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Daria Maslenkova


Chernihiv region

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.

2014. I am 10 years old. I am finishing the fourth grade. DPA exam. I study in Novodruzhesk (a small town near Lysychansk, we live right in between them). We take the final exams to the sound of explosions. Reading, I think (don’t want to lie). Laughter through tears: discussions are actively taking place, how on this day, useless, just like separatists, APC finally took off, but could only get to the square, so it stood there under strict watch at the Lenin monument. The battle is just a few kilometers away: for the Tomashiv Bridge. These low-intelligent creatures, who learned in their lifetime only one word consisting of more than two syllables - "militia", simply blew it up.
Moods are divided, the propaganda machine has achieved its goal. I remember how carelessly I joked in the middle of the street: "No one spares paint, the name of the city was in tricolor (ahem, sorry, smeared) and in blue and yellow again," and my mother would pull me to be quieter.
At first, we were afraid of the Ukrainian military that came, because we were told from every corner that they are evil and that we should beware of them, but later that disappeared completely.
From September 1 on, it was like coming to a new school: every event, promotion, contests was held around the theme of our unity and national self-awareness. During class, we cut out blue and yellow palms from paper and then glued them around a drawn heart. This poster stayed with us until the end as a reminder of a chance for normal childhood years. Little is remembered. I don't want to remember all that scoundrel.

"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.

Everything has changed. Love for Ukraine grew with every new year.
A child lives, sees only Donbas and sometimes goes to visit relatives in russia. What kind of worldview can you develop? A narrow one.
Trips from the art school to the West of Ukraine helped to break out of this circle. 13-year-old eyes widened: Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv are wonderful European cities that fascinate with their architecture, previously seen only in fairy-tale films, and the capital... The capital is so huge that it's easy to get lost (which I did, that's why my fear of Kyiv station is still there). Through it we drove to the final destination. It was Goshiv.
And the attention of journalists was drawn to us, so we achieved the first media coverage. That also pleased.
The first trip was the "Circle of Good". Not only Ukrainian, but also Polish and Slovak artists worked with us together. What beautiful, smiling, goal-oriented people who live their lives so vividly!
In the end, the paintings jointly painted with successful artists were put up for auction, and not wherever, but in the pavilion near Saint Sophia in Kyiv.
And then, museums, numerous museums. This was aimed at our further upbringing. We go in, there is a portrait of Bandera at the entrance. I mentally return to the pre-war past. I go back to how I became an involuntary witness to the conversation of two old ladies at a bus stop in my native district.
- This "Bendera" did such things there, he tied girls to trees by two feet and then let them go, - some allusion to the murder of Kniaz Igor, they even steal legends for narratives, - it's just terrible!!!
— What bandits, really, a nightmare...
There was no bus, and my hair was standing on end. Could a person do such a thing?
So, returning to reality, I look at a portrait framed in red and black.
Then I look into the kind eyes of the tour guides, who treat us like family. Even in a child's mind, a logical question arises: "Is that possible?" No! You have to think: if so, why would intelligent people adore him so much?
In addition all of this took place during the winter holidays: here we have nativity scenes, and the illumination of evening cities, and the Bukovel swimming pool in the open air.
Until the end of my days, I will consider this a gift from heaven. However, it was not the only one.
Next - in a year - a trip to the small homeland of Ivan Franko. The village of Nahuyevychi. Art camp. Here the circle of acquaintances has expanded, peers from all over the country have joined, erudite and cool. Most vividly I remember a scene, where we are driving from the mountains in a crowded bus, the heat is crazy, and we are singing "O.Torvald" in the back seat, raising our heads to the open sunroof.
Also, they told me there that I sing beautifully, and before I always hesitated and doubted it. At least I was given the opportunity to express myself in this area.
Kamenyar is forever in my heart, and the opportunity to touch his work directly was a powerful impetus to conquer the mastery of words.
My Ukrainian was good then already, because for three years I went to Olympiads and competitions and won prizes there. Yes, it was work, but I enjoyed it, honestly. And even more I enjoyed compliments like: "Are you from the Luhansk region and speaking Ukrainian like that?" Now it's already driving me crazy, because you have to be really ignorant not to master at least some basic rules.
Yes, I studied in a Ukrainian-speaking class, although there was also a russian-speaking one at the same time... It’s so abnormal - such an education policy has led to the fact that graduates do not want to sing a song at their graduation in their native language: "Can we do it in russian?" This cannot be allowed, because the general level of adequacy of those brought up in russian in school is also statistically lower.
I was greatly influenced by the Ukrainian music industry. The first signs of appearance of the “new me” playlist - "The Hardkiss". Just one listen was enough to get rid of the cheap pop music with poor language forever and start feeling something more sublime. Now the playlist has grown, it has a lot of our own musicians, all of them are beautiful and make life more romantic.
Then there was a trip to Odesa. Also as children of ATO. This was the last push towards understanding that any and every corner of our country is picturesque.
I also started writing poems in excessive quantities. Every evening. At first they were two languages, then I reread, reconsidered, and came to the conclusion that the russian-speaking ones are nothing. If the ones in Ukrainian are an intellectual product, then the initial ones are intellectual garbage, as I now call them. The soul is only in Ukrainian, I must pay tribute to the country from which I draw inspiration. And no, I am not against using many languages, I tried to translate something into English so that a friend from America could appreciate it, but, firstly, I understand that my knowledge of it will never equal the level of a local resident, and, secondly, russian is a language that is definitely not worthy of art. Never.
I also can't do without our cinematography: the picture is simply so beautiful, and the events are dear beyond belief. No matter how little time you have, watching what’s ours is sacred.
In general, school life was Ukrainian-centric: in addition to the Olympiads, there were patriotic quizzes, works, drawings, it was a whirlwind of creativity and national elevation, also stimulated by a system of incentives in the form of prizes. And, of course, the study of history - if you open my YouTube subscriptions, you might think that this is the account of some historian: the lion's share of it is about our past.
But no, I came out to be a journalist.
I was not the only one in my family who reconsidered something. So, in 2019,  my dad joined the ranks of the Armed Forces. Got into the marines, which makes me double proud. Was in the JFO zone. When he arrived, he said with such passion: "Well, no, you can say whatever, but our army really, NEVER once started provocations, did not shoot first, unlike those separs. It's hard to believe, but I saw it." Since then, stories of our defenders' bravery have become regular and dear to the heart, and respect for them has grown to immeasurable proportions.
That's how I was drawn to Odesa, to the sea: I entered the Faculty of Journalism at ONU  I.I. Mechnykov. This love for the Motherland could not be stopped.

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?

At home, in my room. We were still on a holiday. I didn't sleep much - until one o'clock I read “Gone with the Wind”, finished it on the scene where they are evacuating through the city, which is on fire from enemy weapons. Then we discussed the novel with a friend online.
At five o'clock, mother with tears in her eyes and shouting: "It's started, Dashenko, it's started!" - woke me up and hugged tighter than ever, it lasted for three minutes: we hugged and cried. Father called her at four o'clock: the Armed Forces knew a little earlier, so he warned us saying the prospects were not looking good. My first thought was about him. Then, of course, like everyone else, we listened to the news and explosions, appeals, all feelings were creepily - heightened: every tank, every projectile was perceived as something inevitable.
Sometime around seven o'clock, they were already packing an emergency bag, not  really knowing where to run and what to look for, monitoring requests for evacuation. So we wandered until lunch,, talking to everyone. There was also an online meeting with the university, at that moment I felt a sense of unity with my alma mater and the team. Then I couldn't stand it anymore - I went to sleep, everything was turning black in my eyes, and my legs felt like cotton wool from the fear of hopelessness. I woke up to the news - that we are going with the godfather to his vacation house in the Kharkiv region. Roughly for 2-3 days (precisely because of this, almost no things or groceries were taken). Yes, as of now, I was no longer at home. This was a logical error, we should have immediately evacuated to safer regions and, accordingly, gathered more moderately. But you can't turn back time. We thought that it would be fine there, even during the Second World War there was a lull in the city, but turned out we were wrong, because the new evil is more insidious.
The answer to the question of whether I believed in the offensive is obvious after describing my confusion - I didn’t. Even my father doubted it, only on the last evening "before" he somehow strangely dropped that they were gathered for some kind of speech, and wished strength and acceptance of future losses. I shuddered a little, but it could be interpreted in different ways. By the way, that night, our equipment drove past the house on the highway, which was also a sort of red flag.
I sincerely thought that in our century, any country, even a barbaric and depraved one like russia, is not capable of such a large-scale crime. As It turns out, according to a modern classic, our russophobia was not enough.
Then it also "begun" in the Kharkiv region, it was quite scary, we got ready in the morning in 20 minutes (we are breaking new and new records for high-speed packing, the first one took an hour) and went to Dnipro. People living inside school walls is the saddest picture I've ever seen: cold, elderly people who can't even turn over on their own, showers in the locker room and loud screams because of the acoustics. These people had everything, because they earned it by hard work, and now they are forced to snuggle up in such conditions because of the crazy russian army. Our final destination is the Chernihiv region. I had a part-time job in the form of Ukrainian language online tutoring; in the last pre-war period, it wasn’t going that well, but right in the last days before this horror, a boy from the 4th grade showed up. His mother, a woman with a huge heart, then called me to her and helped with temporary shelter. The country of the best people: to show so much kindness and warmth to someone who you have barely seen (now it seems to me that we have always been close).
Currently, I continue to conduct language classes, read, donate to AFU, draw, sing, and try to be useful as a journalist-volunteer in helping charitable media.
I am looking forward to the new academic year and my return to Odesa. Safe Odesa. I understand that this is the point of inevitability, a carefree and even semi-carefree life is now behind. Now the reality comes: fear, complete rationality, a complete change of the infofield and an erased past. Photos, medals, certificates (a special one that I valued - signed by Kravchuk), drawings, early literary works - all of it stayed at home. If at least something survives, I will start believing in miracles. Flags, stickers, Dad's military gear and the Marine Corps oath are everywhere there. What a red rag for those "freer" monsters, a premium set. Maybe they will be stopped by their own projectile in the wall, which did not explode, but only rearranged the table a bit. It is necessary to understand that life continues from scratch, but the main thing is that it CONTINUES.

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