Інтерв’ю з Іриною з Харкова: "Як ми бігли від війни вдруге"

Irina was 12 years old when she and her family moved from Luhansk to Kharkiv. She recently turned 20 years old. She lived peacefully in Kharkiv, forgetting the horrors of her childhood like a nightmare. The girl was studying to become an architect engineer at Kharkiv National Academy of Urban Economy named after O.M. Beketov, dreaming of a great future and working in Europe. This dream came true but not the way she planned. Now she is safe in Poland with her family.

We decided to ask her how she feels now after having experienced this hard time for the second time. The war…


What thoughts came to your mind when you found out that the war had started? You’ve already experienced it the second time, maybe, some memories from Luhansk appeared?

Well, at first I just didn’t believe it. It seems that this will come to an end in about 3 days. For better or worse, I don’t remember much from Luhansk. But there were flashbacks when helicopters were flying. And for some reason, I will never forget the looting and impunity of the military. And also that Russia brought humanitarian aid to Ukraine, took photos, disguising weapons as aid, and people believed.

Did you and your family have fears and worries? How did you deal with them?

At first, somehow, it was not that scary. Yes, we heard some blasts, but somewhere in the distance. We all sincerely hoped that it would be over in, maybe, 3 days, but not more than in a week. However, it turned out differently. We joked then that it was and will be ridiculous if we become twice a refugee in Luhansk. Parents stocked up on food and everything they could, so they weren’t that worried. It was already horrifying when missiles flew past the house and when marks* were painted on our roofs and those who painted in our area were caught. Only that moment you realize the seriousness of what is happening. I will never forget how they started shooting downtown, and of course, when missiles hit our city, I was as pale as death. We all sat together and slept in the corridor, but my family was so courageous that even after this they kept calm and didn’t panic. Of course, we were very worried about our loved ones and relatives who were very far away from us. We constantly were trying to maintain contact with them.

What difficulties did you all face when leaving Kharkiv?

When leaving, the only problem was the train station. There were so many people that it was impossible to get on the platform. And when the train was already approaching, everyone, of course, ran to the wagons to catch up. Firstly, women and children took a seat, and then men. It was extremely crowded. Although people in Ukraine are entirely united, but in such situations… People worried only about themselves, that’s why there was such chaos. There was no queue, everyone was running in the hope of being on time and taking the opportunity  to survive.

What did you do when you got to a safer place? Were you confused?

First, we arrived in Ternopil on the evacuation train, and we were advised to go to Chortkiv. So we did. We had no time for confusion. It was necessary to keep a cool head to avoid doing some dump things. At the last moment, we decided to move abroad. 

Which countries did you consider for moving? Did you want to find a more favorable one for displaced persons, or the one near Ukraine?

We were choosing among 9 countries. These were: Slovakia, Bulgaria, and even Australia. Still we’ve made our choice — Poland. Although many Ukrainians have already moved there. I learned Polish earlier, so that it would be easier than in other countries. You don’t have to start with language learning.

What worries you the most right now?

At the moment, I am worried about what will happen next. When will it come to the end and what outcome awaits us at the end. There is too much panic and misinformation around, you don’t know what to believe anymore. You just want it to end as soon as possible, like a nightmare, but sometimes you start to think and fear that all this is just the beginning.

How did you cross the border? What challenges did you face?

Surprisingly, there were no difficulties, no queues as well. But we were kept at the Polish border for more than two hours. Still, I believe we are lucky. In Poland, volunteers immediately helped us, gave us some food and advised us how to continue our way. We rented a hostel in Warsaw and lived like that for a week.

Don`t you regret choosing Poland?

No, in no case.

Will you return to Ukraine after the end of the war or will you stay in Poland and build your life there?

Honestly, we still have no clue. It is not worth making plans for the future yet due to the experience. I have always wanted to go abroad, but now I miss home and my native land very much.

*Marks — (in this context) spray-printed tags found on streets, roofs, etc. It was believed, that some signs had been painted ro guide russian bombers.

Translator: Bohdana-Nikolietta Terekhina