Arrived to Gdansk with 2 sons. Husband is in Kyiv, serving in the Territory defense.
What were you doing before February 24th?
I was on maternity leave. That was the 19th day of being a mother of 2 kids. I got used to the appearance of Semen in our family, and was adapting to this new life stage. For more than 10 years I was organizing festivals for adults and kids. I was an animator, host and organizer.
Are you planning to return to this activity?
For now I’m on maternity leave. If I was at home, it’s very likely in a few months I would start working with Semen. I did it in such a way with my older son Ivan. I started working when he was 6 months old. So I’m prepared for this. For now I’m struggling, I can't be sure about the next day and I’m not able to earn money.
Describe February 24th.
We woke up at approximately 5 in the morning. Husband woke us up and said only 1 phrase: “It had begun”. It made no sense to ask “What had begun?” – everything was clear. Apparently we have been preparing since February 16th. But it was unclear what to do. 2 kids, where to go? It was scary to watch from the window what was happening in our yard. People were running with backpacks, a terrible commotion: these backpacks that were rattling, these rockets that were flying overhead… What should I do? To pack or not to pack suitcases? Where to go? I started looking on the internet, but there were already traffic jams on the roads. So we decided to stay at home.
How was the beginning of war?
The first 3 days we were going to the underground parking on the -2 floor. During the day we were at home. We closed the windows in order not to see what was happening on the streets. It was unsafe, but it was a bit easier for us. Sometimes I just peeked into the gap. We spend the first night there. “ It was scary to see children and adults all being very confused, we didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know how it would be. Every morning while going upstairs we thought “That’s all, tonight was last night, today was last day. Just a little more and it will finish”. And then a week passed, then a second one, but nothing ended.”
What has changed in your worldview since the beginning of the full-scale invasion?
Everything changed. We started to value each day because we didn’t know if the next day would come and where we would be. Before February 24th my husband and I had strong stress. I mean we had panic attacks and we were nervous. But we reduced it to the fact that our second child was about to be born and we didn’t know if we could manage. Older son is a very active boy. I could spend sleepless nights for 2 weeks because something was bothering me very much. And when February 24th came, my husband and I concluded it was a premonition.
When and why did you decide to leave?
We left on the 7th or 8th of March. We left because we were fed up with everything going on. Explosions were a bit closer, sometimes a bit further. And I started to notice that we were getting used to it. Every time we were worried because we were living on the left bank of the river. We had only 1 route to leave. We knew if one more attack on Kyiv would be, we would be completely cut off, we would become human shields. We didn’t know where to leave. We just left.
You put the hard drive and birth tag from the maternity hospital. Why these things?
On the first day I packed a suitcase. I tried to pack the lives of 4 people in this suitcase. But it wasn’t fitting well. Then I thought if we won’t come back, we would need something special to be left with us. Our life was on that hard drive. All our photos, memories are on this hard drive. And Semen’s birth tag. Because I thought he had nothing left. He doesn’t know what his home looks like, he doesn’t know what is home. I love memories and I want my children to also have them.
How did you cross the border? What were you feeling at that moment?
My husband and I left by car. We chose the closest place to the border, so that my husband could transfer us. I was already calm because I immediately cried everything out and accepted the situation.
Did you come to Gdansk right away?
Yes, we came here right away because my husband’s mother lives here. They have been living here for 5 years. If I didn’t have a place to go, I don’t know what I would do. Now I understand that I wouldn’t get lost and would find everything. But before, when I was like a little girl, when I knew I was near my husband and he would do everything we could to feel good… And here, I need to think about everything by myself.
What were your plans for this spring?
I planned for this spring to be on maternity leave, to walk in my favorite places of Kyiv, to meet my son from kindergarten, to recover because the second pregnancy was stressful. I planned just to live calmly and peacefully in my flat, in my town. For now I don't have plans. Literally. We don’t know where we will be tomorrow and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We don’t know where our relatives will be. I don’t know when I will meet my husband. That’s why I’m very careful with plans now. For now, I'm planning to buy some furniture for the kitchen. That’s all.
Maybe you have some dreams?
I dream of returning home, I want our life to continue. I dream of taking my life off pause.
What fulfills you?
I become happy when I meet nice, kind people. I become happy while watching videos about Ukrainians. How strong and powerful we are. That makes me cry. I become happy when I see how good my older son is. Everything that is happening he perceives as a vacation, rest, travel.
What would you say to your past self?
I would advise myself not to dwell on anything. I mean, earlier I dwelled on certain things, on small things. I would advise myself, there in peaceful time, to enjoy every day. Literally every day. Remember we had a lot of free time and we passed it through our fingers like sand. Now it’s impossible to live like this.