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Carriers4Ukraine - The story of Kateryna Ashykhgmina and her family

2022-05-09
DONE! Deliveries in cooperation with the AKEDA foundation has already helped dozens of families from Ukraine. They received accommodation, food, clothes, ongoing support, and other necessary things to acclimatize in Poland.  

Below we present an interview with one of our beneficiaries - Kateryna Ashykhgmina. Her story shows the situation of people who have been hit by the war and whom we want to help. We invite you to support our campaign, so that the help reaches even more people in need. More details can be found here https://zrzutka.pl/carriers4ukraine

“The younger son asks: Mom, will the Russians apologize to us? I answer: we will see, maybe someday. I want to protect my children from war. Howling sirens, nights in the basement… it was something new and terrible for all of us. We, as parents, were afraid to fall asleep, so as not to miss or sleep through a threat. We did not know from which side it could come" - says Mrs. Kataryna, who came to Wroclaw with two young sons. 

When did you get to Poland? 
On March 15, we crossed the border. We traveled for two days on the evacuation train. We got on the train from Zaporozhye to Hel. These trains sometimes traveled to Lviv, where you had to change trains and wait because of the large queue at the border. But we were lucky, we went directly. We stood at the border for one day. In Poland, our brother, who lives here with his family, was waiting for us. 

This path must have been very difficult with young children 
Yes, it was very hard. We didn't think it would take so long, and there were eight people in a four-person compartment. It was very uncomfortable and stuffy. 

And how did your sons take it? 
The older son, 10-year-old Maksym, endured everything quite normally. For the younger, five-year-old Filip, it was the first train journey in his life. Then he said: Mama, if we are going home, maybe we would go by car [laughs]. Now he associates the train with an uncomfortable means of transport. 

Did your sons realize that you were running away from the war? 
Together with my husband, who stayed in Ukraine, we tried to make them feel positive, to present it as a trip. We don't want to scare them with war. We said it was a trip, that we would be back soon ... Of course, we adults don't know if and when it will be safe. And when we come back. 

Are you trying to protect your children from the terrible news? 
Yes. We want to protect their mental health, save them as much as possible from stress. Howling sirens, nights in the basement… it was something new and terrible for all of us. We were all in a state of shock. Strong stress. We, as parents, were afraid to fall asleep, so as not to miss or sleep through a threat. We did not know from which side it could come. 

From where have you come to Wrocław?  
We are from Zaporizhia. Currently, 200-300 km from us there are villages that are under fire, where fighting is taking place. Rockets hit Zaporozhye itself. The circuit is partially occupied. 

How did you decide to run away? 
My father said: you have to go. Because little children. Don't let them look at it. We saw on TV what was happening in Mariupol, what the occupiers were doing. It is all so terrible. Additionally, they shot at a village 20 km away from us. Then the decision was made. My brother and his family have been living in Poland for four years. Brother is the driver. They helped us a lot. They took care of us, thanks to which the fear was lower, we felt at home. My brother's company helped us a lot. If I was alone with two children, I don't know what would be. 

When the war started, what were you doing? What was that day like?  
On February 24, frankly, we didn't believe it. We woke up, the children were gathering, one for school, the other for kindergarten, and I was getting ready for work. A friend called me. Very early. And says: have you seen? The war has begun. I didn't believe her. I heard the plane roar. One that I have never heard before. Then my husband and I turned on the television. And we saw: here and this way, both in Kiev and with us in Zaporizhia. Started. Panic broke out. Everyone rushed to the stores. To pharmacies. ATM cards do not work. What to do? Should I go and refuel my car? Run away? Everyone was shocked. 

And what did you do? 
We moved to our parents. They live in a single-family house, and we were afraid of possible bombing in a block on the fifth floor. There is a basement in the parents' house. We all protected ourselves there. 

How much time did you spend in the basement? 
When the siren wailed and the Telegram channel announcements "alarm, go to the nearest shelter," then we went down to the basement. When the alarm was canceled, we left. Now, as far as I know, people take it a little bit of it. But we were very scared then, we sat as long as it was necessary - sometimes 4-5 hours. 

What did you say to the children then? 
It was a game for the kids. The younger son, when there was no alarm in the evening, asked: mom, are we playing tonight? Are we going down to the basement? It was something new for them, we never did anything like this. We tried to provide them with entertainment there, my mother and I tried to keep them occupied, entertain them. Of course, as long as we were sitting, the little one cried that he was uncomfortable sleeping. But in general, this is how we tried to present it to them. As a game. 

But you had to tell them something about the war? 
Yes, they know there is a war. They can also hear our conversations. They understand. The younger one says: Russia has attacked us. He asks: Mom, will they apologize to us? I answer: well, we'll see, maybe someday. 

How do you mentally deal with what is happening? 
We believe in our victory very much, we support our defenders. We are very grateful to them. 

How did Poland welcome you? 
In Poland, people are very cordial, friendly and good. They relate very well to us, to me, to my children. I haven't been mistreated yet. Poland helps a lot. I can see that people who came without anything got a flat, food and clothes. There are help points, places where food is distributed. All this is very important for those who came not like me - to my brother - but those who have no one here. I think that the Ukrainians will forever be grateful to Poland and Poles for this warm welcome. 

Did you enroll your children in school and kindergarten? 
We moved to our current apartment on May 1st. I went to kindergartens, but this is not the case yet. I enrolled the elder in school here in the neighborhood where we live. But he is currently studying online at a Ukrainian school. The younger one should also go to school from September. I still hesitate all the time, I'm in such a limbo. I still hope to be able to return to Ukraine soon. At home, husband and parents, school, friends, boys training, classes ... 

What is the current situation in Zaporizhia? What kind of reports do you hear from your husband or parents? 
The front is very close. It is noisy. You can hear explosions from the city, you know where the Ukrainian positions are. Rockets fall from time to time. We really hope our city will stand as it stands. Thank God, so far the city and our block are still undamaged. I imagine how hard it must be for those who have lost their homes. When I see these women with children who have run away, having no one here, no support ... there are many such families. I try to believe that it will be okay. Nothing really depends on us here. 

The last Easter was definitely different for you than all the previous ones. What was Christmas like in Poland?  
I managed to buy a strip - a traditional Ukrainian cake. We boiled the eggs. We greeted each other with the words: "Chrystos woskres - woistynu woskres". We tried to make it in line with our tradition. We are Christians, we celebrated as always. We called relatives in Ukraine. We prayed together. We also spent Christmas at home with my brother who lives near Wrocław. Very beautiful place, nice nature. Even deer come close to the house. 

Do you have any plans for the coming months? 
I can't plan anything. My children are safe, this is the most important thing for me at the moment. If the situation in Ukraine improves, I would love to go to Ukraine. My husband will not be let out of the country. And an incomplete family ... The boys need a father. You have to educate them together. So far, the situation in Zaporozhye is very difficult. But if anything changes, we will go. If not, I will have to find a school for my son by September and I will have to find a job. It's easier for children. They adapt very well. For example, there is a nice playground nearby, which I go to with the boys. I see Polish and Ukrainian children play together, learn Polish and Ukrainian words from each other. But for us adults it is more difficult. For example, I have completed two study programs. And I will not be able to work here in accordance with my education. Of course, when the children go to school, kindergarten, I will go to work as it is. I can work everywhere. The most important thing is that my sons are safe. 

You said you were trying to protect your sons. But they talk to each other, they can hear horrible war stories from other Ukrainian children. 
Yes, unfortunately, and they are also afraid. The older one asks me if everything will be fine with my dad, grandmother, grandpa. I always tell them yes, that everything will be fine, and if not, they should not worry that dad and grandparents are adults, they will do well, at most they will come to us, we will be together again. The older one is very worried anyway. I see it. But I'm trying to spare him as much as possible. My husband also always tells me: try to pull them away so that they listen as little as possible, and know as little as possible. But the boys come to me anyway and say: Mom, bandits have come to Ukraine. Or they ask: why did they attack us? I hear that new questions arise in their heads, they learn new words. For example - we speak Russian in Zaporizhia. And the children are now asking: why do we speak Russian? After all, it is the language of our enemies. I explain that our region is like this, south-eastern, and our parents spoke Russian here. 

And when they ask: Mom, why have they attacked us? What do you answer?  
Honestly ... I don't know what to say. Even earlier, when the Russian troops stood on our border for so long, my retired parents who watch TV all day talked about it, got excited, asked me what I thought about you. And I answered them: what are you talking to me about. Work here, children there, school, training, life ... There was no time to analyze it, think about it. Nobody expected this to happen to a full-scale war. Why did they attack us? I don't even want to think about it. I do not understand this. I have never dealt with politics. I was just alive. We all just lived together, and we had a good time in Ukraine. None of us needed to be saved, as they say. I don't want to wonder what the Russians have in their heads. I only feel sorry for our children that they have become children of war. 

Was the outbreak of a full-scale war a shock to you?  
Yes. Of course, it all started in 2014, and not far from us, the poor people of Donbas were already experiencing it all then. Donetsk is less than 250 km from us. But we didn't feel the war directly. We felt very sorry for them. But no one will ever understand something unless he has experienced it himself. We could sympathize, but it was not possible to understand the magnitude of this tragedy until we experienced it ourselves. 

There were refugees from Donetsk and Luhansk in Zaporizhia?  
Yes, of course. 

Did you think you could ever be in their place? 
Absolutely not. 

Do you miss your husband?  
Yes, very much. We have been together for a long time, we got married in 2010, a year later our first son was born. We never split up for more than five days. It's very hard for me. It's hard for children, I can see how much they miss him. I also know that it is difficult for him as well. But he said it would be easier for him after all, knowing we were safe. That's why I left. 

What are your dreams? 
What dreams? Live as before February 24? We lived a simple life, and you know, people often think that something is not enough for them, something is missing, that you are always looking for something ... And I realized that we had a very happy life up to that day. We missed nothing. I don't want anything more. Just live, sleep well. This is my dream. I wish there was peace. 

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