine, but while going there, I realized we needed to go further. Because we could spend all our money and it would be hard to live as we lost our jobs. That’s why we started to search how to reach Poland. Volunteers helped us. We spent 2 hours crossing the border. I had no clue why and what was happening to me. We reached Warsaw by train. It was difficult for me there. I was staying there at the railway station, no one around spoke Ukrainian or Russian. I had no clue where to go and which train I needed. I had a lump in my throat. But I couldn’t fall apart because I have a child. I was just standing and crying. A Polish woman approached me. Asked whether I’m from Ukraine, I answered yes and that I don’t know where to go. It turned out we were traveling by the same train. She took my hand and traveled with me to Gdansk.
What did you pack with yourself?
The first things I took were a photo album, Yelisey’s birth tag from the maternity hospital, and letters when me and my husband were writing to each other. Of course there were also some documents and clothes. But those things are very important to me.
How was your adaptation in Gdansk?
It’s very comfortable here and there are a lot of friendly people. I suppose it’s similar all over Poland. But it was quite unusual for me that the streets are lightened and there are no sirens. But in general I almost remember nothing from those days, maybe because of stress. Once in the shop, my son wanted a toy, but it was too expensive. Elderly woman saw it and gave money for a toy right at the cash register, and also gave cookies to Yelisey. I cried again. Walks to children's playgrounds were stressful for me. Son was trying to speak and play with other children. Suppose they were trying to do the same with my son, but they didn’t understand each other because they didn’t know the language. And I avoided the playground for a while. When our neighbor found out we are from Ukraine, she brought clothes and toys for Yelisey on children’s day. It was very nice.
How did your relationship with poles develop?
I’m very thankful to all who help me and other Ukrainians. I’m thankful to all the Poles who I know and who I don’t know because they all very much support us. They are so open and friendly.
What were you doing before February 24th?
I'm a medical representative in a corporation. My dream was to work there and I made a huge way to achieve it. My job was like a second home.
What are you doing now?
Now I’m working at McDonald's. I need to live for something, somehow arrange my life. It appeared to be quite a hard job. Now I’m back in 2014, when I started my path.
Maybe you have some plans for now?
I can’t make plans for now. I feel comfortable here, but morally I’m back in 2014 in that uncertainty and ignorance.
What makes you feel happy and makes you move forward?
For now I’m again searching for myself because I’m burnt out because of these events. I’m feeling like an empty jug. My son Yelisey makes me move forward. And the project “YA TAKA SMILYVA” supports me.
What has changed in your worldview since the beginning of the full-scale invasion?
Somehow the feeling of patriotism has sharpened. I have always valued our country and peaceful life.