Vladislava is a video editor from Bucha who escaped to the safer region of Transcarpathia. She’s eight months’ pregnant with her first child.
"I was told about the war from a colleague who called me in the morning. We work in the media, so the first thing I did was ask my husband to pack up, and then I went to work thinking we wouldn’t need to leave straight away. I thought we were only on the verge of a clash in [the disputed] Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The news of war was totally unexpected because I couldn’t believe this is possible in the 21st century.
I live in Bucha, a beautiful town on the outskirts of Kyiv, where constant shelling had been going on since the first day because there are military facilities in and around the city. Despite the bombing, we stayed for a few days because we didn’t know which roads were safe and whether there would be enough fuel for our journey out of there. We were also afraid of being under fire, which we constantly heard outside the window. When I heard from a friend about the evacuation train for women and children from the neighbouring city of Irpin, my husband and I decided it was the best opportunity for our family. I went with my mother and younger brother; I was seven months’ pregnant at the time.
At the Irpin railway station we almost came under fire, so we were evacuated and forced to take an alternate route by crossing the river on foot over the bombed bridge. That’s how we got to the capital, where Ukrainian soldiers took us to Kyiv railway station. Due to the influx of people, we couldn’t get on the first two trains heading to the Zakarpattia region, so we decided to go in any western direction and accidentally got on the train to Lviv.
The situation at the Lviv railway station was even worse. There were no tickets, hundreds of people waiting in line for boarding. But we had a plan B: my husband’s relatives met us at the station to take us to the safer region of Transcarpathia in western Ukraine.
What worries me now is how we can get my husband out of Bucha to join us. Every day, I desperately wait for any news from him. Thankfully, people have been so happy to help us. Accommodation was provided by friends of friends and the Christian community; some medical clinics are also conducting free examinations and ultrasounds for pregnant women, so I’ve been taken care of.
The same cannot be said for my husband. He’s currently caught at the epicentre of the war in Bucha. There’s no light, water, communication or food to meet basic needs of the people in this city. During the nine days of constant shelling I endured in my home town, I got used to the sounds of explosions.
We even got used to constant shootings and learnt to sleep through it. During the day, we distract ourselves with household chores, playing board games or cooking. It’s a relief in the morning when I receive a text from my husband telling me, “Everything’s OK; it’s quiet.” But I don’t know how quiet it really is; maybe he’s trying not to stress me and the baby I’m carrying. But he’s alive and that’s the only thing that matters right now."
Anna is a lawyer from Kyiv who is currently in Lviv and is the mother of a newborn girl.
"My daughter was born in Kyiv on February 23 by caesarean section. As a family, we joked that we had to give birth in controlled conditions before the war started.
On the morning of February 24, when I was feeding my daughter, I heard explosions. I couldn’t believe that what was happening was exactly what I’d been afraid of. In the evening, hospital staff said to pack the most necessary things in an emergency backpack and be ready to evacuate to the bomb
shelter if necessary.
On the morning of the 25th, the first siren sounded, and we were promptly lowered into the bomb shelter, which was filled with mothers and babies, as well as the doctors who provided medical care to us. Nurses carried out premature babies on life-support systems.
The following day, after the evacuation between the sirens, my daughter and I were discharged. My own doctor was in constant contact with me and helped me in every way possible because other doctors were not available.
On the sixth day after the birth, my sister and daughter and I decided to leave Kyiv because I was overwhelmed. We packed all necessary things, which fit in two small backpacks and a suitcase. We wanted to take more things, but we understood that it would make our movement much more difficult.
All trains were as full as possible and we managed to get to Lviv only on an additional train, which left at 9pm. As soon as we got on the train, there was an explosion, everyone in the carriage hit the floor. I was sitting on the floor with my daughter for a long time and was too afraid to get up. However, the train set off and it took us 12 hours to get to Lviv.
They were long and exhausting hours; many people on the train [had] children and pets. I try to read the news only twice a day, because I am worried that constant stress can affect my milk supply.
Currently, I am in Lviv region ... my stitches were removed, my child was examined. Our people are wonderful. I needed a pram and they found two. It is unbelievable that people are willing to do anything to help strangers.
During the war, my country house was partially destroyed by a shell. My 85-year-old father-in-law was trapped there, without light and surrounded by the Russian troops. Yesterday there was a man who was taking children out of a neighbouring country cooperative through the fields and had one extra
seat in the car, so he took my dad.
This man did not just take him to Kyiv, he brought him home. This news was the most wonderful thing to happen in these past 10 days."
Kateryna is a journalist from Irpin, currently in the Zakarpattia region. She is the mother of a newborn son and a daughter, 8.
"I was so unprepared for the news of the attack. When everyone started talking about the war in the morning, I couldn’t believe it until I started watching the news. I could not believe what was happening, although I knew from the news that Russian military equipment was on Ukraine’s borders and the probability of an invasion was very high.
I didn’t hear any explosions until the morning of February 24, maybe because I live in Irpin, near Kyiv; maybe I just slept through them. My father called me and said in a very serious voice that the war had begun. From the news of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, everything inside me grew cold. I was pregnant and was close to my due date. I felt so defenceless and helpless. I couldn’t move freely, which is why I couldn’t run, not even walk a distance. I was left with the feeling that there was nothing I could do about it, I even felt unable to take care of my eight-year-old daughter. “How will I survive in these conditions?” I thought. On the second or third day of hostilities, I finally realised that this was a real war.
I wondered how and where to give birth. The situation in Kyiv was difficult. Hospitals received the wounded. Maternity hospitals on the outskirts of my city do not meet general standards – it’s no secret they are not in good condition.
I was even thinking about giving birth at home and looking for midwives who work online. But my doctor convinced me that it was dangerous because of the possibility of bleeding out.
Then I decided to go to Kyiv. I didn’t want to wait a moment longer, so I was in the hospital for a while prematurely. It was scary; they could start shooting at any moment. War had broken out while I was on my way, but I was lucky to safely get to the hospital, where my boy was born.
My family drove eight hours to my maternity hospital from Irpin to Kyiv under gunfire and explosions (it would usually only take about an hour). I was
very worried while waiting for them. My whole family was welcomed into the maternity hospital. My relatives were provided with a separate room
where they could spend the night with two dogs and a cat. We couldn’t leave them because we understood that we had no idea when we would be able
to return home. We left the maternity hospital for western Ukraine; I think it is quite safe here.
I am constantly watching news. There was a time when I didn’t do anything at all but scroll through the news feed. Especially when I was in the maternity hospital, because all my relatives stayed in Irpin, as well as my eight-year-old daughter. Now we are all together.
I am closely watching what is happening in Kyiv and Irpin, because my soul and heart have remained there. I even feel like a bit of a traitor
that I’m safe here but other people aren’t – they stayed there. Some couldn’t leave because it is too dangerous, even during the evacuation. And I can’t help them. I hear the air alarm sounds even now. Someone touched something, the door slammed – it seems to be an explosion again. The unity of people I see around me helps me to not lose hope. I’ve seen that there are a lot of people with a big heart.
War makes us all defenceless and exposes our humanity. My consolation is the birth of a son, because it is a confirmation that life goes on no matter what. The baby needs a lot of attention, he needs me in a good mood. I look at him and it gives me faith that everything will be fine, that one day it will all end, and we will be able to return to my hometown."
This article originally appeared in the May issue of marie claire Australia.
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