The Wind of Change

Svitlana, Mykolaiv region, 29.05.22

The Wind of Change

Good afternoon, dear Mr. Andrii!

I am incredibly thankful to you and all of the Centropa team for the care and support. Your letters and messages, including the ones about the events, allow me to stay in some sort of professional life at least in thoughts and dreams.

Thank you very much for your financial support. I bought medications (tranquilizers – stocked up on them for later) and some food.

I am 30 kilometers from […] I did not go anywhere all this time. The situation is disturbing, but more optimistic than it was in March and April. It was on the 23rd of February that I was in […] for the last time. And before the war, I would go there sometimes two times a day for work or for some personal matters. It normally takes us 25-30 minutes to get to the center of […] (exactly where the regional administration building stands destroyed by a missile).

When we entered […] from the North side, that is where the 36th brigade of the naval infantry, which was defending […]. A little bit behind school #79. I will not write anything about their barracks. You know it all from the media. We could hear all the explosions from those missile bombings, it felt like an earthquake. The people and the building were shaking from the explosions in the seaport as those were quite powerful. On the 6th of May, there were two missile strikes at the railway bridge over […] near the […] around 6-7 kilometers from my home. They were saying that it was the anti-aircraft system which shot multiple missiles, one of them hit the bridge, but it was already destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces engineers. There were BM-21 Grad and mortar strikes but thank God it was only in March and nothing hit the village itself. In the neighboring village […], they hit residential buildings and at the kindergarten and the school. There was no electricity in the village for over a week, people were sitting in the cellars for 4-6 days, they were hiding from the bombings. Whoever above […] had such an opportunity (transportation, money and gas), were taking the steppe trails to get to us, to […] and then they would continue on their way to […], so they could get to the Western part of Ukraine or to Europe. My friend, the director of school number […], was in Lithuania for two months. The enemies were firing at the highway […] from the riffles from the forest areas, from the side of the steppe areas they were moving towards […]. They did not fully capture the highway, although they tried. They shot a car with a young driver who was on his way home from […] towards […]. The wounded driver was bleeding out, they shot him in his leg. The acquaintance, whom he was able to reach, later took the wounded one to the […], the doctors performed the surgery, but the man died. The owner of a small food store was driving from our village to […] to get food, his truck got multiple bullet shots. Such cases were happening almost every day here at the beginning of March. It is good that I do not know about all of the cases. It was for a long time that no-one was going to pick up any food, the stores were empty and then they shut down. People were living off whatever food they had stored previously. Of course, not everyone had that. Our military eventually pushed the enemy away from the highway and further to the steppes at the border with Kherson region.

How I am feeling and where am I? Thank God, I am at home. I have food, water and medications. It is always light and warm at our place. All this time I have my family close to me – my husband and my brother. We have the opportunity to stay in touch with my son. I am also in contact with my students over the internet. As for my mood, I am trying to hold myself together and deal with my worries. Of course, I do not manage to do that well. When there are artillery fires on […] all day long and our artillery fires back we always hear it. What is scary is that it is not clear whether it is them who are firing at us or us firing at them, or whether they are approaching us? At night, for me to calm down a little and sleep, my husband would play the Scorpions ballads for me, quite loudly, and both of us would sing with Klaus Meine, as well as we could. One of the most amazing songs is Wind of Change – it would play over the sounds of shootings and explosions… The song was created at the time when everyone in Europe was full of hope for big changes. The changes which did not happen to everyone…

Why didn’t we go somewhere away from the war at least for some time? My husband’s mother, quite an old woman, lives with his sister in our village. She is sick and she can hardly walk. We cannot leave them here and just go somewhere. My husband has work: he works at a pumping station, at the riverbank (it is even close to that bridge). And if everyone goes somewhere, who will stay in Ukraine? We were born here, our homes were built here, here is where our flowers grow, our trees and grapevines… Here is where our parents’ graves are… Those warriors who serve with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, should know that everything is fine at home and their families are waiting for them. They still have someone to defend. Otherwise, why are they there?!

I understand that there are many Ukrainians who have it harder than I do in these days of war. I am trying to help anyone – either with a kind word, or with a small act of service. I can feel it acutely now: we were so happy before the war! We taught children, we looked for new approaches and methods of teaching them… The war with Covid was difficult, but not as destructive and cruel.

I had a dream of visiting Berlin, at an international teachers’ meeting organized by Centropa. But I didn't even register for the competition. During those days, there was still time to fill in the forms, but everything was so undecided here and… It was not clear if I could leave here and get to Berlin… Or if I would be able to get back home, to my husband.

I will be glad and thankful, if some Berlin school materials are published online and could be accessed by all of the teachers who are interested (at Centropa Facebook page or at the website).

I wish all of the participants of the event to have enjoyable and productive communication, and the team of organizers I wish to be able to fulfill their visions and plans!!!

Teachers of the UKRAINIAN Mykolaiv region genuinely support your ideas and actions and are thankful to you for the support, which you provide for the educators in these difficult times! Communication and collaboration of teachers from different countries at this time. The theme of Holocaust needs to be discussed and worked with. The lessons of World War II have appeared to not have been learned, if today, in the 21st century, in the center of Europe there are war crimes and there is such hostility between nations.

I hope to be able to join the seminar next year, or to Centropa’s Summer school. I could not come to Chernivtsi due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I could not come to Berlin because of the war.

With respect to you, Mr. Andrii, and to all of the Centropa team. Svitlana […].

P.S. Mr. Andrii, I had an issue with my internet connection, so I could not write a response to you immediately. Right now it seems like everything is working now, so I am sending it again.

Thank you for the care. I hope you and your loved ones are fine.

S. […].