It all started with the news. Even we watched the news sometimes. And that’s exactly where they started talking about the weird [military] «exercises» of our neighboring «non-brotherly» nations. Then came a call from my dad in Konotop, which is located closer to these neighbors, and the news that military reserves from the Ural had been drawn into these «exercises».
The puzzles in my head started to form a thought: that’s no coincidence. During these peaceful, calm days, I naturally took the first step: I bought some groceries with longer expiration dates and stocked up our little dacha [small summer house in the countryside]. Later, I kept going to work, coming back home, immersing myself in chores around the house, but I watched the news more frequently now.
When I had another moment of free time, I took another step: I looked around the house and thought, what possessions are important to me, what would I want to save, if not for myself then for my descendants? Here are my family albums, vyshyvanky [traditional, hand-embroidered Ukrainian clothing], a family relic in the form of a blown-glass sphere that has been passed down from generations and kept for the youngest daughter; a prayer book and the gospel. Everything went to the dacha. And then came another week of familiar life with an unfamiliar feeling of anxiety.
«No, we won’t need it,» I thought, about packing a survival kit.
But nevertheless, I took some things to the dacha — let them be there, just in case. Our memory of the last week of our peaceful life is of flights — every night, planes made incisions in the night sky. On the eve of the war, for some reason we felt like doing nothing. Our family felt an urgent need to stay on the couch and keep close to one another, with lots of sweets and snacks; we enjoyed some tea and the chance to be together. And the movie was nice, and the house was quiet, and the kid’s laughter genuine.
I got up quietly, sneaked to the bedroom and… started packing the backpacks for everyone: for our child — one with toys, books, and biscuits; for my husband — with clothes (quietly, so he wouldn’t notice, because once already he’d snickered that I, the mom, panic too much, plotting to move «the whole apartment from the apartment to the dacha»). I gave everyone a bottle of water. I hid everything — and went to bed. But I had no peaceful sleep that night, the planes buzzed, and I had a foreboding that something was not right.
«Tanya, the war’s started. They’re shelling already…» — a call in the morning from my mom.
Alright, calm down. Don’t panic. An explosion… then more and more. We quickly shut off the gas and water, move everything away from the windows, close the curtains. Time to wake the kid, but he, the poor thing, got up himself. A boom so intense the windows shook.
«Don't be scared, a car tire’s burst.»
«Mama, no, wheels don’t make noises this loud. It’s a bomb! We are being bombed!»
«No, son, they don’t bomb civilians, they shot a gas station.»
«So that no one can get gas and leave town.»
«But the tank in your car is full, right, mom? And dad’s too?»
The sirens went off, the kid couldn’t hold back his cries but we didn’t have time for it either way. We quickly put our backpacks on and swiftly ran out to the car. My husband asked me not to turn my head and not to look left. «Tarasyk, everything is alright, I know, it’s the airport. I’m strong, I’m not afraid. Everything will be alright! Take my mom and our son, and I’ll go to work…» While the siren roars, I say goodbye to my terrified mom. «Love you,» I say to my son. And for the hundredth time: «Everything will be alright.» A kiss from my husband, a blessing from my mom. A prayer on my lips — and I am as calm as possible. The explosions quiet down, the sirens still roar, there’s traffic, and I am stuck on a bridge, where I can see just so clearly the mountains of black smoke coming from the airport.