At the train station, I met a family from Kramatorsk. Two Russian-speaking mothers. A fifteen-year-old, some boys around 8 and 10, a four-year-old named Seva, and a year-and-a-half-old named Sasha.
It’s so cold outside your hands are about to freeze off. The smaller kids are awfully stressed after a day-and-a-half of being on the train, in the coach with a total of 15 people in it.
There are no free buses to Poland. There’s a huge line to the train. I call my lovely husband and a friend (because now you call without saying hello, because if you need something, then you need something, because — well, because we have a lot of these «becauses» now), I tell him, so and so, we need two cars to get people to the border, someone will meet them there. They drop everything and come here.
Meanwhile, we barely drag ourselves to the parking lot by the train station — because the kids are exhausted, because of the three huge bags and three backpacks, in which they packed all their previous lives. The boys pull the bags and the baklashkas [big plastic containers] with water, they don’t let you help them, they try to joke, care for the little ones, speak Ukrainian beautifully.
Sashko and Nazar arrive, come up to us, greet us, and shake hands with the boys. And the one that’s 10 years old shakes hands with both of them and says: «Hi, my name is Leonid, and I am the protector of these women. Our dads left to defend the city, so I defend them.»
It’s like a punch in the stomach, in many ways. To this day and maybe forever. For a while, I couldn’t get myself to tell this story, even though I always carry it with me.
Let Leonid and his women be well, wherever they are, let their home and their dads wait for their return. Everyone who reads this, please wish this for them.