Arina (20)

April 21, 2022, Bratislava. Day 56 of the war.

She now lives in two adjoining rooms with other women she met during her escape from Ukraine. Grandmothers, moms, expectant mother, kids, a baby, all together. It's her new family. They were united by the war. Today, they are going through everyday sorrows together and help each other. Her hometown is almost completely destroyed. Their dreams and plans have evaporated in a single moment. They are strong women who deserve our admiration.  

“When the war began on February 24, our family and neighbors met at our place and we started living there together. My niece and sister-in-law woke up the first night to loud noises, thinking the tanks were coming. They packed up right away and went to our house because they don't have a proper basement. If a bomb fell on their house, it would bury everyone. That's why they came to us. We have a large house with a spacious and solid basement. We all lived together for a while until we were told that our area was no longer safe. We took whole families and friends, and managed to leave before the official evacuation has been announced. My father, brother, and other men told us we had to leave.” 

“We left them there with tears in our eyes. We had to think first and foremost about the safety of children. My brother started to stammer, many of us have trouble sleeping. We traveled for 3 days and we crossed the Slovak border on March 27. We were very surprised by how warmly we were received here. We needed to find accommodation urgently, because one of us will be giving birth soon and she also has a 9-month-old son. Policewoman Jana, who I will remember for the rest of my life, has appeared all of a sudden. She helped us to find an accommodation in a monastery so that we would not have to go to the tent town. The nuns took care of us there. They were probably the best people in the world. We were there for about 2 days. We were finally able to take a bath and sleep well for the first time in a month. We used to sleep wherever we could, someone on the bed, someone on the floor. We were under constant stress, we had to run to the basement every time we heard a siren. Then we went to Zilina and now we are here in Bratislava.” 

“My hometown is almost completely destroyed. All our plans for this year have evaporated in a single moment. It's hard for us to talk about anything. When we came here, we went to a department store, where there is a park on its roof. We looked at people walking around happily and we thought, "Don't let God do something to them like what happened to us!" You would not even wish the enemy all that what is happening to us. We listen to the news every day and hope it will be better.” 

“Our sons, brothers, fathers, grandfather, grandmother, other relatives, cats, dogs, everything that was ours stayed there. The men had to stay, some of them are serving in the army. When you get on the train, you understand that there is no going back. We went on the train in the dark because there was a bombing around Kiev. The darkness was our camouflage. There were 8 - 9 people in each compartment. It wasn't until we got on the train that we started to get mentally back in shape. In my whole life, in my 20 years, I never thought something like this could happen. My grandma is 75 and she also did not believe that she would ever experience a war. She stayed at home, she couldn't leave because she was sick. My father and grandfather are with her now. We pray every day that we have where and to whom to return, there are our families, friends, our everything.” 

“My mother is a very strong woman, but when the war started, she also became stressed and started packing and preparing for escape. Only my father, who was already in the army, kept reassuring us. You sleep at night and suddenly you hear - BUM! BUM! BUM! and you don't understand what's going on, where those sounds are coming from. None of us were ready for that. War in the 21st century? Those people we called brothers yesterday, became our enemies today. Those who live in Russia often do not believe that there is a war in our country. You can send them photos, but it will still be just a "rescue operation" for them. What sort of rescue operation there is if people, children, soldiers who protect you are dying?” 

“We manage to stay in contact with our families only via Viber or using a Slovak phone number. They tell us that the situation is calm. But you understand that this is just their way of reassuring you, and that the situation is really serious. But there are also those who tell us the truth about what is happening. When it all started, I didn't know what to think about it. Everybody cried, everyone panicked and the rumble of tanks was heard. At that moment, you wonder if they will just pass you or shoot at you. You can't predict where the shooting will come from, where the bomb will explode, you can't even predict your own death. You live every day hoping that the bullet would not hit you, that you will survive.” 

“I have a tattoo on my arm, it was a present my parents gave me before the war. I'm not telling anyone what these characters mean, just that they inspire me a lot. They give me wings. When I'm not well, it reminds me that someone might be much worse. It's in Hebrew, I like that language very much. Most people can't read what I have written there. I am Orthodox, but that was not an obstacle. It was the last gift.” 

“I want those who still don’t believe to find out what is happening here. So that they understand that we do not fabricate these things and that we do not cause it ourselves. I believe everything will be fine. I do not hope, I believe!”