“We got the last tickets to the last evacuation train. The next day, the occupiers bombed the
railway that was taking people out of our region”.
Maryna, 36 years old, from Severodonetsk, Luhansk region. She fled by train with her five
sons (12, 9, 7, 6 and 1.5 years old) and her mother two weeks into the war.
The hostilities started rapidly because the demarcation line is located very close to our city. On February 24 we heard bombs, and on the 25th Russians started shelling the city. We have a huge chemical company, the Severodonetsk Azot Association, which produces ammonia, and fertilizers and so, to be honest, we were scared to even worse. We were
informed about the nearest bomb shelters, but they were mostly just basements and it was too cold there for kids. We had a large, cozy apartment of 105 square meters. Using the rule of two walls, during the shelling we arranged a living area with mattresses and blankets. We spent 14 days in the corridor, without leaving the house. We tried once to get to the humanitarian aid station, but it didn’t work out. After that, the Russian invaders began to deliberately target energy companies and power lines, gas pipelines. When we woke up one morning, we saw that there was no water, no light, no gas. It was horrible. The Internet and television connections disappeared immediately. A couple of times, we were lucky to get a mobile connection. We have been living with the war for eight years [the rest of the Ukrainian territories encountered this for the first time in February]. We have already gone through this. In 2014, my son, who is now seven years old, was born; I gave birth to him in such conditions and passed my final exams – I received my secondary education certificate in Luhansk at the end of June. There was an enormous belief in our Ukrainian army that kept up the defenses and we felt protected: there was no feeling that we would be captured, or that someone would give up. In the first days, we felt that it would be a betrayal if we leave the city now. The situation worsened critically, and there were huge problems with evacuation because it was impossible to get to those trains. The shelling was massive and there were attacks along the entire border. And then there was such a wave of people who wanted to evacuate, but there were no more places for them. There is no railway in our city, only in neighboring Lysychansk. People had a hard time getting there (there was no transport, petrol and you couldn’t get there on foot because of the shelling). So, in early March, we decided that the children must be saved, we must take them away. It’s just a terrible feeling when you’re alone in the war. My husband’s parents moved to our place but didn’t want to evacuate. My mother also did not want to go, and it took a week to persuade her.
I accidentally saw an announcement at 11 o’clock that the evacuation train would be at 4 p.m. The train was heading somewhere to the western regions, where we did not know. We drove to the railway station. I was all in tears: you leave your house; you go nowhere and
you just don’t recognize your hometown. It was just surreal; I could not believe my eyes. The evacuation looked like this: you had to get a small piece of paper with the date at the ticket office. We left the region in complete darkness because there was constant shelling.
Then on to Kharkiv, Kyiv, where there was bombing as well. Our train left on March 6, and the next day the Russian aggressors bombed the railway station. We had the last tickets for the last train car of the last train. A friend of mine helped us to get to Kraków, where we were hosted by a Polish family. Honestly, this is a great feat by the Poles, especially taking into consideration the size of our family.
The children are going to school in Kraków; they have received positive feedback from their teachers. I dreamed that I was coming home to pick up some things. I still miss some things very much – a huge children’s library: fantasy, fairy tales, scientific literature, encyclopedias, and everything in the Ukrainian language. But I still managed to take one book – Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Text by Viktoria Mudritska
An exhibition by the Galicia Jewish Museum,