04.    Yulia (Kyiv)

In 20 years of marriage I’d never been one to make decisions alone. But when my friend texted that a bus was leaving for the border in the morning, the decision came quickly and easily. I told my husband I just couldn’t cope if I stayed. He supported me in my choice. 

I’d actually packed a suitcase a week before the war began. Got all the documents ready. I had this feeling that it was going to happen, but thought it was just my nerves. Then that first morning my sleep was broken by sounds I couldn’t process... I dozed off again, then the same happened... I shook my husband. He told me not to worry. But two minutes later we’d understood that it really was happening. It was too much for the mind to take in…

I went to wake the children. My eldest son didn’t want to get up at first. I shouted, “Wake up, it’s war!" We all got dressed. We didn't know where to go or what to do.

My brother and his family joined us. We gathered what food we had, took the pets and went out of town. We thought we’d be safer there. There were 13 of us in total. We heard constant explosions, day and night. The local store opened one hour a day so people could run to buy food. We slept in our clothes, documents ready by the bed. But I hardly slept and hardly ate. I felt cold all the time.

The journey to the border took two days. It was a terrifying experience. But I knew I had to gather all my strength and determination for the children.

Ever since they were born, I’ve devoted my life to my family. My youngest son has special needs – along with the stress of the war, he’s had to adapt to a whole new life here in Britain. It’s been tough for him, and for me too. It's not easy being a single mother when you have a husband! I’m making it work, but I know I couldn’t do this without my husband, without his support and belief in me.

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