top of page

Vitaly Sydorenko



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.

The war of 2014 came unnoticed. In general, it came this way for everyone who was younger than 18 years old and lived outside the city; the war remained in the memory as a part of the hot rural summer, which you recall with the first ray of sunshine in the warming May. After reading the question, I didn't even think right away what I remember about it at all: neither explosions, nor strange things on the street, nor unfamiliar faces in foreign military uniforms.
Only now, in a more mature age, recalling those events, I understand that the war made most impact not in 2014-2015; it was there and close during my teenage years and reappeared in my youth.
But all in good time.
For the first time, I heard it in my mother's voice, troubled when speaking to my father: "Did you hear what's happening in Luhansk? I need to call and ask how Grandma Masha is doing, she lives right under the forest!" Fascinated by village games with Artem, David and others, I did not attach any importance to it. Everything was simple for us: forest, hunting, river, fishing and motorcycles. The war affected the city, but definitely not us.
I had quite a few friends in the village near Luhansk: when I was younger, we gathered in groups of acquaintances and spent a good time together. When chatting in VK, we exchanged "what did you hear" texts, being simply against any "fuss" that was not caused by us.
What actually happened was grandmother Masha got terribly worried, and we took her to us for that hellish summer. All the acquaintances who lived on the outskirts of the city went to their relatives: some to Odesa to the summer sea, some to boring (v.) Zhytomyr, some to their grandmothers living 150 km away. We rarely discussed the war, but we heard a lot about it through our families.
Pompilius sang: "Some words are for the kitchen, others for the streets," and he was right.
The fact that Luhansk is no longer there - the one I knew - I took with surprise, but with the surprise that a thirteen-year-old child can have; put that event to other "bad" things and went to study at his native local school. I did not know the children who were forced to leave their own native places in Luhansk forever.
What I mean: the war does not touch everyone, but it surely affects you. Even if the loss of an entire city passed by overlooked, it still exposed itself in time. And if a 13-year-old boy who had his own motorcycle can be forgiven for such civil negligence, then other residents of the country, in my opinion, had to draw certain conclusions. Trouble doesn't come alone, and if you haven't stopped it around your neighbor, the next turn is yours. Which was also shown by the occupation of Sever, which, since 2014, suddenly had the same housing prices as Kharkiv.

"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.

These eight years, surprisingly, became almost the best period of my life compared to what it is now. I entered a technical school and started an independent life in Severodonetsk: there I found a friend for life, met a girl and rented my first apartment (immediately after my first job). The events of 2014 had an impact only slightly: instead of one of the other Luhansk technical schools, I entered the one near the Ice Palace. Sever did not prosper, but it was quite enough for my independent life. And, since I was not in the cohort of those who received the name "IDP", I was left to watch from the side.
I heard the following thought from one girl: "Those migrants have come, look... Sever used to be a quiet, peaceful city that I loved, but now? They took our work, sitting on the benches, places in uni — they have an admittance priority." Watching those "troublemakers" I thought the girl was plain stupid.
I saw and knew those people, and I had the privilege of listening to their stories without saying, “And I …” They were people of all ages, occupations, social statuses, and financial abilities. The latter, by the way, were very limited for many due to the sudden increase in housing prices. And these people, of course, looked for ways to survive: get hired where they said there were no places; agreed to any work in order to pay the utility bill in another rented apartment; personally visited all kindergartens or schools and accommodated the children.
Yes, different people came: some took their usual spot in the beer bar, some continued to hang out at the abandoned sites and "work in telegram", but there were enough of them in any city regardless. 
"You won't understand us until you yourself, God forbid, get in a situation like that," a girl smiled sadly. Who knew that this phrase would be heard 8 years later throughout the country.
Where have I been for 8 years? I kept living my life. And where were all these people? They started it anew. Their friends - all over the country and now only in messengers; the working team is new and has a different attitude not only to the IDPs, but also to the war in general; instead of "Absolut" - "Family" or "Silpo" (t.n. names of Ukrainian supermarkets). Ha, we didn't even have McD, unlike Luhansk. But people lived on: there were more children in classes and children's groups, new shops and cafes were opened because there was demand, and in general Sever seemed to have become more patriotic: those who fled the war knew exactly what color they were now and on which side of the country was a blood enemy .
8 years is not a short time. Many managed to build a new life: get accustomed to rented apartments instead of their own, get to know a new team well and get pleasure from corporate parties; graduate from school and celebrate graduation at "Chalet", "Pashtet" or elsewhere; get used to Astron, to walking with children in front of Amstor mall, finding everything you need at the Central and Khitry markets, feeding the ducks and swans at Chysty, letting the dogs out for a walk near the Park lake, taking pictures in winter by the installations at Khimkiv...
I myself got used to Sever and fell in love with that city by "Azot" (t.n. chemical producer based in Severodonetsk). As my friend and I often said, "there was everything for life there": cafes for every taste, parks where you can hang out, entertainment at "Jazz", etc.
In the last months before the war, Sever was perhaps in its best possible shape: all the parks were cleaned, a lot of people gathered on the lake, you could choose any cafe and it was open until late. 
According to IDP acquaintances, they also managed to get completely used to Sever during that time. The situations were different: someone arrived at school age, quickly adapted and already had friends, favorite places, etc.; someone planned to move later to enroll in another university, but left his family here and was glad to return; someone chose Sever for the rest of their life and did not plan to go further ("The little one goes to kindergarten, the older one is thinking of going to Dahl university, why go anywhere else, my also found a place at Azot plant").
Sever needed new roads, new cafes, new cultural events, but it did not need liberation and such devastation. And after February 24, not only that bunch of people who already knew all the intricacies of moving, found themselves out of control of their own lives — now the status of displaced people will suddenly be given to those who asked for three thousand plus utility bills for a one-room apartment. No avenues, no theater, no concerts. Only suitcases and the fear of explosions. Among the pile of those who evacuated, I ended up as well.

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?

On February 24, I was drunk. Before that, in the evening, we had a good time with our dear ones, and the morning passed in a rush: I was late for work.
Having already run up to the place, I found out about the latest events: Kyiv, Kharkiv, the President's address... The director announced the closing of the store and the evacuation of the goods, so we started packing them and hiding them in the warehouse. When we were driving to Lysychansk to help another store, we heard a loud explosion. That's when I realized: war is on the horizon again.
It wasn't scary: time always passes faster and seems safer at work. My health did not allow me to go to the front, so there wasn't much choice: either to stay in the city or to go further away. I chose the latter.

A friend from Kyiv said earlier that there would be a war. The tension was felt even there. Until that day, we discussed the options for the development of events, like strategists, and did not believe too much in a full-scale offensive, not to mention the horror that is happening now.
Currently, I work in the Western Ukraine, trying to arrange a new life. The biggest pity is for those who have it for the second time, but for the first time it's also not much easier. Life brings together different people, including those who were not ashamed to take a lot of money from immigrants, but now patiently wait in line for humanitarian aid. It is difficult to watch such a thing, but the only thing that remains is to work and build your life anew.

bottom of page