Lina, Khmelnytskyi region, 06.03.22
I felt the war as soon as it started - on February 24. According to my “night owl“ biorhythms, I have problems waking up early, and here at about 5 am I opened my eyes as if from a shock. An ominous sound woke me up. At first, I thought it must have been a dream, but suddenly I heard it again. Well, we have been at war since 2014, and soldiers have repeatedly explained how to recognize “Moscow’s gifts“ – I knew, those were the missiles. A cold void stirred somewhere in the solar plexus. “Two rockets flew over my head. Could this be the case? We are a thousand kilometres away from the Joint Forces Operation zone[APM1] .“
And then it was quiet and calm, the air was fresh, and it smelled like spring. “Well, those must have been planes,“ I told myself, while getting ready for work.
In 30 minutes, we all learned that the airfield was shelled by missiles near us. The ones that flew over the roof of my house. Also, cruise missiles struck across the entire territory of Ukraine. The racists did not forget anyone: west, east, south, north, centre, all shuddered at the “brotherly love of the Russian world“ that morning.
At about 10 pm, for the first time, sirens cried terribly over my city. I ran up the stairs to the street – nobody could be found near the building. I went further on. People started appearing on the streets. Everyone was confused. No one really understood what to do and where to go. They were all trying to remember what they were taught during the civil defence.
- You need to turn on the radio and listen carefully to what they say.
- What radio? Who has it nowadays?
- Well, then the TV.
- And what will we see? Kyiv? How is it related to our city?
- Or maybe there is some information on the phone?
- Let's go to the basement.
The basement is cold, damp and smells like potatoes. It has long been divided into small closets, in which the inhabitants of the house store supplies for the winter. In fact, we are standing between two rows of locked doors. I understand that this can hardly be a reliable defense during the bombing, but we all stand. There is no better alternative. The overall atmosphere is confusion, irritation and helplessness. An hour later the “air alarm“ was stopped and we parted depressed.
DAY 2 - 25.02, night
It's two o'clock in the morning, and I'm not sleeping yet, because I'm a night owl, and I just can't get over the first real evacuation in my life, not a training drill. I scroll through the news feed. The news is not good - it's really a war. I am uneasy again. I go to the kitchen for valerian. My Rudy is delighted: he meows, rubs against my feet, gets on his hind legs, asks to pour him some. Apparently, stress has taken over and I let him lick the spoon from valerian. What a mistake… For half an hour the cat was running around the apartment, I was unable to calm him down. I called myself a fool, the cat - a drug addict and went to bed. I must go to work early in the morning.
Five o'clock in the morning. My cat and I simultaneously jump out of bed at the howl of sirens. Crap!
I slept for two and a half hours. I quickly get dressed and run downstairs. There are already more people, and we are getting crowded in the basement of the neighbouring apartment building. I see a family from my porch with small children with an “emergency suitcase.“ I have suddenly remembered that my backpack with essentials stayed in the apartment. So, if the house is hit, I will be left without any documents. Only a few hours have passed since the previous alarm, but the mood is radically different. We decide that we should not be hiding in other people's basements, we need to arrange our own. Roger that. Let's go check it out. It is much better. There are no barns, spacious rooms are littered with garbage and other stuff of the homeless people. We collectively agree to clean everything up. A neighbor (with his golden hands) fixes the light, since “it is much more fun to sit in the basement, with the light on.“ I remember I’ve got an electric wire left after the reconstruction. We all depart calmly.
The basement is already without trash and with lights on.
Cardboard boxes lie on the floor like carpets. There is a long bench and improvised seats are placed against the wall. Small windows on the sidewalk level are covered with sandbags. Should it be needed, this will be an emergency exit from the shelter. We all walk around and gasp. One can now live here. What a beauty! Well done! We still need to bring water though. Just in case, we should stock up on water.
I connected the city's website to the phone's messenger. Now all the warnings and all the recommendations are timely, and you no longer need to guess when to go to the shelter and when to leave it.
Yes, we have everything ready. Now, we need to find out what the home defence units need.
Lina, Khmelnytsky region.”
CONTINUATION - Follow-up of the Diary
I Just found out that our tidy basement cannot be used as a shelter. We need to vacate our house as soon as possible, as there is a military base located next to it.
The probability of rocket bombing is very high and in this case - the house will also be affected. This is an official statement from the state authorities. We are confused and frustrated, again. I do not want to leave my apartment, I am afraid that it will be destroyed and I will be left with nothing.
I take out my “holiday“ suitcase and put some of my stuff in it. I'll take it to a safe place so that at least something remains. My friends take “my dowry“ and look at me like I'm crazy when they find out I'm coming home.
- You are only three hundred metres away from a possible shelling target.
- Well, it is 300 m to the fence, and those military buildings are a little further away. Probably another 200 metres. Maybe the fragments will not reach me? I am on the fourth floor, after all.
- Nonsense. Do you think those crooked hands will hit the target? They will most likely shell the entire quarter.
- Well, I have, Rudy, and you have a small child with allergies.
- Well, you leave him in the apartment when you go to work! “But I'll be back in the evening.“, “You'll be back in the morning to feed him.“ Let him think that you have a night shift!
- And if they still hit? That would be his end.
- That would be the end for you, while he might still make it. After all, cats have six lives.
We don't talk about war at work. Well, in a way, we are not discussing events at the front. In our country, almost everyone is already at war or will soon be. Therefore, the topics of battles, casualties, attacks, retreats, evacuations are the new taboos. We are only talking about the useful stuff: e.g. how to make a “Bandera smoothey“ (ex “Molotov cocktail“), what is needed for weaving nets, where to get yellow tape, which is still needed for the guys at the Territorial Defence units, and of course we curse and swear at the racists.
But these conversations tend to be short. For the most part, we sit in silence, checking the phone, scrolling the news and learning about everything we do not talk about.
Siren again. Let's go to the basement. This time we sat there for an hour. Frozen to the bones.
Guys (soldiers of the Territorial Defence units) need balaclavas, warm socks, tea, sandwiches again…The list is the same as back in 2014...We go to the wholesale base. I have one balaclava left at home. In 2015, I was preparing my brother's parcel for the front and simply missed one, and then they were already provided with them. Now, useful to a neighbour. He was so grateful, I was overwhelmed by his gratitude.
We have all become a little strange: we worry about a cat when people die; we are grateful for the little things, and we are all ready to give our lives. The city is like a stirred anthill. There are few people on the streets, but if they carry something in large bags or load cars with goods, it is not for themselves, but for OTHERS, our defenders.
Attached text (Halyna’s diary):
Good day, Mr. Andrii.
Sending you the new notes from my “diary of invasion.” These notes are a little different, from a forced emigration. If this suits the format which you expect – I will continue to work on it. Thank you for your help.
With respect, Halyna [...].
Attached text (Halyna’s diary):
Why I started this diary, I do not remember exactly. Probably, I wanted to dull my fears, anxiety, nervousness, feelings of hopelessness and despair. I moved from my dangerous building. I moved to my family, who lived 500 metres away from me. Questionable safety, but at least we are all together. They have a small house, which does not have a basement at all. When the air-raid siren signalled to us that we had to hide, we just laid down on the floor in a room between two walls. The orcs were “treating” us, mostly at night and early in the morning, and our one-and-a-half-year-old child would wake up and cry, when we would take it out of the bed and put it on the floor. It did not want to sleep in this strange place, it was trying to escape and get back. In those moments, we regretted only one thing, - that the child is one and half years old. If it was a baby, I could press it against my chest and comfort it, and if it was older – we could distract it with some fairytale or make something up about a game of hide-and-seek. I stopped recording because there was no time or energy for that. I would wake up multiple times at night and then would have work during the day. I would register memories in my head and think: “When it gets quieter, or over the weekend I will definitely write it all down.” And then I read about Mariupol and realised that all of my challenges are nothing. Yes, there were missiles flying in our direction, but we were not under the rubble in destroyed buildings, we were not being dug out from under the rubble, we, thank God and the Ukrainian Armed Forces, did not get under the “grad” and “uragan” missiles. What can I write about the war? I am not from Hostomel, not from Irpin or Volnovakha. What are my struggles compared to theirs?
All of the messengers and social media are overloaded with the same kind of text “How are you there?” You call and text, people call you. It becomes clear how many friends and family you have. I have a lot of them. Although there are also some unpleasant surprises. A person, whom I considered my friend, who would send me pretty images with kitties, children, flowers and wishes of good day or good night – suddenly disappeared. I did not have to worry about her. She just got scared in her safe and peaceful Italy, that I would suddenly ask her to give me shelter and, as they say, she decided to “lay at the bottom” [to disappear, not to be visible]. Friendly relationships are not about sending kittens to your messenger.
War takes away your friends. It is best to lose them in this way rather than in another way, irreversibly.
When I was asked under which circumstances, and under which conditions I would leave Ukraine, I would say: “Only when the irreversible happens and ruZZian world would come here.” I would not accept living with them. And so I am on the crowded bus going towards the border. The irreversible did not happen, and I am going. Why? Our one-and-a-half-year-old child is the reason. Two weeks of lying down on the floor turned a cheerful smiling child into a nervous always crying child suffering hysteria episodes. We took our child, our cat, two pieces of luggage and went into the unknown.
(To be continued)