top of page

Kateryna Yudaeva



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.

In 2014, when the war started, I was 18 years old. I was a first-year student majoring in cultural studies at Taras Shevchenko University.Everything that happened in the country over that period seemed very distant. I have never been a person who closely observes the political arena, but there comes a moment in life when politics begins to show interest in you instead. And whether you want it or not, it becomes an integral part of our life. I had a clear understanding that we were puppets in a game where world leaders seek to establish their spheres of influence. A young, frail mind, encountering something like this for the first time, could not know for sure how far these "games" are gonna go.
For me, the war began on June 2, 2014. War at the front is one thing, but when it breaks into your everyday life, it can really wake you up from strong illusions. On that day, I met my young man with whom I recently started a romantic relationship and we went for a walk in the center of Luhansk. He said that he really wants to introduce me to his mother because he considers me an important person in his life. At the time his mom was near the regional administration of the city, she needed to resolve some issues regarding her divorce. At that moment, my boyfriend and I were standing by the monument to Voroshylov, close to the regional administration, so that we could meet his mother right away when she was done.
From the very beginning of that day, some residents of the city could notice planes periodically circling up in the air. We were sitting near the monument to Voroshylov and talking about something unrelated, when a plane started flying right above us. It sometimes went down, then went up and, having made a circle, returned. My bf alarmingly announced that we had to go and started calling his mother to express his concerns. There was no signal any longer, on the other end of the phone sounded: "Currently, the receiver cannot accept your call. Please call later." He then looked at me and said that the plane here is not without a reason and has a purpose. He wanted to become a military pilot and studied a little about these things. And then he said that its target was likely the regional administration. And again began to dial his mom. There was no answer as before. The plane continued its flight, and at that moment there came a deafening roar. I thought I was asleep. Everything felt in a very surreal way, such coincidences simply do not happen. That the mother of your loved one could be there. "It's all a terrible dream," I thought, "I need to wake up as soon as possible." I remember how we ran towards the nearest bus stop, which was exactly opposite the regional administration. My partner squeezed my hand and said that his mother was there - in the epicenter of events. He just wanted to know one thing - that she was alive and that everything was fine with her. He put me on a bus and told me to go home. I didn't understand much, I just did what he said, although I didn't want to leave, I had to stay there, which I informed him about. He said, "No, it's not safe here." Then I jumped into the bus and went home. Everyone around was running somewhere, the phone calls did not stop, people's voices sounded like a continuous indecipherable hum, and I had only one thought in my head: "How is his mom?"
When I was finally able to call, my boyfriend said he was going to the hospital, his mother was already there, he managed to see her getting carried into the ambulance. And then he added:
- My aunt was also there, with my mom.
- “Was”?
- Yes, she died on the spot.
That’s when I realized that the war is already here, right under our noses. What seemed so far away knocked brazenly and mercilessly at your door.
My parents decided not to go anywhere. They lived in the city of Alchevsk. A city that did not know the horror of war that other cities saw. Alchevsk was a sort of a "gray zone" because a metallurgical plant  was located on its territory. Of course, I stayed with my family. I will remember that summer forever. The summer that turned many people's lives upside down. The summer after which you can never be the same. The summer of eternal separation from loved ones: many left forever, and I never saw them again. All my acquaintances and friends were scattered around the world. And for some reason I decided to stay and live through all this strange experience, to experience life to the fullest, and not only in the conditions of a beautiful existence, when your only problem is what to wear or what to cook for dinner.
I kept studying in Luhansk. All these years, I watched how my reality was changed, how facts were distorted, how a new reality was formed that had no relation to the real state of things. I refused to accept this reality, but I was never able to leave. Here is my house and my family, I could not abandon everything that is dear to me in the most difficult time for them.

"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.

All these eight years I lived in the city of Luhansk. There was no possibility for me and my family to leave. Financial problems, lack of permanent housing - these issues were talked about in our family. My grandparents were old, it was impossible to leave them. Grandmother and grandfather survived the famine and the war, they refused to leave their own home - and who am I to judge them? We constantly lived in the illusion that soon it would all be over, that everything would return to normal and we would continue to live as before. But every year the world around us showed the opposite. Gradually, the understanding came that it would never be the same again, that all this crap would have to be cleaned up by someone, one way or another. And who but us could do it, people who wanted to live?
I began to think a lot about fundamental things: what is life? What is a person? What is the world around us, and how did it become the way we see it now? Then I began to immerse myself in art. I needed to answer questions that interested me, I was looking for ways to learn about life, the world and myself. And how else can you learn these things, if not with the help of creativity?
I was spending, and still do, a lot of time in nature, alone with myself. Nature teaches me to hear and feel the world, to appreciate life. It teaches me to be a Human - a being who came into this world not to destroy, but to create. At some point, I turned to photography and discovered a type of art that can stop time and preserve fragments of reality in digital or printed form. Reality became so fragile and shaky for me, that's why I wanted to grab onto it with all my limbs, sink into it with my teeth and never let go. Every moment became priceless and I needed to keep it as long as possible. Photography for me was a document proving that life is real and it will exist forever, even if only in photographic fragments.

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, 2022, I woke up to loud explosions at my home in Luhansk. The explosions sounded relatively far, but could be heard clearly.

I immediately went on the Internet and saw a terrible picture - a war, a real war, which covered the entire territory of my country. I just couldn't believe it. Although, a few weeks before the events of February 24, everyone around was literally crying out about what was going to happen. Something much scarier than what was happening these eight years in Donbas. In my city, I observed the forced mobilization of men on the streets, noticed more military equipment, etc. However, to be honest, I could not believe until the end that this once more was our reality. I'm staying in Luhansk again and I don't want to leave. The times are even more dark and difficult, and I definitely have no desire to leave my home. I want it to come alive again. This thought has not left me during all these years. It would seem wisest to go, because the conditions for creativity and revival of the region are extremely unfavorable, but there is another understanding: dark times give birth to strong people, and this is the pure truth. So many beautiful human beings come across my path, their goals and intentions are very similar to what I feel. I know for sure that behind these bright people is the future. Now my task is to stay here and engage in creative activities, excite the thoughts of like-minded persons and not lose hope of being able to change the world around us. Our task as youth is to formulate ideas to create a new world where there should never again be wars, death and destruction. Under any circumstances. Man is too fragile and vulnerable, and his stupidity is that instead of the unity and integrity of all living things, he each time chooses disunity.

bottom of page