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Vira Protskych

Mariupol

Rivne

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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 18 years old when the Maidan happened, and then the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, including the occupation of Mariupol. I just entered the university. I don't remember almost anything. Everything was somehow fast and so far from me - not in terms of geography, but in terms of understanding. I think this is how my brain decided to get rid of the memories to make it easier, so I don't remember things about myself, I don't remember any important events or I get confused when they happened. But I remember the first time I heard a military plane flying in the sky. As my father told me to turn off the lights or close the blinds at night because "they'll be walking around the yards and shooting at the windows.´He did not say who "they" were. I remember how we were supposed to get taught how to hide in shelters at the university, but this never happened. Plus, as we were told, we simply won't have enough space in the shelter, because the priority is for women with children and pensioners from neighboring houses. All this time, the shelter near my house was in a destroyed bread factory. I remember very well how one day I woke up from a firefight. It seemed to me that it was right under our windows, but then it turned out to be three streets away. It felt like the ceiling would fall on me. Meanwhile the sun was shining through the window, it was hot. I crawled into bed, I was scared. And so I continued my studies while the separatists burned, looted and occupied the city. In the morning on the way to the university, I heard the echo of "grad" gunfights and the ringing of bells in the church. And then I was not afraid at all.

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"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.

For 8 years, I was ashamed that I had never hid in basements and never seen a real war. Although I do not remember myself during 2014-2015, who I was, what I thought. I know that it was in 2016 that I definitely began to perceive myself as a Ukrainian and a citizen of my country and city. I became interested in activism and public activities. I have more friends from Donetsk now than before the war, because they moved to Mariupol. In general, I met a lot of people and learned a lot. It is hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I had made a different choice and stayed "out of politics." I became very political. I became more critical and empathetic. I tried to make Mariupol more interesting for the people who lived there. I finally fell in love with my hometown.

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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 encountered this war at home. I moved again to the apartment where I was born and lived most of my life. I just moved and bought a new bed. I was awakened by the words: "Do you know that the war has begun?" Then there was the echo of an explosion somewhere outside the window. I did not believe what would happen right now and across the whole country. We were expecting an attack on Donetsk and Luhansk regions. I didn't sleep well the previous two weeks. I looked out the window at the night sky and waited for the hit to land. I stopped trusting the silence again, as if it was the last second of peace. That's why I had a backpack packed. We got ready quickly. We threw out everything political, for which those living in this apartment would be taken to the "basement". I left almost all my things at home. Everything that was important to me. I haven't seen my parents. I just talked on the phone. They did not understand why I was leaving and offered to go backin a few more days. Then we had no contact for many months. For the first of those  months, I volunteered and tried to find my parents, colleagues, and friends. But many things were useless. For this, I am also ashamed that I did not do enough to get them out sooner. Now I continue my work in the organization. We are trying to support residents of Mariupol who have left.

It's hard for me to think about my future. I want to go home, but I don't know when it will be possible. When we win, we will fight further against our oligarchs and those who want to use positions of power again to fill their own pockets. There will never be simple peace.
 

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