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"Sometimes it seems that missiles are not as scary as drones when you don't know where they are going..."

"Sometimes it seems that missiles are not as scary as drones when you don't know where they are going..."

Thanks to the support of the Ukrainian-Polish project "Family to Family", a large family from Kharkiv is restoring their home damaged by enemy shelling and cherishing their dreams of a peaceful life.

"I had just put my son to bed, about 15 minutes had passed, and then my husband ran into the house: "Get ready quickly, because we're going to burn!" I barely had time to throw overalls on the children, and forgot about shoes... I grabbed my emergency suitcase - I always have it ready. I ran outside and there was a huge fire burning..."

This is how Olena recalls the events of February 9 this year in Kharkiv. Several enemy drones hit an oil depot near their home that day. As a result, fuel leaked and a fire engulfed the entire street. Fifteen houses burned down, killing seven people, including three children...

In the family's yard, the fire destroyed a fence, a car, and damaged a summer kitchen and a shed... Fortunately, the house survived, but it had already come under enemy fire before.  Then the walls of the house were pierced, windows were blown out, and a shell fragment fell right under the gate of their yard. "I collected the glass from the other part of the house and put it in my room," Olena recalls.

At the beginning of the full-scale war, she lived in this house with her husband, 11-year-old daughter and parents. The family was expecting a new addition. On February 26, Ms. Olena, pregnant with twins, was admitted to the hospital "for safekeeping". The situation in Kharkiv was very tense: daily shelling, кussian planes were constantly dropping bombs on the city. "Soon we were allowed to go home, because it was dangerous to stay in the hospital," Olena recalls thinking back to those days. In April 2022, she became the mother of a daughter and son. "Our little ones are real children of war," she sighs. 

To save their children, the family tried to leave Kharkiv. "But it was not far away - to a village in Valky district," says Olena. "We returned in a few months. We also went abroad, to Germany, but we didn't stay there for long either. I did not feel comfortable there, I wanted to go home all the time. I never planned to leave Ukraine at all, I was just forced to, under pressure from circumstances. But when a family from Odesa, with whom we had become friends in Germany, decided to return home, we also started to pack. Everyone asked us, wondered where we were going, because it was dangerous in Kharkiv. But I can't imagine my life anywhere else..."

The difficult circumstances, says Olena, have brought their family even closer together. "I know families that have been separated by this war... Although it would seem that in difficult times, family members should have become closer to each other. Now, more than ever, we appreciate the moments when we are together. Back in the first days of the war, my husband was going to the military enlistment office. I barely asked him to wait until I gave birth, because it was about my life and the lives of my future children."

Today, Olena's family lives in a rented apartment. And thanks to the funds they receive as beneficiaries of the Family to Family project, they are restoring their damaged home. "The gate has recently been made, and now we will change the windows. We come here every day to clean up.  We want to return home as soon as possible. I'm not even as afraid of shelling here as I am in the apartment on the 5th floor where we temporarily live. The walls help me to feel safe in my own home..."

Volunteers who came after the fire on February 9 admired them. "They said we were brave. I just don't let despondency into my soul," smiles Olena. "I reassure everyone, look for the positive in everything. I say, "We were going to renovate the house with you once. And now we are doing it. Our car burned down. But we had plans to replace it, because with three children, the old one was already too small for us. I don't know when we'll be able to buy a new car, but we're not losing hope. The garage was damaged, as was the summer kitchen. I said to my father, "Well, you were going to reconstruct it before the war. Now it's time to do it..."

Olena also tries to organize holidays for the kids. "Children live under constant stress, so we want to make them happy somehow. Even though they say that entertainment is not a good time now. But my son and daughter had a birthday in April, so I bought balloons and cakes. The kids blew out candles. I arranged a photo zone for them and took pictures as a souvenir. This is our life. There will be no other life."

Olena loves to take pictures. Before the war, she had a dream of becoming a professional photographer. She thought she would have time to study when she went on maternity leave. She is an accountant by profession, but she says that office work is tiring. Olena is confident that she will be able to fulfill her creative aspirations.

"But my most cherished dream is for Russia to finally leave us alone," she adds, "For peace to come to Ukraine. Then all other dreams will come true. Our eldest daughter, Sofia, has not yet decided what she wants to become. She hesitates between the profession of a veterinarian and a dancer. Sofia is our heroine. When a fire started outside and the fire was creeping up to our yard, she took her brother out of the house and grabbed the shoes for the kids, which I had forgotten about..."

Sofia smiles at the word "heroine". And when asked about her most cherished wish, she answers without hesitation: "I dream of a motorcycle. When I turn 16, I'm going to take a course to learn how to drive and get my license.  I really want to have my own motorcycle!"

17 May 2024
Система Orphus
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