As Ukrainian refugees headed to our Polish partner community of Siedlce in March, 2022, we quickly mobilized short-term volunteers to help provide humanitarian services. At the exquisite rural manor house, Reymontowka, Global Volunteers team members have hosted restorative activities for Ukrainian mothers and children, and learned the horrible cost of war. This post is written by one of the refugee women Global Volunteers has employed to translate for mothers, children and volunteers.
By Snizhana, Ukrainian mother and Global Volunteers translator
I lived all my life in the village of Kolodenka, a suburb of Rivne, where I studied, worked, rested, met my beloved husband, got married, and gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Dominika. Rivne is a beautiful city. And one day, on February 24, 2020, the war started in my best, free, beautiful country. That day, the first explosions took place at the airport, about 12 km from my house.
All Ukrainians will remember that day. We were all very scared because at 4 o’clock in the morning, planes started flying over the house, and at 5 o’clock in the morning, there were explosions. My father, who was already in the war, immediately began to calm everyone down, but I was just panicking, I didn’t know what to do. Already, the morning news reported a large-scale invasion of the aggressor’s country in Ukraine (because of ethical issues, I will not name that country). There were constant air alarms, panic, constant watching the news.
During the air raids, we hid in the basement of our house. There were days when I spent the night in the basement, and the first three days, I did not sleep at all. Then, along with my parents, my husband and I decided to move to my godmother’s house in Zbarazh, in the Ternopil region. We thought it would be over and we could return. But, after staying there for two days, we decided that Dominika and I would go abroad.
(Photo by Ryan Faulkner Hogg on Unsplash)
My husband called a friend in Poland who offerd to house my daughter and me. All my relatives stayed in Ukraine. On March 1, I left with Dominika, and the next day, we crossed the border. Our friend met us on the Polish side and we went to our current place of residence in Smiary Kolonia. The first few days I just cried; I just couldn’t take myself in hand. I kept calling home. Then, when I learned that my father had signed a contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I felt even more panic, because I have a very close relationship with my parents.
Meanwhile, I cleaned the room in the house where Dominika and I stay. Arrangement and repair took another week. But I did it. I bought a refrigerator, a gas cylinder and much more so I can cook for myself. There is no heating in the house, and we burn only firewood. Dominika stays with me because she’s too young for kindergarten, but that made it difficult for me to find a job. I wrote a job advertisement and one day, a wonderful person, Dorota from Global Volunteers, told me about a job. The next day we met and discussed everything. I decided to give it a try although I just didn’t know how Dominika would react. I have been working as a translator for two weeks now with Global Volunteers, and I really like it. And Dominika is genuinely delighted!
I work with the refugee children and translate for the volunteers. I had no previous experience working with Americans. The volunteers are just wonderful people; kind, sincere, and they know how to support and help. We are very grateful to them for that. We play and communicate with children together. Children do not tell stories about the war, because I think it is difficult for them to talk about it. We try to do everything to make it comfortable for them. For instance, since Dominika is only two years old, she still doesn’t really understand where we are and what we are, but she constantly talks about what she wants to do at home. I don’t tell her anything about the war, because she is still very young.
Every day, several times a day, I call all my relatives. It’s difficult to be constantly alone. After all, I have a family in Ukraine; brothers, sisters, aunts, grandparents, All my life there. I could never have imagined that I would have to flee my home, my land. My grandfather used to run away from Poland to Ukraine with his parents. And now, I have run away too. It is very difficult for everyone now, but we are strong, and victory will be ours.