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Vira Kravchenko



How did you experience war in 2014? What do you remember from that? How old were you? How did 2014-2015 go for you?
Please tell this story in detail.

I was eleven years old when the war came to my town. To be honest, of that period I remember only some individual bright passages. The first memory: terrible news and parents watching TV almost with no breaks. I was scared by the confusion and fear in their eyes, but at the time I hadn't thought much about it. The second memory is explosions. Not yet in my city, but close - in Donetsk. It was then that I learned to distinguish between hits "landings" and "departures".It is interesting that people would proclaim, with serious faces and to the sound of explosions,: "This one is flying from us, there's still time to go to a store." And the third is the occupation itself. I remember very well how I fell asleep under the Ukrainian flag, and woke up under a "tricolor" that was completely unknown to me before. Then I also asked my father: which country's flag consists of black, blue and red colors? — because I had never seen anything like that before. To which he just silently sighed. I remember when the military started coming to our school. Often they had weapons in their hands, which was really scary. They started coming to the school canteen as if it were their own home. From that time I started taking food with me to school.I remember well the history lessons after the occupation. Usually we just read old textbooks during them, and when asked who Volodymyr the Great was and what he did, we were simply told to open a page of the textbook and read it ourselves. They did not know what they should tell us now. Lessons in Ukrainian were held in the same way as before. But one day a russian military man visited us and carefully followed what we were being told. We were afraid to say something excessive.

"Where were you these 8 years?".
How has this time passed for you, what changed in your life since the events of 2014?
What has influenced you the most during this time?
Please write in detail.

In 2014, I had to leave my hometown and move to Kramatorsk. My family thought that the occupation would not last long and that we would be able to return soon. I remember how each New Year´s we called our relatives on Skype and wished for peace and a quick return. This happened three years in a row. But later I realized that I should start thinking about the time ahead and my future life. I had to forget about my dream of studying philology at the university in Donetsk. Then I set a new goal - Kyiv. I never forgot what was taken from me. During this time, my parents did not allow me to go home to visit my grandparents. It was very dangerous. Unfortunately, I will never be able to see my grandmother again, because she passed away. This event changed my life. After all, she was very seriously ill and I wanted to be by her side. But I could not. I scolded myself for this for a long time. But now I understand that I was a child and could not have done anything. During the 8 years of the war, I heard a lot. People who moved to the territory controlled by Ukraine were considered "separatists". But I never understood why? After all, these people did not agree with the regime and left their own homes. But it was difficult to prove something and it didn't really make sense to. Some helped, some didn't even want to listen. Different things happened. Sometimes it felt like you were left alone with your grief and no one could help you. It felt like people who were not directly affected by the war continued to live normal lives. Therefore, it was tough to describe what exactly the displaced experienced in 2014-2015. But I know for sure that these are very strong and persevering people. All whom I met were sincere patriots of their country and lost everything they had because of the war. This is an imprint that will never leave the soul. And it is simply impossible to forget about.

What was February 24, 2022 for you like?
Did you believe that a full-scale offensive would begin?Where are you now? What do you do?

What do you think about your future now?

I felt that the war would continue. Around January, I began to notice that in Kramatorsk, shops started closing en masse, apartments got sold, and people were moving out little by little. It was scary. But still, it was hard to believe that this would actually happen. I wasn't sure, but I was preparing for the worst. I met the war in Kyiv at five in the morning. My roommate in the dormitory, by the way, has also moved since 2014, so I immediately understood just hearing her phrase in the morning: “What do you mean, it has started? Again?" Back then I had no emotions and no fear.The air raid siren was already sounding and the first explosions were heard in the Kyiv region. I called all my friends with whom we agreed to stay together in the event of a full-scale invasion. We decided to take a risk and leave via the Irpin-Bucha-Hostomel route. At that time, we did not know that there were battles going on right now. Probably, when I saw the downed Ukrainian helicopter in the bus window, it dawned on me that everything was happening again. We didn't know if we would get anywhere today, or if our lives could simply end right now.After all, we were driving exactly where the fighting was going on. Meanwhile, my parents evacuated from Kramatorsk. I remember this brief conversation with my father. He simply said, "We are leaving, take care of yourself." My life has been ruined at least twice. Now I have nowhere to turn, because the fighting is already going on near my city. If you ask, what do people feel when they lose their native home for the second time? This is the kind of pain that can never be silenced by anything. This is complete despair and confusion. Currently, I do not feel safe even in Poland. Sometimes it feels like putin can find you everywhere and distort your life in one second. I don't know if this feeling will pass. My biggest fear now is that it will happen a third, fourth, and fifth time...

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