17.    Yuliya (Kyiv) 

A month before the war, my company offered me the chance to work abroad. My expenses would be covered, and I could even choose from a list of countries. But I kept finding reasons to put it off. And the truth was, I didn’t want to go. I had this feeling that if I left Ukraine, I’d never come back…

But on the third day of the war, I crossed the Polish border. I was on foot. I remember the pain of leaving my country, and the bitter knowledge that it wasn’t by choice.

A young Polish volunteer gave me hot tea and a bun. When I thanked her she just said, “It’s the least I can do. We’re neighbours after all...” Those simple words, the open look on her girlish face, her small act of charity… it all had an overwhelming effect on me. I burst out crying.

Neighbours. Yes, the Russians are our neighbours too. Some of them are even our blood relatives. Only instead of helping us, those neighbours invade our country and kill our people.

My mother and aunt didn’t leave, but moved in with friends near Kyiv. This was the time of the atrocities in Bucha and Irpin. In those days I learned to pray even in my sleep. I wrote to them three times a day, knowing every message could be the last... and just prayed, prayed, prayed.

Since I left my home and my loved ones with one suitcase and crossed Europe, I’ve discovered hidden resources within myself. I’ve learned to ask for help and learned to accept it. I’ve learned to live without my country’s soil beneath my feet. I’ve accepted that life will never be the same again, and learned to swim in this sea of ​​uncertainty. I’ve taught myself to knock on closed doors and keep knocking for as long as it takes.

I’ve been in crisis, but I’ve come out stronger than before. I feel completely alive, full of love for other people and the world around me. And I believe that good will conquer evil, and love and life will conquer death.

©️Nezlamna. 2023

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