Carriers4Ukraine - The story of Olga Lukianenko
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 - Olga Lukianenko. 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 pandemic took my beloved mother, the war took my home. "My dream? When the war ends, my dreams will also come back".
“The pandemic had been going on for so long, my mother was vaccinated, I didn't think it could happen… Yes, people were dying, but not that close. This alone was very hard for me. Then the war, one overlaps the other. But now it's worse than during the pandemic... During the pandemic, people were alive. They dreamed of something. And now there aren't even free dreams. One day passes. The second passes by. Just survive until tomorrow. We tell ourselves that each day brings us closer to victory. So we keep going.”
The war forced you to leave your house. Where did you live?
In the small town of Jarmolińce, in the Chmielnik region.
Do you know what's going on there now?
Yes, I know the situation, we call our neighbors and friends. At present, thank God, there is no active hostilities there. But there are air alarms all the time.
Since it is safe there now, maybe you wish you had stayed?
My son, who is studying in Poland, asked me to come. My husband, as a driver employed in a Polish company, drove long routes all over Europe. I have been working like this since 2016. I lived practically alone. On a high floor, in a block 500 meters from the military unit. I was scared. Especially when you could hear the approaching planes, howling sirens. I didn't have any relatives with me - there were no siblings, my father died earlier, my mother died in December last year. The extended family lives far away.
Mom's death was unexpected. She died of covid. Her illness made us into debt - we fought for a long time, we bought special drugs imported from Turkey. They were difficult to access, we bought them on our own, we asked our friends for help. And very expensive for Ukrainian conditions. Where we live, salaries are 6-7 thousand hryvnia, a maximum of 10 thousand. [according to the current exchange rate, it is respectively: approx. PLN 900-1000, PLN 1500 - ed.]. And the necessary drugs that were in pharmacies, such as to increase immunity, cost 11 thousand hryvnia for 6 ampoules. Mom's lungs didn't clear up. We wanted to save her at all costs, foreign drugs were our only hope. He failed.
My mother died, it was necessary to bury it, which also incurred costs. Additionally, my son has been studying in Poland for two years now, and we had to help him too. We took out a loan.
What did you do in Ukraine?
I worked on the railroad, as a freight car operator. Announcement of arrivals, checking the condition of warehouses, writing out documents.
And now, in Poland?
I'm cleaning up. This is a job for 1 month as a substitute for another woman who fell ill. I am looking for another job all the time.
You said your husband has been working in Poland for several years.
Yes. Thanks to this, we were able to renovate the apartment. Before my mother's death, we planned that my husband would return to Ukraine, look for a job here, maybe we could open something of our own. When my mother died, he wanted to stay with me, but I said go, we need money to pay it off. I say: I will go again, I will earn and we will think.
But the war started.
When the Russian invasion began on February 24, what was your first thought? First reaction?
The first thing I thought was: it probably isn't true.
To break alone in the apartment and I was terrified. My son went to Poland because the new semester was about to start, and my husband was on the road. Air alarms started, rockets flew. Thank God, they didn't fall in our village, but you could expect anything. After all, they initially attacked airports and military facilities. And we have a military unit near our house, so our thoughts were terrible.
During the first days, my son and husband called several times a day. They didn't know what to do, they asked whether to come back.
son as a student, he was discharged from military service. The husband had no military training. But he wanted to come back, fight anyway. And my son, in turn, very much wanted me to come. On this he decided that I would go to Poland. When I arrived my husband still wanted to come back to Ukraine and join the army. But I asked him to stay. I couldn't find any job, we would stay with my son with no money, no support. In addition, those debts related to my mother's disease... what has been left and works, but still thinks about going to fight.
What was your trip to Poland like?
It was hard. I was traveling with my husband's friend and her son. They were going on to France. They were in Poland for a few days, we helped them to take a few days off from the road. They were very tired. The son is 9 years old.
First, we drove from Chmielnicki to Lviv, we waited there for 3 hours, until people had moved, then we went from Lviv to Przemyśl for another 10 hours. The road is not far away, but there were so many trains, we had to wait for the platforms to clear. We stood for a long time.
So many hours on the train, still in such a situation. It must have been a lot of stress. How did the fellow passengers behave? What was the atmosphere in the compartment?
Everyone was very upset. The trains were overcrowded. It was hard, it was stuffy, there was a lot of people.
For me, the whole journey was very stressful, starting with buying a ticket. My husband's mother gave up the journey at the last moment. She lives in the countryside, near our town. It's relatively quiet there. Anyway, for an over 80 year old person this trip alone would be a big problem. We stood almost all the way. She couldn't do it.
We hear that many older people do not want to run away with their families, do not want to leave their homes. It is also difficult for them to get used to new conditions in a foreign country.
Yes, I think this is especially true of older people in the countryside. In our country life is simply different. For example, here, the mother-in-law would live like this cat - she was sitting, staring at the window. And she is used to the fact that she can go out, take a walk around the house, she has potatoes, planted carrots, she is used to working in the garden, it calms her down, it would be very difficult for her without it. Additionally, we still speak Polish a little more, we are able to communicate. The son studied Polish at school. We have Polish roots, the Pole's Card. But my mother-in-law does not know Polish at all. There she has many neighbors, people with whom she talks every day, and here she would only talk to us. She lived 80 years in one place, her whole life is there. It's hard for her to even imagine that she could change that. There are also social workers who come and look after the elderly, ask if help is needed.
Older people do not use the Internet, so they do not watch many scary videos and reports. Do you think that this may be the reason why their fear of staying in Ukraine may be less?
Yes, they know less, and they want to believe less that this can affect them as well. They hear in the news that terrible things are happening, but somewhere in Mariupol, in Kharkiv, they think - it's far away, and here the beds are quiet. And while beds are safe - we will stay. Unless something is happening nearby, you can hear rockets exploding...
Rockets flew in the village where my mother-in-law lives. She said that a friend saw them on the way to the church. They flew low, people fell to the ground. Everyone was very scared, no one knew where they would hit.
Now people have two feelings - they are very scared, and at the same time - they live simply, overnight. They believe in victory. That it would all end. We all want it very much. Both the younger and the older… Those who have lost their loved ones… I don't know how they will continue to live. But those who are lucky during this war, who will survive, will not suffer the loss of their loved ones, nor will they ever forget it. This fear will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Are you following the news from Ukraine? Reports from the front?
Yes, I read on the internet every day.
Are you not tired or overwhelmed?
Yes, even very much. Anyway, so do we all. Tired, discouraged. In Ukraine, we wanted it to be better for the country to develop. We tried to do it. For example, in my family. We always knew what life was like in Europe, we wanted it to be like that in Ukraine as well. And in recent years, a lot has changed for the better. It could be seen. People did renovations, built houses, tidied up the space around them, made it better and prettier. We put our time, our lives into it. Infrastructure developed. We did it for ourselves, but most of all - for our children.
My husband spends most of his time on the road, other drivers who do not see their wives and families for weeks. My husband sacrificed himself for us, we thought we would - somehow we will survive the separation, we will collect money, we will open something of our own. First, my plans were thwarted by my mother 's illness and death. Later war.
The war in the east of Ukraine has been going on since 2014. Weren't you afraid that it might develop into a full-scale conflict?
Yes, the war has been going on since 2014, but to be honest we were thinking: they are closer to Russia, there are a lot of Russian-speaking people, maybe they wanted to be with Russia... head. I also learned Russian at school, but we think otherwise. People from the west of Ukraine are more used to earning money and going abroad. We see what life is like in the West, we tell others. This is my opinion, it seems to me that to people in eastern Ukraine the West may seem different than it is. They could think that they would be better off with Russia. And they said that people who speak Russian are being persecuted...
In our town, many people speak Russian. And nobody cares about them. Some spoke Ukrainian, others Russian, the languages were mixed up.
Will it still be like this after the war? Nobody will pick on people who speak Russian?
I think not. Ukrainian is the state language, but how people talk to each other is their business. I learned Russian myself, I can speak both Russian and Ukrainian...
And in your family, what language did your parents speak?
There is much talk about how Russian privates rob shops and Ukrainian houses. According to reports, some are surprised by the standard of living in Ukraine - they saw better conditions than in their own localities.
It seems to me that they are putting it into their heads that Ukraine cannot get any better than Russia. And at the same time - that in Russia it cannot get any better than it is. And it is so that living in big cities is good, but in the countryside...
I myself heard stories from friends to whom - before the war - friends from Russia used to come. Friends live in the countryside. And these Russians were surprised that in the countryside you can buy everything you need to live. Ordinary things, e.g. household chemicals. They said : oh, here you can buy washing powder! They were surprised that the infrastructure was developed. That you don't have to go to the city, and you can buy everything on the spot. It was something extraordinary for them.
Do you have any plans for the near and further future?
We don't know what will happen tomorrow. We are alive, but completely without a plan. Not that we crossed our hands, but... we're in limbo. Stay? Come back? It is not known what to do. The son needs support, we also have to have money to pay for food, bills... There is only one plan so that my son can finish his studies. A lot of effort and money was put into it so that the son could take it. Here he can get a diploma recognized in the EU. I'm studying computer science. It would be best if he could live and work in Ukraine, so that he could afford to buy or rent an apartment. Have an ordinary family life, live with my wife together, on the spot, and at the same time not worry about putting something in the pot. At the same time, it would be difficult with Ukrainian salaries. In our town, for example, there is no such income to be able to maintain a quiet life. Of course, individuals earn good wages, but I am talking about average wages. In larger cities, it is known that there is work, but also the costs are much higher. As in Poland.
How do you evaluate the help that is offered to Ukrainians in Poland?
The first impression was very positive, if someone came without anything, they got help. But of course it's best if you have your own money. We read the stories of people on Facebook who were first accepted somewhere, then had to move out. I do not judge, of course, there could always be new circumstances, maybe the hosts thought that everything would be over after a month...
Speaking for myself, I did not come to support Polish citizens, I know that everyone pays taxes, has their expenses, prices are rising. I can see that other Ukrainian women who came are also looking for a job and cheap housing. Of course, women with small children have the most difficult problems, but they were also the ones where the most help was directed, which was understood.
Do you have contact with other Ukrainians in Wrocław?
A family that left our town with children lives near Wrocław. A woman with two children - a five-year-old and a two-year-old boy. On the spot they helped her with the apartment, she tells her they have something to eat. I asked if she needed help to look for something else, but thank God it is fine for now.
It was recently Easter. For you, probably different than before. Did you celebrate with your family?
Yes, we were celebrating. My husband just arrived. We went with święconka. It is traditionally done here on Sunday morning, but here - on Saturday. We tried to celebrate like in Ukraine, of course it was a bit different. The week after Easter is Pomynalna nedilia - the day on which the dead are remembered. As with you on November 1 and 2, you clean your graves, decorate them, go to pray - first to the church, then to the cemetery.
This year we had to ask our friends to take care of our graves. Because despite warnings not to gather in large clusters, that day in Ukraine, everyone went to the cemeteries.
It must have been especially difficult for you not to visit your mother's grave.
My mother is buried in Gródek, a town near Jarmoliniec. I asked my friends who live there to go to her grave as well. And the whole family, because my brother and dad are buried there… My brother and dad died a few years ago, they have tombstones. We were supposed to put up a monument to my mother this year. But now… we'll bet when the war ends.
You don't think about it that way now. My thinking is completely different. Now you just work to live, survive, buy something to eat. And bigger plans… it's hard to plan. We see the recordings. People were building a house, they put all their money into it, and now it's gone, it's all burned down.
When you live here in Poland, you watch people go for walks with their dogs, ride bikes... you forget... it seems the same at home... but it's different at home. There may be no home anymore.
That is why we are all waiting... we do not even know what we are waiting for. We live in a split. Nobody knows what will happen next. He survived one day - good. Tomorrow we will have to live on.
Some are coming back. But when you look at Mariupol... There is great fear. Especially when someone is with children. We are afraid for children, for our family... We are even afraid for cats and dogs. Many people took them with them.
Do you have an animal?
My mother had a cat. After her death, I took her to me. Now he lives with his mother-in-law. When I was getting ready to go, I couldn't find the transporter to take it with me, there weren't any shops - the people who were leaving bought it all. That's why the kitten stayed. Anyway, the plan was that one of us would come back and take both the mother-in-law and the cat. But my mother-in-law doesn't want to go.
It is understandable that in such a situation it is difficult to come up with specific plans. What are your dreams?
My dream is for the war to end. (Long pause)
When the war is over, it will return the dreams that existed before it began. What?
To live better, despite the losses, despite the death of close people. I know many people who have died from the coronavirus. My mother, but also a few people from my friends. I also never thought it would affect my family. The pandemic had been going on for so long, my mother was vaccinated, I didn't think it could happen... Yes, people were dying, but not that close... It was terrible too. It is a terrible death, when a person suffocates, he dies of having no way to breathe. This alone was very hard for me. Then the war, one overlapping the other... And now it's even worse than during the pandemic... During the pandemic, people lived. They dreamed of something. And now there is not even free dreams, free dreams. One day passes. The second passes by. Just survive until tomorrow. We tell ourselves that each day brings us closer to victory. We keep going.
My dream is that no one will stop us from living the way we lived before. Do what we did. Work. Build. Just work and live a normal life.