She came to Gdansk with her daughter, son and three grandchildren. Her parents, relatives and cat Rudolf stayed at home.
What were your plans for 24.02?
I had to have a normal day. I had to wake up and do my usual household chores.
How did it really go?
This day was filled with fear. It seemed to me that this was a mistake, that it could not be a reality. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty - these three emotions filled the day. We woke up early at 6 am, because I have small children. I opened the news and read the following (ed: Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began) in the news. I woke my daughter up and told her what had happened in our country. We were flipping through the news all day, worried as much as possible.
How was the beginning of the war?
We were warned that siren alarms should be taken seriously. Therefore, we constantly went to the bomb shelters. But I was very tired of it. On the 4th day, I didn't want to go anywhere. I said, “Let there be sirens, whatever you want, I'm tired of running. I don't want to hear anything and I don't want to react in any way ”. Then I remember one morning when I got up and my daughter was sick again from panic attacks. She was sick and she began losing weight. I saw fear in her eyes, she told me, "Mom, I can't do it". It was a call that something needed to be done. I saw that my children were not ready to live like that. Nobody is ready. No child or person is ready for this. So I started thinking about a solution to this situation.
When did you decide to leave?
Suddenly. I talked to my friend and asked about the possibility of leaving. She said the church she attended could help. At first, I told myself that I would think and decide for myself. Then she went into the room, looked at the children and told Ivanka about this possibility. But she immediately replied that she needed to go.
How was the evacuation route?
I think that sometimes, instead of making decisions, you just have to act. So we quickly got together and left. We came to the church, they put us in buses and took us to the border. I was amazed by my children: they sometimes quarrel with each other, but when we set off, we were very close. This is the first time I saw them like this. On the way, no one cried or complained that they were tired, wanted to drink or go to the toilet. At the border we were taken off the bus and we stood in the usual queue, where we stood for 4 hours.
It was raining, we were hungry. People helped each other: some shared apples, some were treated to rolls, some to sandwiches. There was cohesion and no indifference. Everyone was kind.
How did you feel when you crossed the border?
I have never been abroad before. I am a stable person, I never thought that I would break away from my place and move. Usually, two days are enough for me to rest. That's why I felt anxious. I was so worried that it felt like my heart jumped out of my chest. I just wanted to cry.
How did you get to Gdansk?
We crossed the border and were met by "angels in vests" - volunteers. We were put in a car and taken to a temporary refugee station. There they fed us, gave hot tea, offered to rest and children were given toys. I was amazed that when we were there, none of the children said they didn't like it here. The feeling of security consists of small crumbs: someone helped bring a suitcase, someone offered to drink tea, and someone gave the children a sandwich. You don't remember who did it, but remember the gestures.
My friend lives near Wroclaw, so we went there. But on the way, I felt that this was not the point where we should go. I told the children that we were going to Wroclaw, and then we would decide what to do next. We arrived in the city and I immediately found a volunteer to help and tell us where to go. He gives phone numbers to find housing. But it was difficult because there were 6 of us and I wasn't sure what we were being offered. Suddenly, another acquaintance of mine from Poland came to mind. I called her and she promised to help us, but for that we had to come to Gdansk. And so it happened. She met us at the station and took us to the Dolna Brama… I remember when we went there, the children sat on the couches that stood there and fell asleep. The baby was sent to the children's room. Employees arranged everything so that we wouldn’t be hungry and could rest. We still live in this apartment.
How was the adaptation?
It seemed to me that it was all a dream, that I would wake up the next morning at home. We tried to do everything to make children feel comfortable, not to feel like strangers. It was kind of a holiday for children. As soon as possible we enrolled the children in school, where we were very kindly welcomed.
How was your relationship with the Poles?
Fine. In general, they are like family to me, I do not feel alien to them. Very nice and open people. Older people understand that you are Ukrainian, take your hand and say with sympathy: "Brace yourselves". I really want to thank all those who help us, Ukrainian mothers, who still keep their hearts and their homes open, give us their time to support us. These circumstances not only made us strong, they opened Ukrainians to the world. The world, despite its own problems, is ready to accept and help us. I am especially grateful to a School #77 in Gdańsk. When the parents of the other children found out that we were from Ukraine, they collected gifts and necessary things for us. Parents of other people's children accepted ours as their own. For me as a mother, this says it all. This speaks of the great heart of the whole country.
What did you do before 24.02?
I took care of the children: my own and others. Worked as a nanny and taught Sunday school. Children are my life.
What were your plans for this spring?
I had dresses that I wanted to wear. I was planning to prepare for a children's holiday at Sunday school. We planned a short trip around the region. These were ordinary plans that filled our lives.
Are you making plans now?
I would like to open my own agency of nannies who would help Ukrainian women to settle in a new place, to go to work. Thereby helping them support their families.
What has changed in your worldview since the beginning of the full-scale invasion?
Certain things that were very important before February 24 have ceased to be so. I realized that one suitcase was enough for life. I regret appreciating the wrong people pretty often. I regret that I did not thank certain people for their help and support. And I regret that I wasted my time and resources on some unworthy people.