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Znehya Tramwai



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 studying at school then, finishing the 11th grade. I remember the annexation of Crimea, reports about various activities in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv. I don't really remember how the russian militants came to power. 2014-2015 were stressful. At the age of 17, I could remain without a diploma and not enter a university. I was frightened by the thought of russian citizenship and education, which was promised by the occupation authorities at the time. But the school certificates got to our class, and an additional session was scheduled for passing the ZNO exam, so my classmates and I ordered a bus and through a bunch of checkpoints got to Kharkiv, where we looked alone for temporary shelter and help. My parents also considered the option of sending me to relatives in the Poltava region, but Bakhmut got liberated, so I returned to my hometown. And although Bakhmut was under the control of the Ukrainian authorities, we lived in constant fear that the russian scourge would try to capture us again. Every day there were rumors that there would be bombings tomorrow, that we have to leave. I remember how I saw with my own eyes the storms of "grad" that flew after those who tried to get out of the Debaltseve cauldron.

"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.

Before 2020, I continued to live in Bakhmut, 15-20 kilometers from the front lines. I studied there as well. After six months in Kharkiv, I principally  wanted to stay in the region, to influence changes and be involved in community building. It was both motivation and a kind of challenge. In some sense, it was also a weakness, because staying in a small town is easier than living in a big one. Until 2019, I rather observed, and saw many activists who volunteered for the Armed Forces, organized trainings and festivals. It was inspiring then, and it is still inspiring now. In 2019, I became more active, together with my friends I created my own GO, through which we continue to work for the LGBTIQ+ community in the eastern Ukraine.Before the pandemic, we organized educational events and activities on our own, got to know a bunch of cool people, with whom we later collaborated. So, for example, after the "Captives' ' project about LGBTIQ+ in the territories occupied by Russia, we started communicating with Masha Vyshedska. And already in 2020, she invited me to her projects. In the same 2020, I visited Lysychansk as a speaker at Plan B. It was a cool experience that I still look back to from time to time. I liked the versatility and multifunctionality of Donbas, the way it continued to actively develop even despite the war. Until 2013, I was not interested in anything that happened in the city. Bakhmut seemed to me a generic town where nothing happens and where there is nothing to catch. But now, for me, Bakhmut is a city with great potential and a rich history, which has been сonsealed with "sovietism" for a long time.

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?

Emotionally, I understood and knew that there would be a war, but I tried my best to ignore it. I hoped that this was another attempt to scare us, but Mordor will not forge its way here. When I was in Bakhmut for the last time in January this year, I cried while going to the train, feeling that I would not be back soon. On the evening of the 23rd, I went to Mcdonalds for the last time, saw a string of our equipment, and I felt uneasy somehow. We sat with friends until three in the morning, had a drink, and I was so tired that I immediately fell asleep upon my return. And, to be honest, I didn't want to sit and wait for something to start any moment. But it did start, and around 10 in the morning I was woken up by the same friends who came to take me to their place. For a week, we scrolled through the news 24/7, and tried to buy train tickets to the western regions of Ukraine. We were in the corridor almost all the time, except when we went out for groceries during the day. One time we went down to the subway. At that time, there were fears that attempts to seize Kyiv would become more intense and aggressive. I am now in Kyiv, I returned sometime in April. Before that, I spent a month and a half in Ivano-Frankivsk. As a member of the "KyivPride" team, I continue to fulfill my duties (you can read more about our work on the official pages of the organization). Talking about my creative activity, in the first weeks of the war, I took up the creation of collages again. I posted them on OpenSea as NFT-tokens in order to raise money for the support of volunteers and AFU, but it was not possible to sell any of the works. Took part in exhibitions in Berlin and Athens, where funds were collected to support the Ukrainian LGBTIQ+ community. There will be another one in Milan very soon. Regarding the future: I am currently at the stage of reflection and do not know at all what and how I will do next. For the start, I would like to see my parents, to spend at least a few days with them without reading the news or thinking about anything else. Take a walk through Kyiv at night, up until morning, and go to the Kyrylivska Street. And of course, so that this endless and terrible day would finally be over and spring would come.

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