Dada (17)

Friday, March 18, 2022, Bratislava. Day 22 of the war. 

Imagine that you are not yet 18. Instead of enjoying the carefree life of a young person, you have to take on the burden of caring for your family. You have to be strong for others as well. You have to grow up fast. Become an adult in a day. In just a day you have lost your youth, your friends, your home. You don't understand why, because it's simply not possible to understand why.

"I worked as a secretary at the Department of the Odessa Polytechnic University before the war. My brother went to school and my mother worked at university with me. We heard the first explosions at 5 in the morning of February 24. My mom woke me up, we started packing fast. We were rushing to get to the store, to the pharmacy, because my little brother can not be left without his drugs, he has asthma. We could not find the necessary medicines anywhere, in the end we were helped by volunteers. There were people queuing in from of pharmacies and shops, creating long lines on the street. Banks did not work at all, panic began to spread in the city. We were surrounded by the sounds of sirens, gunfire, explosions. We have learned to distinguish the sounds of attack missiles from missiles that protect the city and stop the attack. We have even learned to measure distances from these explosions. These sounds were much louder in our part of the city, because we live by the sea and there were echoes."

"We left on March 1, and have traveled for 3 days practically without stops, through Moldova, Romania, Hungary all the way to Bratislava. We have stopped only for one night in Romania. It was very stressful, we didn't understand what was going on and we didn't know what would happen to us. We are in contact with friends who tell us how the situation is getting worse. Prices have risen 2-3 times compared to those before the war. People are running out of money, food. The food is delivered to some regions only once a week."

"My friends - the soldiers - are young guys who are sent straight to the front. When we say goodbye, they tell me that they don't know if we'll hear each other again, if they are going to survive. It is very hard. We are sitting here and they are fighting in the trenches at home. Last few nights it was cold there, it was -18 degrees Celsius. One of my friends is a soldier and he has to be there in the trenches until it's over. The whole family panicked. I have to be strong to be able to support everyone, mom, brother, others. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to make it."

"It is terrible that some people consider war and genocide to be a salvation. It's not a salvation, it's a murder! And if the Russians once considered us a fraternal nation, how is it possible that they are now killing their brothers? They are shooting at people, they are killing them just like that. They are killing civilians, bombing maternity hospitals, nurseries. People are hiding in a theatre. Russians knew there were children, but they dropped a bomb there anyway. They're destroying shops. Those are not army buildings or military objects, they are simply destroying everything. The Russians said they would only destroy military bases, but that's not true!" 

"It is very difficult to cope, especially mentally, when you are forced to grow up in an instant. You have to decide right now, leave, and leave everything behind. You have to stand in long lines at the border. Stand there for 16, sometimes 33 hours, only so you can run away. And you have to watch how they let the women and children go, but the men have to go back to the front. If you are 18-60 years old, you do not have the right to leave. Mothers are not able to save their sons."

"Our government is trying to save as many people as possible and end the war as soon as possible. We need the support of the whole world. It is terrible that Europe is afraid of Russia, it is afraid of one man. Europe should think about this, because if Ukraine loses, Putin will not stop and he will move on to another country. We are grateful that you help us. It is very important for us, especially for children who come here and do not talk for a few days, because they are recovering from their experiences. We like it here, but we feel deep down in our hearts that we want to go home. I want to be home in Odessa again, walking along the Prymorskyi Boulevard, not listening to the sounds of sirens, explosions. I want everything to be the same as before again. To hear the music of our musicians, to be able to take pictures, dance and sing on the street, to enjoy the presence, I want peace. But it will never be the same again! Because one person has decided that he can change everything and kill those who are innocent." 

"I came here with my mom and my brother. Mom doesn't want to give an interview because she doesn't believe it could help, but she didn't forbid me to do so. We are several families here. My mother's sister, my father's sister, with their families. We all live in one place here, but we really want to go home. We are already looking forward to being able to shout "Glory to Ukraine!" when we get back to our country, into our house. When I walk around Bratislava and see our flag, I start crying because I understand that I am safe, but part of our family and friends are still there and fighting. Grandma is a doctor, grandpa's builder and they said they would not leave because they felt obliged to stay at home. My friends in Kiev and Kharkov are fighting. Another friend, who is 21 years old, takes care of his 14-year-old sister. Their parents had died long ago. He wants to go to Poland with her, but they are not able to leave Kharkov, as the city is surrounded by Russian army and everything is destroyed. People help each other as much as possible, trying to survive, they have no other choice! The shops are already closed and what is left in them is very expensive." 

"I am not thinking about going to school in Slovakia yet. Where I work, in the other University department, I attend computer design classes. I like taking photos and I am interested in psychology. I try to help everyone who experiences what we do. Some left a family at home, somebody else has fathers, brothers, sons killed in this war. It's too hard. My story is by no means the most difficult one. Many decided to stayed in their apartments back at home because they were told that they (the Russians) will only shoot at military objects, but it is not true, they are destroying and killing everything and everyone!" 

"I heard someone singing Russian and Ukrainian songs yesterday and I forgot what was happening for a moment. It was a kind of fog of memories. Bratislava and Odessa are very similar cities. Odessa was also built by various nations. When I'm downtown, I feel like I'm at home. When I see the Danube River, I see the Black Sea. We are not doing well mentally. Everything is so complicated and no one knows how it will end. My grandmother lives 30 km far from Odessa. When I called her, I heard a thunder. I asked her what it was and she said it was a rocket. It fell 10 km away from her house. The Russians are now attacking from the sea mostly. There are 8 enemy ships at sea near Odessa. It's not normal, soldiers are everywhere."