Scoundrel Time

Ukraine Diaries

Hello everyone! My name is Kate, I am from Ukraine, and I want to share my story with you now. I was born in Dnipro – it’s a city located in center-east Ukraine. My grandmothers were born in 1939, and they still remember how it was during World War 2. I have grown up with the idea of “Never again.” In kindergarten, in school – we learned how our ancestors struggled in times of war. Our grandparents told us stories from their childhood, and we could never imagine how it was even possible! We all are human. Why should people kill each other? Why can’t they just talk? I couldn’t even imagine war in my country, in the 21st century, and with people who for many years were our “brothers.”

24.02.2022, ~ 5-6 am. The war has started

I woke up from the phone call. I saw it was my mom, I picked up the phone, and the first words I heard were “The war has started. Collect the documents.” I firstly didn’t realize what was going on. How can it even be possible? My mom said that she woke up from the loud sound – precisely when our airport was being bombed.

I have packed documents, money, and other valuable stuff during talking with my mom. Still, it felt like just a bad joke. Then I checked some sources and saw videos and photos of what was going on – many cities in my country were bombed this night and morning. I became terrified. I collected water in all possible containers, cooked a vast porridge pot in case there would be no water and gas, and tried to figure out what to do next.

Realizing that there was not even a supply of food and drinking water at home, not to mention toilet paper, candles, and matches, I decided to go to the store until everything was not so bad. And I had never seen anything like that before!

I immediately noticed a considerable number of people with big bottles for drinking water (unfortunately, in Ukraine drinking tap water is not the best idea, you need to boil it well at least, so yes, this is really the first necessity), and huge queues to these stalls. I decided to start by buying food and went to the store. Right at the entrance were so many people, it wasn’t easy to go inside. And then I realized that it was not just people choosing goods, it was all a huge line! It stretched like a snake through the entire store right up to the exit. It was so long, so if I decided to buy smth there – I would have to wait near 2 hours.

I decided to try my luck elsewhere. On the way, I noticed that the line at the water stall had decreased, but it was too early to rejoice: as it turned out, the water had simply run out there. Things weren’t much better with the pharmacy – some of them were closed, the rest had at least 15-20 people in line. While waiting for my turn, I realized what a panic gripped people: what stories I had heard from them! It’s good that I have friends in different cities, so at least I could check the information.

I hope that this will never happen to you, but just in case: you can buy food without long lines in the market or small shops, and hygiene items in stores like “1$ shop”.

When I returned home, I tried to understand what was happening now. Everything was changing very quickly. For the first time in months, I turned on the TV to check the situation every minute. I started packing all the essential things in case the bombing began, and we would have to leave immediately. If the first part of the day I was focused and collectedly did what was necessary, now the mood changed to broken. I could not understand, is this really happening? Everything was like in a movie.

Toward evening, my mother called me. Shouting and crying into the phone, she told me to come to my grandmother urgently. Mom somewhere heard information that the city would be actively bombed at night, and if the russian invaders broke through the dam, my house would simply be flooded. Initially, we thought it would be possible to hide in a bomb shelter – according to the information we received, there were supposed to be many of them around the city. As it turned out, they were only on paper, and even if any of them existed, they were absolutely unprepared, in which case they would simply become mass graves.

We decided to hide in the flat. That day and evening, on TV and all social networks, they showed a guide on where and how to hide in case of shelling and bombardment. We just had got the bathroom ready for “refuge function” – put there blankets and pillows, closed the mirrors, when the siren went off.

You can’t imagine our emotions at this time. I was really in a panic. I didn’t know if I would survive this night in principle, so I called the dear people to say that I love them, perhaps for the last time…

Luckily, the siren ended quickly, and as we found out, it was the curfew siren. The panic subsided a little, but the night was still restless. Fortunately, there was no bombing that night.

 

The 2nd  day of the war.

This morning I felt more relaxed. The morning began with something I had never done before in my life -I read the news. If nothing was clear yesterday, for now, I already was able to clearly understand where our troops and russian troops were located and that they would not be able to reach my city today. But the air threat was still there.

On TV and social networks, it was advised to seal the windows with tape –  this would help protect against fragments. I decided to go to the hardware store for materials and check a couple more shelters along the way. Alas, there were no shelters.  But I did seal the windows with a tape to protect my house from splinters, and a couple of days later, I also filled the windowsill with books – I put almost all of the books I had on the windowsill, like a wall, to close the whole window and moved the cupboards to the window just in case – never in my life would I have imagined that I would have to protect my house from shelling.

When I returned home, there was even more news: for some time, I lived in Kyiv, and on that day, they began to actively shoot just in the area where my dormitory was located. I went to our general chat, and the guys confirmed what I heard on TV. Vehicles passed right under their windows, and the shooting had already begun. Someone uploaded a video of how everyone ready to defend their city was handed out weapons (according to their passports). At that time, a recipe for Molotov cocktails was posted on the official channel of our government. I was shocked. I began to realize the horror of what was happening… Fortunately, Kyiv was defended.

To be honest, before that, I considered myself a complete coward and thought that, in which case, I would be among the first to run away in fear. And I was surprised by the feelings that woke up in me when the panic passed: I wanted to go and defend my country and not run away.

Over time, these feelings have become more complex – after 14 days of the war, sometimes I am overcome by fear, and I want to be in a safe place and under protection. And sometimes, I am so angry and determined that I want to go to the tank with my bare hands, but now I can more soberly assess the situation and danger. Fortunately, everything is still more or less calm in my city, but still, I don’t know what reaction I will have if what happened in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, or Volnovakha begins here.

Anyway, by the end of the day, I realized that I wanted to help protect our country, and I began to actively look for ways to do this.

 

The 3rd  day of the war.

I found many official sources where I could follow the current situation in the country. I also found groups and channels for volunteers and went to help in one of these places.

Actually, according to the post, I expected to see a place where they make Molotov cocktails – Bendera smoothies, as we started to call them later, but it turned out to be a humanitarian aid collection point. I brought there what I could, helped to equip the place itself and a little with the packaging of different things people brought there. I was surprised by how many people were helping. I made a video to tell the area residents where they could help and posted it on social networks. From that day on, I started volunteering in different places (humanitarian aid, handwork, helping refugees, weaving of camouflage nets, coordination and I even learned how to make DDoS attacks), which I still do to this day, as well as informing people on my social networks about what is happening in my country in general and how people can help (both offline and online).

Also, perhaps, from that day on, Ukrainians began to actively make memes – what can I say, humor really helps to cope with the situation. We got a lot of “our own phrases,” a lot of real stories about how ordinary people helped to cope with the enemy – how gypsies stole a tank, how gopniks (those who are down and out) took an armored personnel carrier, how an old lady shot down a drone with a jar of cucumbers and many other stories from life.

War has continued for a month. Many things have happened these days – many cities have been bombed, the Russian military is far from shooting “only at military facilities”, as they say in their media – they are shelling and bombing schools and kindergartens, residential areas and hospitals, and even maternity hospitals. They do not allow humanitarian aid to be brought to the cities – even water and food. They do not allow civilians to be evacuated even along the agreed “green corridors” – russian troops simply fire at cars and buses and kill innocent people. A couple of weeks ago, in the surrounded Mariupol, a child died of dehydration. How can such atrocities occur in the 21st century?

The night from March 3 to March 4 was very terrible – the invaders began shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – this is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. If it exploded, the catastrophe would be ten times greater than Chernobyl. You can’t imagine how scared we were that night when the fire started there – in one second-half the world could turn to be in a substantial environmental disaster! Fortunately, the fire was extinguished, and at the moment, the station is more or less stable. Still, the situation can change at any moment.

I felt a great unity with our people for all this time – you can’t imagine how many volunteers are now involved in different cities! You can’t imagine how many people are ready to defend their country – people stood in line for hours to donate blood and enroll in territorial defense! Many of my friends have already left to fight, and I hope that they will return alive and healthy. Do you know what my favorite moment of the day is nowadays? The first 2 minutes after waking up, when you are still in your dream, and not in real life, where there is a war, and you don’t know if tomorrow will come.

I really want peace and tranquility. Want the peaceful sky above. Without fear that an explosion or shooting will be heard now, without fear that one of your relatives or friends may not wake up tomorrow. I hope you never have to go through this..

Looking forward to the end of the war. Слава Україні!

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Kateryna Ozatska is a young musician, hitchhiker, traveler, and songwriter from Ukraine. She was born in Dnipro, where she got a Musical Arts and Choreography degree. Later moved to Kyiv, where she entered University to get a second degree in Computer technology. She is a young activist, volunteer, and NGO founder. For the last years, she has actively traveled and visited 20+ countries, actively participated in Erasmus+ projects and shared her experience in the Insta blog. In the 2019 year became a member of the International Federation of Journalists. You can keep up with her on Instagram www.instagram.com/katrin_winchester_official

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