Lyudmila (43), Maksim (14)

March 26, 2022, Rusovce. Day 30 of the war.

I noticed Lyudmila and her son immediately. The boy stood out from the crowd at a meeting organized by the local mayor. Small children ran around, laughing and shouting so loud that I could not hear what the adults were saying in some places. However, Maksim said nothing, he had no interest whatsoever in what was happening around him, he was just sitting there and staring into space, looking hopeless and very, very sad. He didn't even move for a long time. Then he rested his head on his arms crossed on the table. He was silent, but his body screamed that he didn't want to be here. It was clear that he could not deal with the situation in which he found himself because of the war. 

"My 14 year old son is depressed, he will need more time to overcome it. The lady we live with helped us a lot, she deserves our big thanks! My son started attending a Russian-speaking school here, he really closed himself off. He spends all day long on his phone and on the computer, he doesn't want to talk to anyone. We have already encountered these problems associated with puberty at home, but it has worsened significantly after fleeing Ukraine. We fled Ukraine so he wouldn't have to see the horrors of the war. Fortunately, we managed to partially protect him from that. He heard explosions and gunfire, but he didn't get to see the worst. The journey from our house to Uzhhorod took us 4 days. He was stuck with his phone listening to the news all the time. I tried to forbid him from doing it, I told him it was very difficult for him. When I told him to pack up, that we had to go before we left our home, he said, "Mom, leave me, I don't want to go, nothing bad is happening." But when he saw destroyed cars, tanks, planes flying overhead along the way, he understood that the situation was really serious." 

"We are gradually getting used to being here. My son goes to school, only remotely for now. I am looking for a job. The hardest part is that we don't know how long we will have to stay here. Just a few weeks, or months, or even a year? We left our city of Dnipro on March 4 and we came here on March 9. My sister and her daughter, who live in Kiev, left the city on February 24, the first day of the war. We heard reports of shelling on the news that morning, we also found a map showing the places where Russia attacked Ukraine. There were many such places around Kiev. I called my sister and told her she had to leave. She couldn't decide, she thought it wouldn't be so serious, but then she eventually left. It took them 6 hours to get out of Kiev, there were terrible traffic jams everywhere. They got to Rovne, where they stayed with friends. From there they went to the Polish border, where they waited in the traffic jams for 2 and a half days. Once in Poland, they were initially in refugee centers, but the situation there was not very good. I told her to come to Slovakia, I told her that we would come up with something. Katarina, whom we are staying with, immediately responded and told my sister to come over when she overheard our conversation. We've been together ever since. I am very grateful to Katarina for helping us in this way. However, part of the family, my parents, stayed at home. I hope they will be okay." 

"When we arrived, Katarina asked me if Zelensky was really an actor. I told her yes, he is (laughs). He's the best for us! We believe in him! Then I told her about how our people stole the Russian tank. We tried to look for positive moments together. Cheer up a little. It helps us a lot. People here are very nice, they want to help us. I am ashamed to see how some Ukrainians are behaving inappropriately. They often argue, that's the way we are. But the war has united us, Putin has united us, none of our presidents succeeded in that in the past. I hope it stays this way! I wish for the war to end as soon as possible. It is important for us that the children are fine, thank you very much for that! Maybe you too will be able to benefit from our coming here over time!" 

"I worked in logistics at home. It is now destroyed, only 30% of the original volume still works. I speak Russian, here I try to speak English, I had to brush up on my knowledge a bit. But I am also beginning to understand Slovak. Our Katarina studied Russian at school. She says they were forced to learn the language. We communicate well together, sometimes we speak Russian, Ukrainian, English, sometimes we speak with the help of a Google translator. I wish the war would not spread any further. Poland is already preparing, as are the Belarusians. They don't want to, but they have to. There are people in Russia who do not want to fight too. Putin may end up like Hitler, then the war would end quickly. We want peace!"