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Leviza Nikulina



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 16 when I found out that there would be a war. At that time, I lived in a small town near Donetsk, I was finishing school, and I was worried that I would not be able to pass the ZNO exams in my hometown. I had to go to the Dnipro with people I barely knew, whose children were in the same situation as me.
When I returned (it was the middle of summer), my city was already empty. There wasn't much food in the stores, people tried not to stand out from the crowd when walking the streets. This made me feel empty inside, but I didn't hear the war coming close yet. I don't remember my first explosion. I only remember that my parents and I had to move from our apartment building to my grandparents' house. There was a cellar, and a cellar is salvation... That's all I knew then. Although I don't remember exactly how and when I first heard the explosions, the memory of how routine shelling was is still etched in my memory. I woke up at 6 in the morning, went down to the cellar, and sat there for about half an hour. Then I went back to sleep. Once more - during the day. And then again at night - around 11 o'clock. Then - sleep. 
And all over again. In the cellar - life goes on - in the cellar - life goes on - in the cellar - going back to sleep.
We had no electricity, water, or ways of communication. For how long? A week maybe... or two, or even more. There were no days then. They were all as one. I couldn't even go out into the yard; and only once every few days did my father take me with him to the nearest hill so that we could catch some connection and call relatives or friends.
This continued until I found out that I had entered a university. I wanted to study in Kharkiv. I wanted to go to Kyiv. 
But my parents could only pay for Donetsk. So that's where I lived for the next 8 years.

"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.

When I entered a school in Donetsk, my whole life changed. I moved from my parents to a dorm, started visiting lectures and all that. I already knew that I would not have a "real" diploma, but I had no choice either. Parents insisted on studying. My mother always said: "Bring me a diploma, then you´re free." That's why I was waiting for liberation. Over the years, I went to Dnipro several times to visit my best friend. I remember, then you had to first go by bus through the checkpoints to Kostyantynivka, and then get on the train.

This Kostyantynivka became a kind of symbol for me. A city where one life ends and another begins. Free, open. With mail, childhood sweets, with a bank card, with another currency (hryvnias), with everything different. In Kostyantynivka, I constantly cried when I got off the train. I really loved my city, my studies, and the people there, but I still didn't want to go back. I wanted to stay in Dnipro, but I couldn't, and that's why I set myself the goal of moving anyway after my studies.

When I finished my bachelor's degree, my parents insisted on a master's degree (insert here this smiley emoji with a tear under his eye). So I applied and entered. But at the same time, I got a job working remotely at a Dnipro company. I met a guy who shared my views and desire to move. We got a cat and started collecting money. Kharkiv was chosen instead of Dnipro. On August 26, 2021, I fulfilled my dream — I moved to Kha.

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?

We lived in Kharkiv for almost six months. We found work and friends there. Of course, we brought the cat with us. On February 24, at 5 in the morning, I opened my eyes and already knew what these sounds were. I was sure that I recognized them, it is impossible to mistake them for something else. Then I opened Telegram and saw that people were writing messages in several chats at once. Then there were explosions again. Only after did I get up, wake up my boyfriend, and in a trembling voice said that the war had begun. When he jumped up and told me to pack my things, I had a panic attack, probably the worst I've ever had. But there was no time to spare for it, so we packed everything (and the cat) and decided to go to Lviv with our best friend. There were no more tickets. Not today, not tomorrow, not in a week. We decided to go to the store and to the ATM. It was awful. The face of Kharkiv was mute, frightened... These people on the street were indecipherable, confused, sleepy. Everyone stood in lines. Everyone was quiet. This is one of the worst memories of that day. The face of my dreams, of my new home.

Then there were 6 terrible days to the sounds of constant explosions, and afterwards we left for Lviv on the evacuation train. We drove for 36 hours sitting almost without sleep or food (thanks to the volunteers who handed out food and water afterwards). I thought the cat was going to die. But we all survived.

At first, we were hosted in Lviv by friends who turned the apartment into a shelter. During the 12 days we were there, they helped 54 people, 6 dogs and 2 cats (yes, we kept track). All these people stayed in the apartment for different periods of time: they ate, slept, washed, and then looked for housing or went abroad. We were among them. Later, we found an apartment, but we could not rent it ourselves, so we decided to "share" it with two other people. We lived like this for almost three months. Only in June were we able to find permanent housing and live separately, almost as we lived in Kha.
​​Now Lviv. I work here like before, buy decorations for the windowsill, draw in the corner, and am happy that my cat, who survived Donetsk, Kharkiv, and now Lviv, is safe. I don't feel at home, but home is nowhere now. The future is also blank. There is either death or life. I don't think about anything more than it.

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