05.    Svitlana (Odesa)

The night before the war I was agitated, pacing the apartment. Was it true, was the invasion really about to happen? My family told me everything would be fine, there wouldn’t be any invasion. At last I managed to sleep, at least for a while. But at half past four we were woken by the first explosions. I still remember the sound, like pops. At first I thought it must be the children playing…

In the morning we went out for groceries. Anguish and confusion everywhere. Soon we heard rumours that Odesa would be bombed that night. I took my mum, my brother and the kids and we moved to our summer house. I tried to continue with my work, but the internet was terrible there. And of course, nothing else about the situation was helping my productivity…

My husband didn’t join us. On that very first day he made the decision to go and defend his country. He wasn’t a qualified medic but he’d trained as a first aid instructor, and he knew he had to help out any way he could. By the 26th of February he was already on active duty. From August he was on the front line. 

Our summer house is east of Odesa, closer to the front, and staying there became increasingly dangerous. I decided to take the kids and get out. We took a packed refugee train to Poland. There was no water, people were sleeping anywhere they could, and the train crept along with its lights off so as not to become a target...
I see how exhausted my kids can get at times. It’s hard to bear. But it’s my responsibility to give them a calm and stable home. And that’s nezlamna for me – when it seems like your strength has drained away, you feel blank and empty inside, but you still get up and do what you need to do for your children.

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