My children often asked why neighbors came to us with weapons in hands and started killing, – Olena, UWVM volunteer
From the first day of the war, she spends the night with her three children and two grandchildren in one of Kyiv’s bunkers to protect her family from russian missile bombardment. From the first week she collects parcels with humanitarian aid and manages the product stock of the rapid response headquarters of “Ukrainian Women Veteran Movement”.
During the full-scale invasion, she worked on 1,500 applications for assistance from the Ukrainian military and civilians. Each left a mark in her soul.
When asked by her grandchildren why “our brothers” are killing us, she said that in a neighboring country, a crazy president has decided that we will be his slaves. And she adds that we don’t want that, that’s why we are fighting for our freedom.
After this phrase, there is a silent moment in our conversation.
Her name is Olena. To your attention, she is telling her story as a UWVM volunteer.
About how the war starded for me
I hoped there would be no full-scale attack on us. I thought that everything would happen locally, as in 2014. But they attacked from all sides…
How did the war start? I live on the 11th floor, next to one of the five floor apartment building, so everything is heard on the higher floors. On February 24, at half past four, I heard a loud explosion. I was scared and woke everyone up, because my children, relatives and friends were sleeping at home. Then there were some very strong explosions. I turned on the TV and realized that we were attacked by russia.
My children are 11, 19 and 26 years old. Grandchildren – 7 and 9 years. The first day was very scary, incomprehensible, hellish, frigtening. You do not know what to expect. It was very scary for the children, not for myself, because I am an adult.
We did not hear the sirens. We went down to the bomb shelter with the neighbors. My husband works in this area, so we went to a closed area and settled there. The bomb shelter has not been used since Soviet times and was not prepared for this time at all. We arranged everything ourselves: we sleep on boxes that we set up ourselves, we cover ourselves with blankets brought from home.
About children who believe in our victory. And about the love of freedom
In the first days there was a catastrophe. We did not leave the bunker. Our children were constantly fed hot lunches by the Ukrainian Women Veteran Movement. Both my children and grandchildren were constantly sitting in the bunker. There’s not even a place to walk. In the first days, up to 50 people hid in the bomb shelter, now there are 25. When the sirens stopped, some sometimes went outside.
Our “anxiety suitcase” with essentials doesn’t get unpacked. Sometimes we come home quickly to take a shower, sleep dressed, do not know what to expect. Now the educational process has begun, so children are more often at home.
They are very sensitive to everything. I do not want to aggravate their psychological trauma. We turn on cartoons more often, we watch less news with them. Sometimes, such pictures on TV are shown that they do not need to see it. At night, the children constantly cried, worried and trembled at every sound.
Children and grandchildren often asked, “Why did our neighbors, our brothers, come at us with weapons in their hands and start killing? Why don’t they let us live in peace? When will they come to their senses and leave us alone?” I tried to make a joke. It didn’t work out. So I said that there was a crazy president in the neighboring country who decided that we would be his slaves. And we don’t want that. Our country is free. We are fighting for our freedom. The Ukrainian Armed Forces, Territorial Defense and volunteers protect us from the “russian world”.
Children believe in our victory over the russian occupier. We promise them that on the day of the victory we will go to the park, play there all day and celebrate.
About things that help to stay strong
I am most supported by my family, my children and the belief in quick victory. I hope every day that it will be tomorrow. Maybe it’s an illusion, but it’s easier for me to wtay strong this way.
On March 4, I offered my help to Teresa of the Ukrainian Women Veteran Movement when they brought us hot lunches.
I’d rather be useful than sit and do nothing.
At first, I just collected humanitarian aid from storage to storage. A couple of days later I moved to the food storage and I am still here.
About ones who help to stay strong
I like the atmosphere in the headquarters, a very friendly and responsive team, you feel at home. I want to personally thank the Ukrainian Women Veteran Movement for being there. We try to get a variety of help with such efforts: food, ammunition, tactics – everything that the military and civilians need.
Since the beginning of the war, we have worked on 1,500 applications for humanitarian aid, and we have helped many families. I hope it became a little easier for them.
Every application left a mark in my soul. The soul hurts the most for cities and villages in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv regions, Irpin, Bucha – where it was very unbearable, where people lived in basements and for two or three weeks could not go outside and see the sun. Among them are children, the elderly and pregnant women. The soul hurt the most for them. No matter how scared we were, we did not experience this. You don’t want anyone to go through what people go through now. Except for the russians blinded by russian propaganda.
I was surprised by the amount of support from many countries that give us money for weapons and provide humanitarian aid. I am pretty old, but in all my life I have never seen other countries in war being helped so much. I did not expect such support from abroad. It is gratifying that we are not alone.
How many refugees have left, and we are still accepted. I was also impressed that volunteers from other countries came to help rid Ukraine of this evil. People may have never known about this Ukraine, but they went to help and left their families at home when they heard about our plight.
About hell for non-humans
And you know, I used to perceive russians as ordinary people of any other country. I know that there are people in russia who are against the war, but they will not resist the system, because their system is very rigid. I saw on TV how people rallied on Red Square and were quickly beaten, packed into buses and imprisoned. But to those scoundrels who support putin and praise him for the attack on Ukraine, I want to wish them the same as our children, mothers and fathers. Maybe it’s bad to wish bad on others.
But if after the shootings of civilians in Ukraine, they still support their president, they deserve hell.