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Stories that you confided to us

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Liubov Panenko
age: 39
Alchevsk
Alchevsk
"When the bombs went off, it was scary"

Liubov Panenko creates toys – a real salvation for kids who are just teething. And six years ago, Liubov was torn between the need to run-to save two sons at once in different parts of Alchevsk, when military air-crafts fllew over their heads.

We need to change bad thoughts to positive ones, put all the troubles and adversities aside. You need to move further. In any case, do not give up. Every person has moments when it seems that you are in a hopeless situation. Even if it seems that the whole world is falling apart, it isn't. This is just temporary.

I was born and lived until 2014 in Alchevsk, Luhansk Oblast. I have been living in Odessa for six years. Odessa is the city I love deeply, but my heart always stay in my homeland.

I was born in a large family. I'm the oldest sister. I have a sister and a brother. At the moment, we are very far from each other, our family is scattered around the world: Odessa, St. Petersburg, Stavropol and Alchevsk. Unfortunately, we don't have the opportunity to see each other that often. However, we try to keep in touch.

I have three boys. The eldest son is 17 years old. He started working at the age of 16. He is very helpful. The middle son is 13. He is pays professional football, despite all the difficulties. The youngest son is 4 years old, and he is so cute.

When you're home, you have everything

In Alchevsk, I worked in social service — the City Executive Committee. I helped people.

When the bombs went off, it was scary

When you're home, you feel safe. You have your own job, your own house, friends and acquaintances. You have your parents around. You have everything. What else do you need? Right?

In 2014, our lives changed. When we saw air-crafts in the sky, we got scared. When the bombs went off, it was terrible.

Then, sitting at work, there was a headquarters of certain structures nearby. The premises were ready for evacuation. They equipped basements with everything necessary. And when these air-crafts flew, very low above us, it was very terrifying. They started taking us out, letting us go home.

When the bombs went off, it was scary

Everyone ran to the bomb shelter. And I didn't know where to run: I had one child at home, the other was on the other side of the city at football training.

I guess I was more scared than the kids. Luckily, a coach was there, so coordinated them and cheered them up. The children didn't even know what was going on. They were quite little at that time. 

Fortunately, our relatives were not injured, and our houses were not damaged. My apartment was empty for a long time. I let an old friend live there so that the apartment would be taken care of. My sister just closed the house and left. My parents stayed in Alchevsk. It is very difficult for them to get somewhere, to leave.

Holiday: one-way tickets to the sea

In June 2014, I went on vacation to Odessa to rest with my children by the sea. I bought two-way tickets. Here and back home. We came to Odessa in June 2014 for a vacation and stayed. We had only our summer things with us. Once I went to Alchevsk, took my things and came back here for good. That was it.

The first thing I visited in Odessa was Deribasovskaya Street, to the City Garden – those are my favourite places. I am very grateful to this city and its residents. I am grateful to every person who came my way today. I am grateful to those who helped me... with words or with deeds. Indeed.

Leaving my home, I faced many difficulties. I had to start a new life. Social work in Odessa was quite difficult for me. There were a lot of vacancies, but salaries were low, and it took a long time to get to work. At home, I worked in a small city within walking distance, but here I realized that it was less real.

I started selling on the Internet. I worked as a sales manager. That is, I completely changed my area of activity. Then I got pregnant. So, my youngest son was born in Odessa.

The people around us were very helpful. I am grateful to the management of the Beliaievskyi school and kindergarten. I live in a village near Odessa.

The issue of joining a kindergarten was resolved very shortly. There is one kindergarten, and there are a lot of children. However, since we are a large family and internal refugees, the children were registered at the kindergarten very quickly. At school, the principal was so taken with our problem. She asked me, "What do you do?" How can I help you in terms of employment?"

Different people and entrepreneurs from the Seventh Kilometer brought things, food.

Why are you sitting around?

Now I am creating my own handmade toys. I make knitted toys. I make them myself. Sometimes, when I take the hook, I do not understand what will happen in the end. I love it very much. There is a part of my soul in each of my toys. I give a lot of work to children. I love children very much.

When I was a child, my mother taught me how to knit. I live in the same house with a very creative girl. She is a talented seamstress. She does interior projects. In 2018, she sewed a dog toy. As I remember now, she was doing a yellow dog — a symbol of that year. And she said, "Why are you sitting there?" I said, "I would also do something, but, unfortunately, I don't have any ideas. So she brought me a skein of thread, saying, "Catch!"

That is how my first dog appeared. And I've never knitted toys before. It started as a mom's hobby while I was on maternity leave. And today I can no longer say that this is a hobby. This is a vital necessity.

I just sit and knit. Whenever I have a desire, I knit. I knit when I am in a bad mood. That is how I relax. Every toy represents my mood.

For example, I knitted an angel at a very sad time for myself, when I was in a lot of pain. I felt that the angel would be born, and I would have a new stage in life. Things will become easier for me.

I felt strong at that time. I believed I could do anything.

I also have cartoon characters in my collection. The review was as follows, "This is the first time the child has had such a toy he could spend so much time with and give so much love to. So I'm doing the right thing. I am going the right direction.

I always knitted toys that were 20-30 centimetres in length. When I was asked, "A 13-year-old girl needs a big, big unicorn," I asked, "How big is it?" - "50-60 centimetres." I always said that I need to try.

When the bombs went off, it was scary

I felt strong  and believed that I could do anything.  I was able to do it before, and I can do it now. Once, one basketball player asked to knit Michael Jordan. And I did, I knitted it.

All toys are very functional. They are easy to wash, they are safe. Plus, they are original. I don't like copies.

For example, teethers are made of natural cotton and natural wood. They are attached to clothes, and a baby can chew it all. It helps reduces teeth pain.

When the bombs went off, it was scary

Sling beads are for mummies. they are out on a mum's neck, and a baby, instead of picking at the mother's neck, touches these beads, and, thus, develops fine motor skills, perception of shape and colour.

You need to move further

We need to change bad thoughts to positive ones, put all the troubles and adversities aside. You need to move further. In any case, do not give up. Every person has moments when it seems that you are in a hopeless situation. Even if it seems that the whole world is falling apart, it isn't. This is just temporary.

Interviewer Oksana Maslova

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