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Anastasia Lelyuk 

Luhansk

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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 17 years old and I studied in my second year of an art college. I remember how, during the Revolution of Dignity, our college was warned that anyone who would be absent from school for more than two days would get expelled. Because it will be considered that a person went to the Maidan to support the revolution. I was constantly haunted by anxiety and I could not calm down anywhere. Then I was in Crimea before the occupation and my anxiety increased even more. Maybe it only seems so to me, but I think that children and teenagers perceive the surrounding atmosphere very strongly. And I remember that after the occupation of Crimea, I had a clear feeling: we are next, the same thing can happen with Donbas. At that time, I had just switched to Ukrainian, and in the spring, when the situation began to escalate, it happened sometimes that I got into fights over language with my friends on the street. In Luhansk, there were rallies in support of the Maidan organized by my friends and acquaintances. So when the city began to be captured, many of them ended up "in the basements" and it was very scary. There was a split in my family, because all my relatives - except for my parents and my brother - went to vote in a pseudo-referendum for the "LPR". When military units started to get actively captured in the city, our studies were abruptly canceled - our college was not far from one of them. So my mother sent my brother and I to my father in the Donetsk region, where it was also dangerous, but calmer. And when we left, I knew it was for a long time, maybe forever, but I didn't have the strength to cry. I was paralyzed by everything that was happening.

"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.

The first year was the most difficult for me, because I found myself in a new city - Dnipro. I decided that I wanted to continue my art studies and chose this city because I had friends there who described to me their art college very well. It really is incredible, that college. Most of what I know, I was taught in one year at DRTA. There I met wonderful people who became my best friends and we still keep in touch. There, something happened to me that I was missing so much in my native Luhansk. But all this was against the background of constant stress, no understanding of oneself, survival and depression. In a year, I moved 7 times, I was majorly thrown out of my previous life. I think I'm still in this state of exile and I miss home a lot. But now I'm subconsciously afraid and I try not to stay anywhere for longer than a year. Then I decided to enter the Kyiv Art Academy, where I studied for 4 years. And after that I stayed to live in Kyiv. Time passed very quickly and I did not notice how the war made me mature and independent during these years. I rarely see my parents, I miss them, it's good that there is internet and ability to stay in touch. Of course, I began to appreciate what I had lost more. It's as if I've come to terms with everything internally, but I understand that it's impossible to erase anything from life, I can only change my attitude towards it.

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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 met February 24 on the train approaching Kyiv. I was woken up by my mother's call, she said that the war had started. I answered that I knew, because the day before I had read news from intelligence. My friend and I were returning from Lviv, where we opened an exhibition and celebrated her birthday. We walked around like the last time, I wanted to do everything to the maximum. I felt that there would be a full-scale war, I asked my intuition. The same anxiety that I tried to cure for 8 years woke up in me. I wanted to prepare my friends - I asked if they had a plan in case something started, if they had packed a grab bag. I had everything collected. When our train, after a delay, was finally allowed into the city, all the passengers were very nervous. We came up with a plan: my girlfriend would leave town with her colleagues, and I was meeting my boyfriend already at the platform. We spent the whole day looking for shelter, although I really didn't want to go anywhere - I was calm, but physically I was very sick and nauseous. I wasn't scared then, just very, very hurt by everything that was happening, and it hurts just as much now. It is difficult for me to think about the future, as if I am not there, but I exist. I can't understand how to do the right thing, so I try to let go of the situation as much as possible and do something useful where I am now.

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