“During these few months of war, I had to grow up quickly. I hold on and smile only for the
sake of my little sister.”
Liliana, 18, moved from Mykolaiv to Kyiv to study. She escaped the shelling in the Kyiv region
with her parents and younger sister. Her family stayed in western Ukraine.
At half past five in the morning, I was awakened by explosions. I saw a rocket flying in the sky, and it was shot down. The first morning of the war almost ruined my mental health. But my younger sister is 7 years old, and I understood that I had to be a support for her. My parents were also confused, I had to calm them down and plan the next steps. So,
from February 24th until my arrival in Kraków, I couldn’t cry.
We loaded the car with two cats, two dogs, my pet rat, two parrots and some other stuff. I also asked our family to take a friend of mine who was under 18. We were leaving the city sitting in that car, full of pets and people, and then an air raid just started. We were driving near town of Vasylkiv, when it was bombed from the air. I heard six explosions. The four-lane road was slowly moving in one direction. Everyone understood that a shell could hit this mass of cars at any moment. At this time my friends from Mykolaiv wrote that their city was attacked too.
We went to our relatives in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, where our aunt was already waiting for us, but my parents decided within 5 minutes that I should go further to Kraków, because my older sister, an artist, is finishing her master’s degree here. I did not understand what was happening in my life. Kraków is wonderful, but I could not accept the fact that I was in this city against my will, that it was not my dream, and it was not my decision. To cope with this, I had to find my own place, so I immediately went to help with volunteer work – I spent my student scholarship and bought food and medicine for refugees, I started translating for Ukrainians from Polish, which I studied a little four years ago. An important moment of my life in Kraków was when I felt that I understood the Polish language of homeless people at the station.
I continue my distance education at the Ukrainian university, I am a geologist. The best present for me in Kraków was a bicycle trip with my sister to the limestone rocks. My geologist soul rejoiced, and I even decided to write an article on this topic. I took samples of minerals, stones and, soil from there. I realized how much my values have changed over the last year.
I found a job for the summer; I work as a barmaid, purchase things for the Armed Forces. In Ukraine, our student community [center] has also become a volunteer center, and now I am a logistical link between Europe and Kyiv. Every day, I remember that I am not on vacation now and I’m not a tourist.
Text by Vira Baldyniuk
An exhibition by the Galicia Jewish Museum,