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Svitlana, Lytvynivka

“My main connection with Ukraine now is helping our defenders. As a volunteer, I always ask myself, what else can we do?”

Svitlana, 33 years old, from Lytvynivka, Kyiv region. She fled the war with her son Danylo (2), her mother-in-law Olena (70), sister-in-law Natalia (48), and Svitlana’s niece Anna (15).

Our personal story began a week before the war. My husband called me and said: “We are going to Yaremche tomorrow, I have to move you to a safe place.” When the war broke out, there was great support from all around, from people we hardly knew and even strangers.

On the eve of the war, my mother-in-law Olena had to undergo an emergency operation in Yaremche, and Doctor Leonid helped us get through it. My husband’s sister, who had completed a round of chemotherapy a week before the war, came to help us as well. The owner of Myron’s Cottage, where we stayed, told us that we could stay as long as necessary and we didn’t have to pay for housing.

We are very lucky to have worked for EPAM Systems for 10 years, and when we went to Kraków, we knew what to expect. In Kraków, we felt unlimited support from the Poles. 

In Ukraine, we lived in the village of Lytvynivka, 40 km from Kyiv heading towards Belarus, not far from Irpin and Bucha. All this territory was occupied. My parents lived under Russian occupation in the city of Dymer for more than a month.

My main connection now with Ukraine is to help our defenders. As a volunteer, I always ask myself, what else can we do? From March 1, as soon as we arrived in Kraków, I began to help people fleeing Ukraine, finding a safe way. My husband organized a temporary shelter in Nadvirna, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. Thanks to my colleagues, we have huge support for our volunteer initiatives. We raised money for a pickup truck for the defenders in Ukraine and have already delivered it. We raise money for medicines, food, ammunition and cars for the Armed Forces. And I invite everyone to help in some way because Ukraine cannot stand on its own. You can come knit camouflage nets or buy energy bars, instant noodles, and coffee – all of this is necessary for our guys on the front.

What did I take with me to Poland? Strange as it may sound – a swimsuit because I was going to the Carpathians for a week, and then I planned to return home. I found a vyshyvanka [traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt] and bought it here in Poland. And there is also a memorable and priceless bear knitted by Helena, a Polish woman, for my son Daniel.

 My husband put a hard drive with family photos in my backpack with our documents. I laughed at him: “Why take that stuff? We will come back soon.”

Text by Viktoria Mudritska

An exhibition by the Galicia Jewish Museum, 
Krakow, Poland

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