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Stories that you confided to us

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Olena Hrianko
age: 33
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“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

The Hrianko family lived in Donetsk and planned that their future life would be linked with this city. However, because of the war, they had to leave urgently with their two kids, literally catching the last train amid the cannon fire. They thought they would leave for some time, but it turned out to be forever. It took the family one year to get used to country life. At their new place, they had to survive the shelling too.

I remember that when we were at the railway station, we heard some shots. People were afraid to go outside, although they knew that their train was now coming and that they needed to run to the platform. But strong gunfire that was heard was so frightening that they simply stood in the waiting room and were afraid to go out.

We lived in Donetsk. When the anti-terrorist operation began in 2014, shelling, attacks, no food, our relatives from Lviv called us to visit them. They kindly sheltered us for some time, accommodated us in their out-of-town cottage. We lived there for three months.

“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

In September it started to get colder and we did not have any warm clothes with us. We did not think that we would stay there that long. So, we started looking for ways to go back to Donetsk. The roads were already closed then and the only open road was through Kharkiv. We managed to get here, to my grandma in Luhanske. We came here and we stayed. So, we live here now.

My husband and I worked in a bank. Then I went on maternity leave. It was right before the ATO began. I went on maternity leave in November. In 2014, I gave birth to our younger daughter. That is, we left when I was on maternity leave. It has been two years now.

At that time and still now it is simply impossible to live in Donetsk because it is not clear what kind of education one can get, documents are invalid and there are no jobs. Food, if available, is terribly expensive. That is, it became impossible for a family to live on one salary. Plus, regular shelling, and robbery flourishes. People are attacked, they are robbed, cars are stolen. Kids cannot live in such an environment.

My husband and I decided [in 2014] that we had to leave. Because one day my friend was attacked in the entrance hall of the building, on another day an explosion thundered somewhere, and the other day someone else was robbed. We decided that we had to leave at least for a while.

My mother-in-law went to the railway station and bought tickets for literally the last train at the last moment. She came and said to us: “That's it, we're leaving tomorrow, I bought us the tickets.” My husband and I packed a suitcase and took the kids. We hardly managed to find a taxi because we lived very far from the railway station.

And I remember that when we were at the railway station, we heard some shots. People were afraid to go outside, although they knew that their train was now coming and that they needed to run to the platform. But strong gunfire that was heard was so frightening that they simply stood in the waiting room and were afraid to go out.

It was a terrible shock because we were used to living in a big city with a permanent stable job. And then we moved to the village... It took us a year to come to our senses. We still hoped that something would change. Yet, most likely, nothing will change.

“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

The very thought that we would have to stay here long frightened us because there was winter ahead. We had to leave our lovely apartment, cosy apartment with all the amenities. There are no amenities in this house. That is, even at night you have to go outside to use the toilet. Therefore, the very thought that we would stay here forever was frightening.

One can get used to anything. It just takes some time. But the most difficult thing is an everyday routine. Donetsk had a well-developed infrastructure, available public transport, and you could get anywhere. You even had a choice: either a trolley bus, or a tram, or a bus, or a minibus. There is no such choice here. Wherever you go, you have to go on foot.

Now, I get to work by foot, our son gets to school by foot. We take the younger one to the kindergarten by bicycle. We all work and study in Svitlodarsk town. We get there in 20-30 minutes, depending on your walking speed. You can take a passing by rotational/shift bus, but if you are late for it, then you need to run because the teacher will not wait, no one will wait for you at work either.

“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

Shelling mostly occurs at night and it is very scary. The kids have got used to it. There is no such startle as before. There are no more sleepless nights when you lie and listen to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here. Or where has it landed? And then in the morning you collect news either from locals or from TV channels, or from the Internet: where, after all, did it hit and who suffered?

“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

Last night we did not sleep half the night because shelling was heard. But if the windowpane does not rattle, then there is nothing to be afraid of.

Our elder kid is usually more scared because when we lived in Donetsk there was a case. A shell landed in the yard of my parents' neighbours (they live in a private house area). And at that moment my elder son and his cousin were playing not far from that place. My mother called them to come and have some snack. And literally two minutes later, a shell landed, and the blast wave blew the windowpanes out. That is, if they had stayed there, they would have suffered. And after that case he started to shudder often, just hearing any minor noise or even rustle, and that lasted quite long.

“You lie down listening to this cannonade and think: will it or will it not land here”

Our elder kid was born 12 years ago. We thought that we would live in Donetsk and would work at our places. When we planned our second child, we did not think of moving at all. If I had been told some five years ago that there would be a war, I would have said that it is simply impossible.

There are damages in the village. A shell landed at the end of the street and hit one house, and at the other end of the street, and in the middle too. People suffer, windows are blown out. Thanks to humanitarian foundations, they did not stay out in the cold in winter because charities helped them to install the windows and repair the roofs of their houses. They helped us too. We installed the windows thanks to charity foundations.

When a shell landed in our neighbours’ yard, a blast wave blew out the windows on the other side of our house. At first, we covered them with plastic film and then we installed the windows.

The key task is to live now and live today because no one is confident about the future. We have realized that. Our task today is to provide our kids with Ukrainian education, to set them on their feet, to give them direction to the future so that they grow up as worthy and honest people.

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