Natalya (50)

May 8, 2022, Zilina. Day 73 of war.

She holds a bouquet of flowers in her hands, which she picked up during the walk. Spring has already started outside, the sun is shining, people around are enjoying the warm weather. She subconsciously shivers when she talks about how they spent the nights in the cellar in the freezing weather. She swallows her tears and tightens the sweater she wears intensely, despite the warm rays of the sun shining down on her back.

“A cluster bomb fell just 20 meters away from our house today. Neighbors have neither windows nor a fence. My parents are lucky, they sleep in the church in the basement. A neighbor who survived World War II unfortunately stayed home for the night and died in an explosion. They've been living there like this for a month. Every day they go home to feed 2 dogs and a cat. They cook lunch over an open fire quickly, because they don't even have gas anymore. In the church, they cook in a wood-fired oven.” 

“We didn't have our own basement, so we went to our neighbors. But when rockets started pouring in and around us, we panicked. We survived the end of winter in the basement, it was -14 degrees Celsius. I was wearing 3 pairs of socks, several sweaters, as I was trying to warm up and fall asleep without electricity. I went to work so frozen. You go out on the street, the siren goes off, and you don't know if and when something hits you. This is how we lived until March 27, when we left on the evaluation train. Our city is small, the trains don't usually stop there, so we had to ask for an exception. We managed to get it. However, we had to wait because the tracks were bombed, and it took 3 days to repair it. We traveled by train for 3 days. We stopped in the middle of the field when there was an air raid alarm, and we didn't know what was going to happen. I suffer from claustrophobia. The train was standing there in the dark, in the middle of the night. They didn't even let us turn on the phone to keep the light out. Squeezed in the compartment, we waited to see if they hit us, whether we will explode or not. We don't want to go anywhere anymore, we just want to go home. Let them leave us alone. I thought it was just a bad dream that I didn't wake up from for the whole month. Every week, when it seemed to end, more rockets arrived. The worst thing is that rockets can't be heard until they fly directly at you.” 

“Many thanks to Europe for all its arms supplies and support, without which we would probably have lost the war a long time ago. I wish we had already won. When that day comes, I too will raise a glass to victory.”

“My parents did not leave. Mom said that if she left, her heart would stop. My mind felt like it was split in two. I had to evacuate my daughter, but my parents stayed home. They eat only what they have left after the winter, jams, and once every three days they get dry bread from the humanitarian aid. Fortunately, they still have potatoes and beetroot they grown, so they can at least cook borscht. In fact, my mother told me that she had been cooking it for the first time now, after a month. They have 10 hens, so they also have eggs to eat. They share food with neighbors and help each other. However, they only eat once a day, they need to save the wood, therefore they can’t warm everything up.”

“You know, we didn't long for the Russian world. We did not live in wealth, but we did not live badly. We didn't wear designer clothes, mink coats, but we always had food and a house. We hope our house will stand it. We worked all our lives, we were modest, we helped our daughter to get through school, we saved money for the couch, to buy the TV, and when we finally had everything, all this came. We had big plans, but instead we had to celebrate my daughter's 25th birthday in the basement. I don't understand why I had to lose my job, my house, my family. What did I do to them? My daughter just turned 25 years. We wanted to celebrate with family and friends, but instead we sat in the dark until 5 in the morning in the basement. I'm sorry I couldn't even make a cake for my daughter.”

“When the elderly die of disease, you are able to come to terms with it. But when one fool decides to destroy a nation, and thousands of innocent people die because of it, that cannot be understood. Our story is not so terrifying. There was a woman who traveled with us, and she told us about how she ran away from Mariupol with her child. When she left town, she ended up with 6 children because she the rest of them along the way when she saw them sitting on the street by their parents' bodies.”

“We invite those who do not believe to come and visit our home. Let them try what it's like to live hiding from missiles. Trying to avoid the fragments from the shelling. We come from a small town, nobody knew anything about us before, and yet today there is a full internet of information about how we defend ourselves. We hope that the help from Europe and the heroism of our men will be enough.” 

“I realized that there was a war when I saw the panic and everyone going to refuel to the gas station and stock up. We have a war because one person wanted it that way. Now we will have to reconstruct everything. Even Kharkiv, a city that I think is more beautiful than Kiev. All those beautiful parks, squares, zoo... There are no schools or hospitals left.”

“God bless you so you never know what war is. I can't hear the explosions anymore, but I'm frightened of ambulances and planes.”

“Every night we hid in the basements so that in the morning, despite the sound of sirens, we went out to feed the dog. Is this what makes us Nazis? Such stories can be found in every Ukrainian family. Thank you for accepting us and for listening to us!”