Voices from Ukraine – Diana

“I was sleeping soundly with my daughter when around 5 am we were suddenly woken up by the sharp whistling sounds of two rockets flying by our home, followed by two loud explosions in the distance. The sound of the rockets was so intense and terrifying that I grabbed my daughter and barely made it to the bathroom. I felt so weak. I think I was in shock because I don’t remember how long we were there. When eventually we ran out, all the neighbours were already outside. Then, my mother called saying that hundreds of tanks were crossing the border from Crimea right in front of their eyes. I was terrified and never felt so helpless. I called my ex-husband and asked him where are we going to take our child. How are we going to save her? He asked us to pack while he drove over. I was very confused and had no idea what to take and what to leave behind. I took some clothes, some food… I didn’t take any electronics, nor work-related items… I never thought that we would soon end up in a different country. He was planning to take us to his mother’s house in the West but, by the time we got ready to leave, all the highways were blocked by traffic. I ran to buy medications and some food and decided to spend the night at a local preschool that had a shelter basement. “

“We lived just 30 kilometres from Gostomel Airport where the war had already begun and we could hear explosions all night. The next day we decided to try to go closer to the Moldovan border. I was terrified for my parents and my brother. They were right in the war zone. I had a cousin living in Ireland for over 20 years who heard what was happening and she gave us the opportunity to come to Ireland. After a long journey through Moldova, we got to Romania where we could take a flight. It all happened so quickly. I don’t think I was in a state to make rational decisions. I haven’t been anywhere, ever. My only focus was to keep my daughter safe. Arriving here was a huge culture shock. Every month here feels like a new life starting over. For the first month, I didn’t want to leave the hotel room. In Ukraine, I didn’t have time to cry but, in Ireland, it all came out. The first two months were very difficult. We had to adjust to the new situation both mentally and morally. Then in May, I completely lost touch with my parents. They live in a now-occupied territory. They refuse to accept any aid from the Russians, surviving from the things they grew and saved up from the garden. They still hope that Ukraine will get the territory back. They are basically cut off from civilisation. Those four weeks were the most stressful in my life, not knowing if they are dead or alive. Eventually, they were able to travel to a relative’s house who had internet. I am very grateful to Ireland for the opportunities we’ve been given here but I long for my home. I miss my parents and my brother and my life so much…For the past eight months, I have felt like I’m stuck in transition. Like a falling leaf that can’t touch the ground.”