02.    Olena (Kyiv)

I was 45, single, living with my sons who were 14 and 5. My two daughters were already grown up and lived in Europe, studying and working. As a single mum you’re doing it all yourself…but I loved my children, my work, my friends – and I was happy. On Saturdays I’d go for forest walks with my family in the morning, go to the Kyiv Philharmonic with friends in the evening… I’m a creative person and I strive for beauty in everything I do.

The war started... I made the decision to get out. It was a leap into the unknown, to somewhere outside of time. You felt empty…in your head, your heart, down to your fingertips. I was joking and laughing all the time, my hand gripping my phone…as if it might suddenly all end, as if somehow we could just turn back. In those days, for the first time in years, I felt helplessness. I reached out for help, taught myself to accept it. The old me died and a new one was born in her place.

The clatter of the train... A day and night in one compartment with ten other women and children, all as lost and frightened as we were. And a lone German tourist… A short stop in Warsaw, then to Strasbourg. Four months at a French farm, among forests and fields. And at the end of June, on to the UK… A month with a host family in a village in Kent. Then a job offer in London, with a week to find an apartment and move…

I needed to pick things up fast, learn on the job, keep smiling. After a month my youngest fell ill… I had to work remotely from his hospital ward. I kept smiling. 

Even now I’m still learning every day, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I believe in myself and in my friends, who support me and inspire me. This war’s made me stronger. I was strong before, but I’m three times as strong now.


©️Nezlamna. 2023

All rights reserved. 
contact us