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Iryna, Hnidyn

“The only thing we managed to take with us was my son’s toy airplane, “Mriya” [Dream]. 

Iryna, 35, is from Hnidyn, Kyiv region. A week into the war, she and her son Mykhailo, 7, went to Lviv by train and then to Kraków.

“Mom, why do they want to kill us? Did we do something wrong?”

My 7-year-old son often repeats these questions. And I don’t know the answer.

On February 24th, instead of school, we went to the neighbors’ basement. It was much easier to survive the war with relatives. We baked bread, prepared Molotov cocktails; we took turns at the night watch. When it became clear that the war would not end quickly, my son and I left home. We took our documents, medicine, warm clothes and some food. The only thing we took “for pleasure” were iron models of the AN 124 Ruslan plane and a calendar personally presented to us by Dmytro Antonov, the pilot of the AN-225 Mriya [Dream].. Mykhailo dreams of piloting these planes. We took our “Dream” with us.

We spent 4 days in Lviv. There was no work for me, and it was also difficult to volunteer when you have a child. On March 4th, I decided to move on. On the one hand, I felt like a traitor leaving Ukraine, and, on the other hand, I wanted to be useful, not just a victim of circumstances. I really wanted to help.

My friends have lived in Kraków for several years and insisted that I come to their place. They became my support in the new country. I liked Kraków; I’ve been here many times. In addition, I have long been interested in Poland.

Kraków is a city that gave me a new me, in fact.

I would like to thank the citizens of Kraków for their help, care, and compassion toward Ukrainians. I hope that Poles get a sense of that gratitude.

Now, I can take care of myself and help Ukraine. And, most importantly, I feel alive. I know that I am not a victim, I am the ambassador of Ukraine in a sense. I see my future in Ukraine for sure, but only when I’m safe with my child. We will win, rebuild Ukraine and be full members of the European Union, living on our own land. What will we take with us when coming back home? The light and faith in humanity that we have gained here in Kraków.


Text by Viktoria Mudritska

An exhibition by the Galicia Jewish Museum,

Krakow, Poland

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