The School boy

Olga, Lviv region, 03.04.22

The School boy

Glory to Ukraine! Good day, Andrew. First, thank you that fate once introduced us. I want to thank you for the help you sent me. I spent this money on the children who live with us. It is good that you are collecting ordinary people's stories. I described my experiences of meeting people who were expelled from the war and the things I am doing for Ukraine to win, to get every child back home. You can go to my Facebook page. I do not post photos, but there are posts of gratitude to people who have become dear to me.

War… This terrible word came to every Ukrainian family on February 24, 2022. At 4.15 am, my godmother's daughter, who lives in Canada, called me to say, “Get up, the war has begun.“ Everyone who heard these words experienced horror and panic. After you pull yourself together and start thinking about what to do?

On the first day of the war, I went to work. The school has a bomb shelter, and my colleagues and I spent the whole day preparing the bomb shelter. On this day, it was announced that we are moving to online teaching. Living close to the border, I saw many cars moving toward it. Some stopped at a local store to buy groceries, and some went on. On the first day of the war, I found a cat near the garbage can, which the owners left in a container. They probably decided not to take it abroad with them. Now he has new owners. The entire day was filled with worries and fear.

The day passed, and a new day came, the 2nd day of the war. Huge queues formed at the border. The line of cars was 28 kilometers long. Around noon we received a call from the education department so that the “Schoolboy“ could go to Shehyni and pick up mothers and children who had been waiting in line at the border for 24 hours. At night, the temperature was -12 C, so we had to warm them up and feed them. Given the school has a ZDO, we had such an opportunity. I got a call from the director of NVK at 5 pm. She said that 12 mothers and 26 children were being taken to us. The youngest child was 6 months old. The question immediately arose, what do we feed them with? After picking up food from home, I went to the store to buy tea. Everyone who heard that refugees were being taken to school decided to help as much as possible. Soon one bag of aid turned into four large bags. And by the time I went to school, we were already 5 volunteers bringing what we could. We carried huge bags. My colleagues baked pancakes, cooked pasta, boiled potatoes, and made sauce.

And here, the “Schoolboy“ [1] brought mothers with children. I will never forget those tears of despair, children, and mothers. Everyone wanted warm tea and proper sleep. I will not forget Sofia's legs, covered with callus, she walked 28 kilometers to the border, and her mother carried her younger brother Yegor, 5 years old, who fell asleep on the way. The cars got stuck in a traffic jam, and they left their car 28 kilometers away from the border. And at night, half of the children got a fever as if they had caught a cold at the border. Saturday morning 26.02. I was called by one of the mothers, Irina, who told me that 14 children had a fever and needed medication. I called the local doctor, Ms. Stefa, to examine the children and Dr. Natalia. They were already at the school at 6.30 am. The children were breathing hard and coughing heavily. They needed to be treated. But every mother dreamed of reaching the border and leaving this hell.

Because the refugees were from Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Rivne, and Kirovohrad, they have always insisted that Putin would be here tomorrow, that there was already destruction in Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Chernihiv. Little Danylo was given syrup, which brought down the temperature a little. And Natalia asked us to take her to the border, which is 9 km away. A bus arrived, and three mothers and 8 children were sent to Shehyni. Again, there were terrible queues at the border. And then Natalia fell to her knees in front of the border guards, saying she had a small sick child and showed the doctor's report and that on the other side of the border, there was an ambulance and her relatives waiting for them. Everyone has a heart, and all of them (three mothers and 8 children) were let in by border guards through the lane where only cars could pass (non-pedestrian border crossing point).

Later, all Polish media showed how the ambulance received a sick child. Maybe someday, a movie will be made based on this episode. However, right now, those are the stories of ordinary people who saw the horror. Two days later, the other children began to recover gradually.

On the night from Monday to Tuesday, we received a call from the border (since everyone knew that we had sick children) confirming that mothers with children could cross to Poland. “Schoolboy“ arrived at 1:30 am and took 9 mothers and 18 children away. Everyone was afraid and desperate. What will be awaiting them at the border? I will never forget the tears of despair of every mother and their words of gratitude. Once, the guys from teroborona (home-defense units) also brought three girls from Kharkiv because the taxi driver wanted 4,000 hryvnias from them. And when they got on the bus, I saw fear in their eyes. They were promised to cross the border for money, so teroborona taught this dishonest taxi driver a lesson. We also reassured them that they would go to the border for free and cross into Poland without any problems.

In the morning, after cleaning the kindergarten together with my colleagues, I applied to the Lviv Military Administration so that we could also accept children from the orphanage. And on Sunday, March 6, 2022, the director of the Ursulenko orphanage, Svitlana Volodymyrivna, called me and thanked us for being ready to accept their children. Many details were discussed and agreed upon, including the number of children arriving, accompanying staff, and the staff's own children.

We faced many different problems, which had to be solved by 07.03 to 15.00, the approximate time of arrival of the children. Today, it is remembered as a nightmare, but there is hell there while we are safe. Everyone from the house carried pillows, mattresses, blankets, bedspreads, and bedding. Residents delivered beds for adults, while we already had 35 cribs for children. Around noon, the kindergarten was ready to receive children. Delicious lunch was already waiting on the stove. At 16.00, we were visited by our guests: 35 children from the orphanage, 14 service staff, and 9 children of the staff. The children still live with us, while their teachers say they have found a new home. I will describe the orphanage in another story, and today I want to thank those ordinary people, volunteers who do incredible things, and those foundations that they help us.