I figured I wouldn’t write anything. I wouldn’t be able to. But today I happened to look over an article by my colleagues at Hromadske Radio about what they remember about the first hours on February 24 and I broke down.
I read about how many of them began to pack their things and recalled that I also packed my things. I went through the kids' things carefully, thinking whether I need to take spring or summer stuff… I packed, knowing very well that I was not going to go anywhere. Not the 24th, not the 25th… Because at that moment there was something that was more important than personal safety: responsibility to others. There were many people like me, though maybe not all that many—I'm not sure.
The next four months went by in a fog. The hope that they wouldn’t reach us, paralyzing fear when they finally did. DNR, russians, the russian home guard, in their balaclavas, those who didn’t bother hiding their faces, orcs day and night, endless faces.
They came all the time, staring into your eyes, wanting to see in them something that matched their expectations. Today they would let you go, tomorrow they might take you away, threaten to arrest you. And they all looked into your eyes, carefully, playing with the machine-guns in their hands. One even threw a grenade into my office. He thought it would be funny to see my reaction. There wasn’t any. Comrade caught the grenade and said that I was a drug fiend.))
Maybe that was true. I don’t know. I didn’t feel anything. Only animal fear. I had only one objective: to make sure no one saw that fear. So that THEY would not see it and not feel it. And they were looking for my fear. Could it be that it energized them?
June 26 was my second birthday, when they took my children, put them in a car and said that they would take us «to the front so that the ukrys could shoot us.» Or they could. Back then they still weren’t very clear.
Even then, they saw no fear. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. The senior guy among them said to his men in russian:
«Look at her, her hands aren’t even trembling. No tears. She’s a trained fighter of a Ukrainian subversive reconnaissance group.»
If only they had known that no one had actually contacted me, or explained what I was supposed to do, what the people should do. We were on our own. And we resolved all our humanitarian issues on our own.
Kherson country is full of heroes. There were those who restored high-voltage power lines without equipment, under artillery fire. Those who delivered medications to us following wild trails or drove straight through orc checkpoints, risking their lives. Those who delivered food and bread, chancing that they wouldn’t return. Those who were taken away, beaten, imprisoned, but they came out and still did not submit.
I will make a point of naming every one of them when this is all over. I will make a point of coming back to write down those names in the history of our community.
My fearless, indomitable people of Kherson country. These four months of hell were worth it to be alongside you. They were worth it to realize just how much I love my work, to live for the sake of those like you. We’ll meet again one day and maybe someday we won’t even flinch at loud noises.
Someday… but right now, emptiness… and an enormous sense of pride in my country. It’s unbreakable, which means I, too, will be unbreakable.