Today we learn a story of another SUPer who had her life changed during the russian war in Ukraine. Vika stayed in her hometown, Pushcha Vodytsya for the first three weeks after the attack of the russian troops. When the attacks on the Kyiv suburbs proceeded, she managed to relocate to a safer location near Kyiv — Bila Tserkva.
1. Can you look back to the first days of war? The minute you heard the news, where were you, and what were your first thoughts?
The first explosion wasn’t the loudest, but it immediately woke me up. I understood that was a missile attack because I had never heard a sound like that before. I woke up my fiancé, saying, “Get up. It seems the war has begun”. At first, he thought I couldn’t be right, but, in a matter of seconds, he heard the next explosions himself. We checked the information online and saw that Kyiv was under attack.
My first thought was about my mother. She was going to visit me just that day. The explosions began precisely when she had to be waiting for her bus at the bus stop. I called her and asked her to stay home. Then I texted my Ukraine-based teammates, asking if they were all right.
2. And when the news settled down, did your thoughts and feelings change? Did you feel that something like that could ever happen in your country?
The news didn’t have to settle down for me. It didn’t feel unexpected. The russians were threatening us all the time. It was just a confirmation for me that, indeed, the war had begun. I first called my family and colleagues, asking about their location and how they felt. I didn’t have the feeling of disbelief from the start because, with the russian politics over the years, it was evident that we should be ready for something like this to happen.
3. During the first days of war, you stayed in Kyiv. How were these days for you? Did you have a hiding place to stay during the air-raid alarms?
For the first three weeks, we remained in Kyiv for the first three weeks — at Pushcha Vodytsya, a neighborhood in the Obolonskyi District. It is located in a quiet getaway surrounded by forest, but very close to the severely occupied cities — Bucha and Irpin are just 10-minute drive away. Hostomel is close, too. We heard the first explosions really intensely.
Once, we talked about how good it was that we lived in the Kyiv suburb, not in the city center. With time, it turned out to be the opposite — we were near a really important military target, the airport. From the very beginning, we heard helicopters flying over the buildings. The Ukrainian army was passing through our streets to the occupied territories. Our territorial defense troops were always in the area. We heard the hails of fire attacking the cities nearby and the explosions from the missiles. I live in a 9-storey building, and from the window, I could see the sky light up because of the hailing fire.
We didn’t think about relocating to another safe area for a long time. All we did at first was finding a bomb shelter near us. We put our cat in the backpack and went checking whether our basement was open. There, shivering from the cold and surrounded by other people, we spent the first two days of the attacks.
Then I found out the russians occupied my mother’s village on the second day of the war. It was cut from electricity and water supply. The russian soldiers were entering the buildings. I was extremely worried about my mom, as she was alone with my grandmother. The russian soldiers lived in the house just next to them. Once, they even entered my mother’s house to check whether any Ukrainian soldiers were living there. The russians told her that they had come to “rescue” them, and were not bombing the houses in the village — Ukrainian soldiers were. Of course, these are total lies.
I had a birthday on April 1, and I received the biggest present — my mother’s village was finally free from its occupants. Another gift was what my mom told me about the Ukrainian people when I finally reached her over the phone. She told me when the russians were leaving the village, they set one of the houses on fire. My mother’s house caught fire as well. Her neighbor took a ladder and started splashing water from the buckets on the buildings to stop it.
Kozarovychi is a village located 40 kilometers from the Kyiv center. Here, the Ukrainian army managed to stop the approaching occupant armies before they entered the capital. The fighting there started only a few days after the beginning of the war and ended on April 1. During the occupation, the villagers were cut from water and energy supplies, as well as access to the cellular network. The russian occupiers took the people in the village captive and moved into the empty houses.
4. Did you manage to relocate?
First weeks, we tried to stay and work in Pushcha Vodytsya, but the attacks got louder and more threatening. For instance, when I was attending video calls with the team, they could hear shots, explosions, or sirens in the background. People could leave the town, but most of them were lacking gas. We were lucky because our neighbor’s friend had some gas left, and he agreed to take us to Bila Tserkva — my fiancé’s home place.
When we were driving through the city center, I understood the atmosphere was completely different — there was more life there. Being too close to the front line, Pushcha Vodytsya, was some sort of conservation area. Our people have organized — they prepared the shelters, checked the rooftops, and at night turned the lights off. The supermarket worked, and you had to stay in line for an hour while you heard explosions nearby and the missiles were flying above your head. At that moment, you would start doubting whether you really needed food that much. Then, when you would start walking down to the basement 15 times a day, you would start to realize it is better to find a safe place where you can work. But we didn’t want to go too far from our families and hometowns.
I ill only feel better when I see my mom. Still, I feel calmer here because we are with my fiancé’s family. But I miss Kyiv very much. I thought about getting back, but Pushcha Vodytsya is still closed for the entrance.
There is no place like home. Many people who had to relocate can come back and bring the best practices from other countries to use at home. I am sure our country will be the best place to live for any Ukrainian — because of our people and their spirit.
Pushcha Vodytsya is a town with rich nature that is located in the Kyiv suburbs. Since the beginning of the war, the town was near the front line where russian soldiers tried to approach the capital. As a result, Pushcha suffered from many attacks. The city’s infrastructure was severely hurt. At the beginning of April, occupants destroyed railway infrastructure and cut off civilians and volunteers from entering the town.
5. How do you cope with stress and anxiety these days?
I always had a “No social media during work” policy, but now, I follow many media accounts and always check what is going on in the world. We are trying to take turns with my fiancé — while I am working, he is reviewing the news, and when I finish, he tells me about every main event. I am trying to read all the updates. At the same time, work and communication with the team is a good way for me to distract myself. For now, we live in different parts of Ukraine, and we started having more calls to be more in touch with each other. Team support is what motivates me the most.
6. What are your greatest sources of support? Did you manage to restore connections with old friends or keep in constant contact with the closest ones?
When I finally found time to check Facebook, I saw tons of messages of support from my friends and connections from different parts of the world. I visited the USA in 2014 and didn’t have a close relationship with the people I met there since then, but they still reached out with concern. They are reading the news too. When I said where I was during the first days of the war, they immediately knew exactly where Pushcha Vodytsya was. That’s how much people are following the events in Ukraine. They wrote: “We are with you, we are with Ukraine”.
The biggest source of support for me is our nation. What the people of Ukraine do and how we stand and fight together. How much people care. Actually, care is the main word for the Ukrainian people now. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine, volunteers — the fourth power in the country now, and our President and ministries work in amazing synchrony that makes me proud every day. The way the government managed to organize people in times of war… I don’t think any European country can make it better.
The calming schedule we have also helps us cope and feel some sort of stability. Every morning, we get information about the humanitarian corridors and the night’s main events. We have regular video messages from the President, ministers, or influencers. It gives motivation and understanding that every person — even those not in the military — can do something to help bring the victory closer and manage the restorative processes in the country to bring life back to it.
Our Diia app ranks as one of the most popular and helpful applications. It is an amazing creation and is standing in the most critical times, informing and coordinating people. During the war, I started to dive deeper into the Ukrainian history, and there is one Ukrainian YouTube channel I want to share — “імені Т.Г. Шевченка“. The historian that created the channel talks about the history of Ukraine and how old and noble our country is. The things you already know remind you what we are fighting for.
I am proud of my people and country, and they are my biggest sources of support.
7. Do you feel that this experience changed you? How?
Of course. After this experience, all Ukrainians will change forever. We will be angrier in the future and prepared for everything. Since February 24, I haven’t even cried. I told myself I need to hold on till the war ends. Then, I will let myself breathe and maybe cry a little. For now, I focus on other things. I feel emotions, but I refuse to let them suffocate me because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I was almost on the verge, though, when I saw the Instagram account with paintings that illustrate the images from Bucha and Irpin. That almost made me cry.
Vika is talking about the Instagram account @0lga.art.
8. What do you miss most when you think about home?
I would say that I miss the nature of Pushcha Vodytsya. In general, being in the place where I feel the most comfortable. That’s where I was born, and the calm it gives me is crucial. Nature and numerous parks — these are the real trademarks of my beloved city.
My family remains the most important thing for me. I want to see my mother so much. Everything else is unimportant, and we just have to hold on a little.
9. How do you think the world can help Ukraine keep the fight going?
My educational background is in International Law, and I studied UN and NATO for 6 years. From the beginning of our studies, our professors told us the international foundations have no real instruments to apply. There is no factual pressure instrument in the world in terms of international law.
The first thing we need is weapons. Also, humanitarian help for the people is critical. After the war, we need all countries to keep their sanctions and help us rebuild the destroyed infrastructure and houses. Especially considering that 2.5 trillion hryvnias are the estimated amount of the loss — we will not manage without help.
Anna has been working as a writer for 6 years. She previously wrote about financial markets, conducting the research on the state of bonds and stocks on a daily basis. She is a keen reader with interest in historical literature and international cuisine. Her latest obsession — customer communication and ways to perfect it. If you want to connect with Anna, follow her on LinkedIn.Posted on